More than 600 people gathered early Wednesday atop Chapel Hill, which rises above the hills of Shandon, to celebrate the life of former Ronald Reagan adviser and local rancher William Clark Jr.
Clark, 81, died Saturday of advanced Parkinson’s disease.
The Oxnard-born rancher and judge, who had a meteoric career that took him from state politics and a judgeship to Washington, was known for his integrity and ability to quell a crisis.
At the pinnacle of his career, he served Reagan as deputy secretary of state, national security adviser and Interior secretary.
Before that, Reagan had appointed Clark to the San Luis Obispo Superior Court and the California Supreme Court.
Throughout his political career, “to us, he was always just dad,” his daughter — one of five children — Nina Negranti said in the eulogy.
Clark’s memorial, a Catholic Mass, attracted friends, family and dignitaries from across the country. Priests and political figures such as former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese mingled among cowboys and ranchers.
Father Masseo Gonzalez, a Franciscan friar, said that even though Clark didn’t finish law school (though he passed the bar exam), he had a “Ph.D. in integrity.”
That was as true on the national stage as it was in his family life.
“Growing up, we could always turn to him in a crisis,” Negranti said. “Most of all, he loved this county.”
Former first lady Nancy Reagan said she was saddened to learn of Clark’s death, describing him as “a friend for almost 50 years,” according to a statement published by the Scripps Howard News Service this week.
“Above all, Bill was loyal to the core, and American patriots like this are few and far between these days,” she said.
Negranti’s eulogy echoed those sentiments. No matter where his career took him, she said, Clark’s life was centered on the ranch — “the Shandon soil.”
She recalled their early days as a family planting trees “down in the canyon,” watering them with buckets and smiling at their father’s pride in his prized red tractor and buggies.
“You have not lived until you have been a passenger in a buggy driven by dad,” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
After his political career came to a close, Clark worked for a decade to create Chapel Hill, a non-denominational 900-square-foot chapel on 160 acres that he donated to the community. It also honors his late wife, Joan, who died four years ago.
When Bishop Richard Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey spoke, he motioned to the tall wooden doors of Chapel Hill.
“That’s how big Judge Clark’s heart was,” he said, calling Clark a deeply religious man and a “pillar of faith.’’
As his simple wooden casket was carried away, the public was left with Clark’s legacy as a public figure as well as his chapel in the countryside.