By Peter McDermott
The music was decidedly 1970s rock at Paddy Doherty's Ale House in the Bronx on Sunday afternoon, but the memories stretched back to elementary school in the 1960s.
It wasn't any ordinary reunion, though. The group of long-time friends had decided to honor in a most practical way one of their number who died at age 40 on Nov. 11, 2001, following a traffic accident.
They established over previous months the Bill Clark Foundation to remember the man and his values. "We are committed to the education of young minds, because our friend believed that every person is important, and deserves the best possible chance," the foundation's web site says.
J.R. McCarthy, a friend of Clark's since childhood, awarded the first Clark Foundation Scholarship to Julian Prieto, who will be a senior at Monsignor Scanlan High School from September.
"You are precisely the kind of young man that Bill Clark was, and you are precisely the kind of young man that Bill Clark had a hand in molding," McCarthy said. "We will be behind you in your endeavors and we expect that what has been given to you, you will give to others."
McCarthy, who is himself a teacher, recalled that Clark sat in front of Tim Curtin because the nuns organized their classrooms alphabetically. "Fortunately, Tim was tall even back then, so he was able to see the board," he said.
Curtin went on to play guitar professionally and it was to him that the foundation turned when it decided to organize its inaugural awards brunch. The musician contacted Paddy Doherty's Ale House as well as several accomplished rockers to provide entertainment for the afternoon.
"We were very pleased with how it went," McCarthy said, adding that the foundation wants to support several young people annually and has already sought scholarship candidates from two other Catholic high schools in the Bronx.
Clark had devoted much of his free time in life to coaching various sports. "He believed nothing shaped young people more than to be part of a team," McCarthy said.
The web site reports that Clark went to St. Helena Elementary School and St. Raymond's Boys High School. "Like so many alumni of those fine institutions, he was no sooner out of the intramural basketball program as a player that he was back as a coach and a referee. He started playing football for the Pelham Bay Spartans while he was still in grade school, and by the time he had graduated from high school, he was helping to shape their future as well.
"Bill was destined to be the kind of kid that any coach would want on his team, and the kind of man that any kid would want for a coach. Bill was quietly strong and fiercely loyal. He was a student of every aspect of both football and baseball," it continues.
Clark, whose death led to a malfeasance suit and settlement with the hospital, is remembered, too, as a regular guy: "Bill was an ardent fan of the Mets and the Jets, of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seeger, of major motion pictures and all-night poker games.
"Those of us who have the privilege of knowing and loving him would have had him live 100 years, but we are astonished by how much love, laughter, and goodness he managed to cram into his life and time."
To donate go to www.billclarkfoundation.org or mail Bill Clark Foundation, P.O. Box 2922, Church Street Station, New York 10008-2922.
[PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT At the event in honor of Bill Clark were his widow Dorothy Clark, his mother Sonia Clark, scholarship recipient Julian Prieto and J.R. McCarthy. Below: Bill Clark with his nephew.]