4/15/1929 – 6/07/2020
On June 7, 2020, John B. Clark, Jr., 91, joined son, Lee, in fisherman heaven. The family still grieves the loss of dear Lee to cancer two years ago.
John passed happily anticipating a family evening with wife of 62 years, Marjorie Chock Clark, daughter Lin, son-in-law Wilson and grand-daughter Maia Miller, in Kane`ohe, Hawaii. It was to be their first Sunday dinner together after Lin and Wilson’s two-week quarantine, home from extended Army Corps of Engineers duty in New York. Unable to attend was John’s grandson and special buddy Liam Miller (Tacoma, Washington). Also surviving John are younger sister Marion and brother-in-law Joseph Hurka, one nephew and two nieces, daughter-in-law Sharon (Thompson) Clark (Ventura, California), grandchildren Matthew, Jennifer, Michelle and Nicholas Clark (Monica), step-granddaughters Kaylene (partner Chan) and Janelle Jaworski, and four great-grandchildren.
John’s eventful life began in New York City, born to John, Sr. and Margaret (Coyne) Clark, in 1929, six months before the market crash. Surviving the Great Depression meant visits to bread and soup lines and kitchens of exclusive hotels for food scraps. It was the first of many impacting life events. At age four, he nearly died from lobar pneumonia. Having received last rites, he rallied when a nurse opened a window to smoke, then passed out, drunk, allowing wind-blown snow to jolt little John back to life. At eight, he watched Hindenburg passengers waving and celebrating as the dirigible flew over Manhattan, minutes before bursting into flames and crashing, at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey. A fight with a neighborhood boy nearly sent John, 12, off the roof of his five-story apartment building.
Soon after, the family moved first to Redondo Beach then Hawthorne, California. There, the slender 15-year-old Northrop Aircraft summer hire, squeezed into tail sections of Lockheed P-38 Lightening twin-engine warplanes to secure empennage bolts during production of the radical twin-hull interceptors that Army Air Corps pilots flew to victory in WWII. John graduated from Inglewood High School in 1947, having lettered in football and editing the yearbook. He studied Business Administration at the University Redlands, before joining the Korean War effort, enlisting in the Navy, in 1951.
John served aboard LST-802 Hamilton County en route to yeoman duties at Command Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan and—at five-foot-six—a defensive lineman position for Armed Forces football. Used to design the Yokosuka Sea Hawk masthead and as a Pacific Stars & Stripes cartoonist, John’s graphic skills led him to Lithography training at Main Navy, Washington, D.C., but not before he learned the true cost of war, unloading and processing our fallen servicemen at Yokosuka. Assignment to the Pentagon’s DoD Printing Office as a lithographer also enabled attendance at President Eisenhower’s Inauguration. John was awarded the National Defense Medal, the United Nations Service Medal and the Korea Service Medal for his service.
Honorably separated from active duty in 1955 and discharged from the Reserves in 1959, he then joined the Merchant Marines and worked concurrently toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Art, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Struck by the “lightning bolt” as he glanced out a classroom window and spied Marge playing field hockey, they wed in 1957, and started a family. Two years later, during a road trip to Oregon, a college friend lost control and their car plunged over a cliff. Upon regaining consciousness in the hospital, John was told that Marge was in serious condition and thankfully, Lee was fine. When he asked after his daughter, staff immediately dispatched responders to return to the scene, where they found Lin, unhurt and still inside the blanket John had wrapped them in. Marge’s resulting paralysis forced the young couple to set aside their studies to focus on myriad new challenges.
In 1985, John retired to his home of 58 years in Summerland, California, from his position as a Santa Barbara Channel oil industry Crew Boat Captain—which, also, nearly proved deadly: during a shift change, Deck Hand Gerry Bellaart reached down and pulled John clear from being severed, seconds before a rogue wave thrust the boat against the pilings as he swung across, on a transfer rope, to the pier. Previous occupations included aeronautics firms lithographer, freelance artist/graphic illustrator and commercial fisherman—catching crab, and trolling salmon and albacore from his beloved 32-foot “Giaconda.”
Add to “survivor,” true Renaissance man: enlightened, educated, artistic and proficient in myriad areas, he could do and fix nearly anything. He will be remembered for his eclectic artwork (powerful seascape oils, intricately toned, stipple engraved intaglio prints, hundreds of humorous, ironic or dark pen-and-inks), much of which he generously gifted. He amused friends with arcane knowledge, captivating storytelling and amusing or profound recitals like “Clancy’s Wooden Wedding” and Kipling’s “If—“ delivered during trout fishing adventures and parties, usually enriched by two fingers of Scotch whiskey. John wrote numerous unpublished manuscripts recording unusual, idiosyncratic experiences. He foresaw the assassination of President Kennedy, the pandemic and current social conflicts.
Burdened by his perception of our country in decline and “man’s inhumanity to man,” he seemed to carry the weight of the world, but John’s laser-focused, unwavering dedication—first, foremost and always—was to caring for and fulfilling the needs of his “dear bride,” Marge. Both often said: “We owe the universe a death.” If so, John’s debt is paid … time he passed the baton and burden of the world’s ills to others to attend. His soul—and mind—finally can rest in peace.
John B. Clark, Jr., will be interred on Friday, June 26 at 2 p.m., at Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary, 2233 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96817. Brother-in-law Reverend James Chock will lead the service following Military Funeral Honors. In lieu of flowers, the family requests considering a donation, in John’s memory, to either the Carpinteria Arts Center or Disabled American Veterans.
To donate to the Carpinteria Arts Center, visit carpinteriaartscenter.org/give; or by mail payable to Carpinteria Arts Center, 865 Linden Ave. Carpinteria, CA 93013 or by phone (805) 684-7789.
To donate to the Disabled American Veterans, visit dav.org/methods-to-donate; or by mail payable to: DAV – Disabled American Veterans, P.O. Box 14301, Cincinnati, OH 45250-0301 or call: 877-647-VETS (8387).