December 18, 2021 12:57 PM
I first met David on the first day of our 1st grade year at Ernie Pyle Elementary School along with my other life-long best friends, Rick Wollam, and my wonderful wife, Kathy Brown. That would have been early September 1963. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess.
David, Rick, and I spent countless hours playing army at Miller Park in St. Bernice or Rick’s or my house for years. As we got older David and I spent countless hours playing what we called “Politics” at Miller Park where we would take turns running for and being elected president of the United States. We wrote speeches and had debates and simulated election results state by state. Yeah, so we were a little “different.” That was the summer of 1969, the same summer we became ardent Cubs fans and got our hearts broken by them for the first of what would be many times. Sometimes we would watch a Cubs game with his mom on the front porch of their home during that summer and all the summers until we all graduated from Clinton High School. Whenever I would spend the night at the Clark house his mom would always make biscuits and gravy for breakfast the next morning because she knew we both loved that meal. One summer when we were still in high school David and I asked his dad, George, who everyone called “Roger” as in George Rogers Clark, to get us a job “braking” on the railroad. Back then it was fairly easy to get an entry level job as a brakeman during the summer when rail traffic was higher. His dad disappointed us with his response. In that deep voice of his he said: “Well boys, you don’t want to work on the railroad. It’s a lousy job. You might make $3,000 one week and then not work for the next three weeks.” We both looked at each other thinking that sounded like a pretty good deal. So, neither of us ever worked on the Milwaukee Road.
We all went camping out during the summers, sometimes in my back yard and multiple times at the old WPA ruins just south of St. Bernice. The only thing left of the building was the foundation and a huge rock fireplace and chimney. We took an ancient cast iron skillet that had been my great-grandmother’s and cooked our own bacon and eggs in the fireplace. The first time we did that we took cooking oil and poured about half an inch of it in the skillet and then wondered why the bacon never got crispy. We learned from that. Of course, back then we rode our bikes everywhere we went. Sometimes we would venture as far away from home as Dana or Ernie Pyle school or the Lone Eagle mine ponds a little closer to home to fish, but we never caught any fish. We were very independent, carefree, and very happy.
From about seventh grade until we graduated high school David and I went hunting every winter, usually along the Milwaukee Road tracks through town or the abandoned rail yard right across the road from my house. But even after high school and going our separate ways, David and Rick going into the Air Force and me going to college, we all kept in touch with each other and got together whenever we could. David was that kind of friend that you could not talk to for a year or two maybe and then when you would get together it was just like you had seen each other yesterday. We could still complete each other’s sentences and tell the same goofy jokes that only we found funny.
Fast forward a few years to 1985 and he came to visit me for a weekend in West Lafayette, where I was in graduate school. He had recently finished his second tour in the Air Force and was not satisfied with the jobs he had had since then. During the course of a long and intense conversation I asked what he wanted to do with his life, regardless of how practical it might have been seen at the time. He said that, during his second assignment to Minot, ND, he realized that he was an alcoholic and had gotten sober through AA and a lot of support from friends and counselors. He wanted to help others with dependencies to do the same thing. That weekend he decided to go back to school so he could do that, as not only a career to make a living, but as a way of helping others. That last phrase basically defines David: whether through his service in the military or his career in substance abuse counseling, he just wanted to help others.
And that, as they say, is what he did for the rest of his life, in different locations and in different roles, but always true to his commitment.
While he was undergraduate at Indiana State University he met Lyne Parker, who was in graduate school there when they took a graduate-level course together in 1988. It was, according to him, “love at first sight.” Twenty-seven years later, when he stopped over at my house on his way back to Clinton after reconnecting with her in New Orleans in 2015, he said it was still “love at first sight.”
I was able to visit with David and Lyne at their home in Houston last June and it was obvious to me that they were deeply in love with each other. It was the happiest I had seen him probably since our childhood. I’m thankful for having that as my last memory of him. I will miss him greatly.
December 17, 2021 11:17 PM
David and I met while attending classes at ISU. I first ran across him between classes where he was “holding court” with a group students in the smoking area of the psychology floor. Of course he was making everyone laugh with his wit and charm. He charmed me immediately. That was the summer of 1988. We dated on and off for years until I left in 1993 to come back to Texas because of family obligations. It was hard to leave Indiana. Many times I wished I hadn’t ever left. Fast forward to 2015. I received a phone call while sitting at my desk where I worked at a psychiatric hospital. On the other end of the phone I heard that wonderful deep voice that had charmed me so long ago. I was so happy to hear David on the other end. I have been happy every day since that phone call. It was like a dream come true. He was still funny and brilliant and a charmer. We were very happy. I feel so honored and grateful to have spent the last six wonderful years with the love of my life. I am heartbroken that he is gone. But I know in my heart he is happy with his family that have gone on before him. I was allowed to be with him in his last few moments here on earth. I witnessed the passing of a wonderful soul. Words will never be able to express how much he meant to me and how much happiness he brought to my life. He has left a large gap behind, but I know I will see him again someday. Lyne’ Parker
December 12, 2021 8:36 PM
What an honor and a privilege my friend to work along side you at Hamilton Center. What a great teacher the best of the best! You've touched so many lives with your compassion, concern, sincerity, and ability to have empathy for another human being. You will truly be missed. God Bless your family! Your friend Robbin Stratton