Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

“It was not my intention to end the column as it ended. But a call minutes ago informs me my life-long friend Stephen Carl Clark has passed away down in Mexico. For many years there were three of us who kept close since kindergarten; Earl Wilson ‘Rusty’ Cassatt died one year and one week ago. And now there is one. Take care. Peace.”

Those were the last words of my column for this week. Though the news of Steve’s death was not a total surprise, the call coming just as I was finishing a column threw me off kilter. I finished the column with the above words and sent it to the publisher. By the next day I felt the column scheduled to appear was no longer as important as paying tribute to friends.

Those of us who have lived for seven decades and longer know we will lose family and friends at a higher rate than when we had only chalked up 30 or 40 years on Mother Earth, and we pay tribute to them with thoughts, words, outreach to loved ones and friends and celebration of life events. I have the privilege of space in a newspaper, and with due respect to my readers, I’d like to pay a little tribute to my now passed friends.

Earl Wilson “Rusty” Cassatt I have written about (“The Last Goodbye is the Hardest,” March 22, 2023, issue) and now two days shy of a year, I write about another of the trio we became starting way back in kindergarten.

Stephen Carl Clark was one of the oldest members of our class, possibly the oldest, born Dec. 21, 1952, and was always one of the brightest minds. Our class started Greenfield Elementary School in September 1957 and disbanded in June 1970 upon our graduation from King City Joint Union High School. Steve was always an active participant in all we did in those years. He was always a brilliant student and could have gone into most any career field he chose, but he chose to be a teacher; and he was a damn good one.

Steve had an affinity for young people, possibly because for many years he was surrounded by them as his mother, affectionately known as Nana, ran a daycare from her home. I don’t think he set out to be a teacher after graduation from high school, he went into teaching after community college and university years where his primary focus was economics; Steve was fascinated with numbers, had a hypermnesia memory and so made them a very big part of his life.

Upon graduation from high school, two of us stayed local while Earl headed to Billings, Mont., to attend Rocky Mountain College. Steve and I went to Hartnell Junior (at that time) College where I became a Drama (now Theatre Arts) major and Steve, predictably, went into economics. I cannot recall if it was during the second semester or the next school year, but at any rate Steve went north to Billings and re-united with Earl.

This time away from the Valley and all they knew brought about a closer relationship between them I never really penetrated through all the remaining years. It was a close friendship that never eroded even when they went at each other tooth and nail over some issues. Those two could, and did, say things to each other that would dissolve other relationships in a New York second, and then it was over and they were once again closer than stuck duct tape. (Both Steve and Earl lost younger brothers in infancy; I always wondered if that played a hand in their closeness.) If, on the other hand, I got on the wrong side of either of them it could take days, weeks before I was brought back into the fold. And because that dynamic was at work, it kept us close for 67 years; I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

With the limit of words left me, I will resort to short reminisces and random thoughts. I read books to increase my vocabulary; often I would walk in on Steve reading the dictionary. Steve was a member of a universal economics group, which met every year in the United States, and with him I traveled once each to Boston and Philadelphia and five times to New York City.

In Manhattan, we did many touristy things, but the greatest night was at Carnegie Hall for an all-Irish concert. I went to all told some nine Broadway shows, had a Nathan’s hot dog on Coney Island, auditioned for a TV commercial (Maytag repair man) and together we dined at Sardi’s and Katz Delicatessen. And that is only a short list.

Steve, as was his way every year, purchased small chess sets for his students. Steve taught chess to hundreds of kids over the years; I’m sure many still challenge themselves with the game. Speaking of students: in all the years I knew Steve he never once brought a piece of school-related material home. I never saw him correcting papers or filling out an academic schedule; when he left work, he left work. In his last years teaching down in Port Hueneme, he was regularly given second- and third-grade students (he preferred that age) who were behind in studies, and he always brought them up to or above their capacities; and parents loved him for it.

Steve traveled to Europe as a fish counter for Oregon State University and as a member of the Swingle Singers (he had a fine baritone) and again with Earl and a college buddy. He spoke fluent Spanish though never took a class, also spoke enough French to keep him and Earl out of jail in Marseilles (don’t ask). Steve always said he would retire in either Amsterdam or Mexico; he chose San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, an old cathedral city, as his final home. And that is that.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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