William L. Clark Jr. :Grandfather and Hero

In reading Wonderland or Not, an excellent blog that tagged me recently 🙂 , it reminded me of the first post I made at another blog. So this is a Back to the Future sort of post. Hopefully the story is worth the internet storage space.

 Funny thing this morning, I didn’t set out to discover blogging while driving on a delivery route. It just came to me as a way to share what I feel is important to me, and hopefully, others. The day before the 4th of July has always been a bittersweet reminder of my Grandfather’s passing in 1986 on the 4th.

I started writing a significant journal on July 4, 1997. Since then, my ability to write has gotten me into trouble at times, but also benefited me, at times too. But to further that premise, here’s a true story about my Grandfather, William L. Clark Jr.

My grandpa was involved in WWII like most other people’s grandfathers. He was a Boatswain’s Mate from late 1942-1947, driving an LCVP (landing craft vehicle personnel) similar to the ones in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ except around the Pacific Ocean. Before he reached active duty, in the latter part of basic training, his younger brother Harold died in a drowning accident near Paris, Illinois. Harold was 9 or 10 at the time and travelling with his boyscout troop on some outdoor expedition.

My grandfather went back on emergency leave to pay his last respects and see to the needs of the family. I am sure that wasn’t easy and his being involved in a war training only heighten the dreaded aura of possibly losing one’s life fighting the Japanese and the Germans. After his 72-hour leave, he went back to Pensacola (I think) to ship out with his group. Upon returning, the group he was assigned to had all ready ‘shipped out’ on another LST, heading out to the Pacific. (I don’t recall the LST #, but his was #838..)

After a short while, he heard back that his former ‘mates’ had been engaged and sunk by a Japanese submarine in what was called ‘The Slot’, a piece of ocean in the Solomon Islands containing Guadalcanal. Most of the sailors on board went down with the ship. As he told me this, my grandfather said, “I’m lucky…because of Harold’s death. You wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for him.”

Harold was quite a boy. He was also was nicknamed the ‘Firecracker’ because he was born on the 4th of July. My grandfather passed on July 4th due to respiratory arrest resulting from complications of lung cancer.

William L. Clark Jr. loved baseball, especially Ted Williams, and Westerns, especially John Wayne. He tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers (Leo Durocher was their HOF manager and future Cubs skipper) ,and before he enlisted, made their Minor League roster. He could have been quite the ballplayer I am sure, but timing IS EVERYTHING in this life. (Luck or fate or whimsy of chance…)

William L. Clark was also a lover of crossword puzzles, good food and good stories. Always had plenty of those. As my grandfather, he often told me how much he cared and reflected it in his words. I could listen to him for hours.

My future thoughts will revolve around my baseball opinions, discussion of sabermetrics and the reality I feel exists. But I will always try to tie that into the grander scheme of life. I hope.
This entry is for you GRAMPS!!! You are the best man I’ve ever known!

I modified this post from the original, but the feeling is still there.

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  • Jack Payne  On February 23, 2008 at 11:39 am

    I enjoyed this piece on your grandfather, with whom I feel kinship. I served in the U.S. Maritime Service during WW II, which, at the time, was under the U.S. Navy Dept. authority.

    Lots of nostalgia here. Thanks for re-kindling the embers.

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