We often focus on people from generations past, but it is also important to remember the treasured lives of today. In every family, there are many current-day people who should be memorialized and their stories passed down. In that spirit, I’d like to introduce you to John Clark, a fine, caring man who passed from this world almost one year ago.
When I first met John, he was already retired from more than three decades as a master plumber — a “sewer surgeon” as his business card put it. He was a member of the same Racine Knights of Columbus council that I joined in 2007. Over the years, I came to be delighted by his sense of humor, impressed by his patriotism and moved by his strong faith.
John and I both served in the K of C Fourth Degree honor guard. Sir Knights are recognizable for the regalia worn in this duty: tuxedo with colored cape, white gloves, plumed chapeau and ceremonial sword. We participate at Masses said by the archbishop, stand watch at the caskets of departed brothers and take part in community events such as flag retirements or Columbus Day.
John joined the honor guard at the same time I did. He was a faithful participant over the years. He told me that he joined in part to honor America and her veterans. He was unable to serve in the military due to a disability, but he wanted to do patriotic duty. He choked up just a bit when telling me this, and a tear graced the corner of his eye. This was the John Clark I came to know and love.
We crossed paths on many K of C projects: fund-raising pancake breakfasts, making repairs to the homes of needy families, handing out Tootsie Rolls to raise funds for the intellectually disabled, and repairing local Catholic cemeteries that had been desecrated by vandals. He took to it all with vigor and joy. He would banter with the children when we passed out Tootsie Rolls to raise money for the K of C drive for Special Olympics and other charities for the intellectually disabled. His attitude was simply infectious.
John’s sense of humor was legendary. In 2009, the Knights hosted an event featuring Catholic filmmaker Steve Ray, creator of the Footprints of God film series. A writer for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald showed up at my invitation, and John greeted her at the door. “I’m sorry ma’am, but you can’t come in,” John deadpanned. “This is an event for men only. No women allowed.” He carried on the charade for a couple minutes, then burst out laughing. Thankfully, writer Karen Mahoney had a sense of humor. Obviously the event was open to all and she quickly figured he was pulling her leg. That was John.
The last time I saw John was a couple years back at St. Lucy Catholic Church, which he attended for more than 50 years. We’d not had contact since perhaps 2012. He was serving as an usher at late Sunday Mass. He came up and gave me the biggest bear hug. “I’ve missed you,” he said. He had that same beaming smile and real joy for life that were his hallmarks. It is a memory that I cherish.
John Lawrence Clark, 79, passed away on a Tuesday evening, December 23, 2014. He leaves his wife Sandy, five children, grandchildren and a wide circle of friends to mourn him and remember a life well-lived.
John’s words echo in my head, because now it is I who feel this way about him: “I miss you.” Requiescat in pace, John. Ora pro nobis.
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