It came as a shock to most of us that Clark Doyle could even die. If you knew Clark, he looked 87, but he acted 40. It seemed as if he would live forever, he was so strong. When the word came down last week that Clark had died jumping in a swimming pool in Laughlin, Nev., it seemed apropos, like a warrior dying in battle. He loved going to the casinos and living large. Clark was not a religious man, nor did he act like it.
A working man, a volunteer, a member of the Greatest Generation, Clark was involved in many community endeavors, a swath of the rich fabric that makes up the culture of our small town, gone to Post Everlasting.
After a stellar career in high school sports, which included playing center on the football team and catcher on the baseball team for future Dodger Hall of Famer Duke Snider, Clark and his buddies went to enlist in the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor before the end of his senior year. It could have been a scene right out of an Audie Murphy movie. On the way to the recruiter, he got hit by a car and mangled his leg so bad that the Navy would not take him. After partial healing, he enlisted in the Merchant Marines and rode unarmed cargo ships across the Pacific, fighting submarines and Kamikazes, once losing eight crew members when one of the suicide missiles found its mark.
Having survived the Battle of the Pacific, Clark headed to the oil fields of Central California. Here on a bus outside of Bakersfield, as discharged sailor, he met a 15-year-old Delores, who he married in 1948 and loved until her passing 62 years later. She was his guiding light who allowed him to be the man we all came to love.
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By the time Clark built his Pine Knolls home some 30 years ago, he had retired from the oil field battles of “real men,” who were mining that precious petroleum, he loved so much, out of the ground. The skills he honed there, he carried the rest of his life. He could fix or fabricate anything. His forearms were massive.
Cherishing a work ethic that was the mantra of manhood, without a job, Clark threw himself into helping around town. His list of efforts are long, deep and somewhat obscure due to his belief that you never got much accomplished at meetings or by being on the board of directors. But when there was work to be done, Clark was first in line. He helped with the public restrooms, the Joslyn Recreation Center and turned more tri-tip than a normal person’s forearms could handle.
He received many awards — most at which he scoffed at. But when Delo was awarded Citizen of the Year in 2011 for her work on the library, Clark could not have been more proud, as he, too, had worked tirelessly on her fish fries and pancake breakfasts to raise funds to move the library.
He was a happy man as he rode in that year’s Pinedorado parade with her in frail health. It was a beautiful moment in both of their lives. In that same year, he received one of the coveted County Veteran Recognition Awards from state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, but it paled in comparison to the joy he took in Delo’s award. He was a 29-year Lion Club contributor and a 20-year Legion member.
We believe that Clark’s enduring legacy will be as the mentor and advisor to a rag-tag group of guys in the Sons of the American Legion. We are a group of rather suspect individuals. We don’t care for order and structure that is inherent in most service organizations.
Leading us is like steering a rudderless boat.
It takes a carefree and strong personality and for 10 years Clark was our group’s shining example of the value of labor and the pride you can take in it. He showed us that work is an essential part of life and self-worth. He taught to feed the hungry and help our neighbors in need. From him we have learned that if you are helping somebody out, with the efforts of your labor, and if you have a beer in your hand, then it isn’t really work after all.
If you knew Clark in any way, shape or form, you are welcome to attend his funeral party at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 25. We ask that you join us at 5:30 for a cocktail before we get started, as per his wishes.