Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Big chill & the O.A. Clark family at Find a Grave

We're back in the deep freeze here at 5 a.m. today after temperatures fell from a high of 45 at mid-morning yesterday to 1 degree right now --- with a modest evening snowstorm thrown in for good measure.

Before it got too cold yesterday afternoon, I drove out the cemetery to take photos needed to complete entries at Find A Grave --- that vast virtual online cemetery beloved by family history buffs --- for members of the O.A. Clark family, the Hotel Charitone's first family.

If you've not visited it, and are at all interested in the general subject, hours can be spent (or wasted, depending upon how you look at it) at Find A Grave tracking down family, friends and famous people. You'll find the Orliff A. Clark page here.

Skip made the original inscription entries for the Clarks and added four tombstone photos; I added photos of the big family stone and the individual stones of Jack, Orliff A. and Sylvesta Clark.

Anyone can sign up to add entries and photographs to Find A Grave. Doris (Cottrell) Christensen is Lucas County's most prolific tombstone photographer. She leaps tall buildings --- and photographs entire cemeteries in one take.


It's a little unexpected to find the Clarks in the Chariton Cemetery since only one of the seven family members buried here, son Jack, actually lived in Chariton --- although O.A. Clark was here frequently during the years the Hotel Charitone was under family management, from 1931 until 1971, and the others were frequent visitors.

But life in the hotel business had taken the family from town to town depending upon which of the family hotels O.A. was managing --- Clarinda, Fairfield, Albia and finally Ottumwa, where upon its purchase during 1934 the Ballingall Hotel --- demolished in 1996 --- became the family flagship.

So it may have been Jack, associated with the Charitone off and on for 30 years, who suggested Chariton as a burial place when his mother, Sylvesta, died during 1950. Others who have joined her on the family lot since are O.A. Clark's second wife, Elizabeth (1906-1966); son Jack (1916-1977); son Ford (1931-1980); son-in-law William K. Murphy (1918-1983); O.A. Clark himself (1892-1988) and finally daughter Catherine "Kay" (Clark) Murphy (1919-2005). The fourth and youngest of the four Clark children was George.

O.A. Clark named his son, Jack, as Charitone manager during 1937 --- when he was 21 --- and the younger Clark remained in that position until about 1940, when he moved to the East Coast to study and work as an artist and musician before enlisting in the U.S. Navy for service during World War II.

Jack returned to manage the Charitone after the war and became a business and civic leader during the next 20 years. He was an accomplished artist and also an early members of Chariton's acclaimed Aeolian Singers. Jack sold his interest in the Charitone to his father during 1965 and moved on. He had been teaching art in the Fairfield school system not long before his 1977 death, and was doing post-graduate work at the University of Iowa when he died in Iowa City.

Ford Clark, when he died of cancer at age 48, was working as a reporter and columnist for The Cedar Rapids Gazette and his accounts of his struggle with the disease were widely acclaimed. He also had worked as a radio reporter and contributing editor for Iowa Public Radio.

Ford also wrote two novels, one of which --- "The Open Square," published in 1962 --- became widely known under less than ideal circumstances four years later. The plot of the novel includes a student who barricades himself in a university clock tower and opens fire on those below.

In 1966, Charles Whitman duplicated the acts of the fictitious character during a killing spree, mostly at the University of Texas in Austin that killed 16 and wounded 32. There was no indication, however, that Whitman had been influenced by the book.

By all accounts, Ford Clark was a gifted writer --- who died far too young.

No comments: