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Remembering Don Clark

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June 30, 2010 by wcobserver

By Perry Hall

Winslow- Don Clark was a native and lifelong resident of Winslow Arkansas.  He was the only son of six children born to Elec Ray Clark and Elloise Reed Clark. From an early age he displayed a genius that would define his life. People have told me that at the age of 5 (others say 6 or 8), Don was tearing lawn mowers apart and putting them back together. Later, when he was attending Winslow Public Schools, he and his 5 sisters maintained high grades.  But on one particular occasion it is believed that he intentionally let his grade point drop, however when his older sister Judy Ramey challenged him, he easily brought it up again.

Wanting to be an engineer, Don attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  But he left there and obtained his associate’s degree at West Ark in Fort Smith where he also became an instructor in the auto mechanics class.  Don was a lover of the motor. David Donaghe said that he, Don and others started a car club during their teen years called “The Headaches.”  They had jackets made and aluminum wall plates.

Probably few loved the motor as much as he did.  Don began drag racing in his teens and did that for the remainder of his life, becoming somewhat of a legend.  He was often called Dr. Don; he wore surgical gloves to work on the vehicles to protect his hands.

His dad owned “North End” service station in Winslow.  Don was the owner of “Clarks Motor Clinic.”  He was not an ordinary mechanic. Judy Ramey remembered someone bringing a mower from Fort Smith to have Don repair it. She also told me that he took a lawnmower motor and mounted it on a bicycle;  it worked perfectly.  He enjoyed working on peoples’ cars, telling the people he was slow and expensive. There are many that would take him their vehicles still under warranty because they did not want anyone working on their car but Don.

Every tool in his shop had its place and was cleaned and positioned properly in its place.There were times during his work that if he did not have a tool for a particular task he would make the tool with tools he already had, metal lathes, grinders, drills, etc.

And Don Clark loved his family. He loved taking trips with them.  From listening to the family these were not vacations or trips of frivolously wasting time but of quality and substance and a time to enjoy with each other and experience the country we live in.  Gatlinburg, Tennessee was a favorite of Don and the family. He always took the back roads.  He did not like the interstate.  He hated it each time the highways would bypass a town.  Brenda Clark, Don’s wife, said he would make the statement that there would be people that would not get to see that town.

Don loved his trips, especially his motorcycle trips.  James Terhune, another close friend of Don’s, had ridden motorcycles with him since 1964.  Weather permitting Don and James would make a trip everyWednesday from Winslow to Mountainburg on their motorcycles to the Dairy Dream for a sit and a visit and then return back up the mountain.  He loved all his trips, even  the preparation for his trips.  The mapping of it, the route he would take.  Cambron Clark, Don’s third son, stated that he liked packing for the trip.  He would come up with things that would pack into the smallest spaces possible.  Gerald Bradley said that Don taught him to live out of the smallest containers on the trips they took.

There are many places that Don visited repeatedly and introduced them to us.  Places like “Tail of the Dragon”, a 11 mile stretch of pavement with 318 curves on highway 129 at the Tennessee/North Carolina border, the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I was told he kept a diary of each trip,and that he could name the highway, and the next town as he made his way across this country.  Many of these trips were taken alone.

Gerald Bradley recalled a statement made at Don’s memorial service “Don was a loner, he liked a few of us … and he tolerated the rest of us.”  And yet he was an involved , very sensitive person.  Gerald Bradly probably best explained him when he wrote,   “LOOKING INSIDE DON CLARK’S WINDOWS. . .there were many and most were very high off the gound. .. and he kept the curtains closed on most of them.”

And yet he was also known for his civic and personal involvement in Winslow. Don was an important member of the City Council.  He took the position in 1983 and held it until his death.  He helped Winslow stay like Winslow.   Randy Jarnagan, Winslow’s Mayor, shared that when it came time to end the City Council Meetings Don never voted to adjourn, he would abstain, for in reality they were always in session.

Gazing through their memories people shared these other reflections of Don Clark:

As with each of us Don had things that attracted his attention.  Rural Churches and cemeteries often found their place on the other end of Don’s camera.

Don was, as Cambron  put it, a connoisseur of pens.  He had a thing for writing instruments.

Don Clark was somewhat of a wordsmith. He and the late L.P. “Tiny” Jarnagan ,former mayor of Winslow, shared that little hobby.  What a treasure we have with friends, those little things that connect us mean so much.

Don was a very sensitive individual.  Every stray animal that came along grabbed his heart.  If they were injured he would make sure they had the best of care at his expense.   He was sensitive to all creatures from the smallest of insects right on up. Brenda told me that a neighbor had witnessed him picking up an earthworm that had crawled on to the pavement and placing it back into the soil so it would not be baked by the sun.

Leta McGuire has had her beauty shop in Winslow for 57 years.  She laughed as she shared how Don joked with her about retiring so he would have the oldest business in Winslow.

There are many that have been touched by Don’s life directly and indirectly.  Be it through his friendship, his motor clinic, the city council, the motorcycle trips, the drag racing, the list goes on.  We have been blessed.

Every community has its own personality.  That personality is acquired and projected by the people that live there.  Communities are constantly changing but there are those that will leave a lasting impression for years to come.

To Don Clark we say Thank You.To his family we say Thank You for sharing him with us.

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