Mass of Christian Burial
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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Willard “Bill” Clark, it is easy to see that his spirit of generosity was unmatched. He was always thinking of others, and in so doing blessed the lives of so many in such a special way. Bill was deeply devoted to his loved ones, and there was nothing that made him more proud than witnessing his family tree blossom to include beautiful branches of loved ones he adored. Deeply loved, Bill will be forever remembered.
The 1950s were an exciting time in American history. Elvis Presley took the music scene by storm with his rock ’n roll music, and James Dean and Marilyn Monroe lit up the sliver screen. Televisions were becoming part of our homes, and as a result the way we visualized the typical American family was transformed with the exposure to shows like Father Knows Best. It was during this colorful time that Willard “Bud” and Nita (Short) Clark were eagerly anticipating the birth of their new baby as winter was settling in for the season in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1953. Their wait was finally over when the baby boy they named Willard Paul made his arrival on December 5. The oldest of three, he was later joined in his family by his younger brother, Cliff, and his younger sister, Kendra. To support their family his father owned Bud’s Standard Station on Portage Road while his mother worked in the insurance business.
Raised in the family home in Portage, Bill was a typical young boy of his generation. His grandparents lived nearby, and as a result his Grandpa Clark was an active part of his life. They often went fishing together, making lasting memories. A hard worker throughout his life, Bill began working with his father at the service station for just $.25 an hour at the young age of 14. This was also how he developed his love for cars. While growing up, Bill did some boxing at the local YMCA, and he always enjoyed watching golden glove boxing. He never missed watching a championship match and was a longtime fan of Muhammad Ali. As a student Bill attended local schools, graduating from Portage Central High School in 1972.
Not to be forgotten during his years as a young man was Bill’s introduction to the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Beth, and they met in 1971. After dating for six months the sweethearts were married on June 16, 1972, at St. Catherine of Siena Church. For their honeymoon, the newlyweds went to his uncle’s cabin in Baldwin. A short time later, Bill and his wife welcomed their first son, Willard “Bill,” into their hearts and home. With the birth of Jim in 1975, their family of four was complete.
There was never anything of greater importance to Bill than his family. He was an active part of his sons’ lives, and he spent as much time with them as he could. They regularly went fishing and deer hunting together. Bill shared his passion as well as his ethics for hunting with his boys, teaching them never to hunt anything they're not going to eat. He was also involved with Boy Scouts when they were part of the program. Bill and his boys frequented Covered Bridge Park in Centerville, and over the years he and Jimmy continued to fish together, which made them very close. As a family they enjoyed trips to Uncle Richard’s cabin in Baldwin as well as the time they traveled to Mackinac Island. The St. Joseph County Fair was another favorite activity, and Bill showed his boys how to fix their cars. He also highly valued his extended family, and for years he was the one to take his nieces and nephews out trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Throughout his life Bill was known for his strong work ethic. Early on he spent eight years working as a machinist and mule driver for the Kalamazoo Spring Company. From there he moved to Upjohn where he worked in packaging, warehousing, and as a recycling specialist. For the 31 years he worked there, Bill enjoyed his work, and he was well-liked among his many coworkers and superiors. He ran a free lawn service, too, taking care of the lawns for several people. Over the years Bill did all kinds of work for others, completely free of charge. He was never one to be still and worked all the overtime he could. Bill always took his role as provider to heart. He was handy around the home and yard, and he always took great pride in his work. After retiring, Bill worked part-time at J. Rettenmaier & Sohne (JRS) which he really enjoyed, as it remined him of the old Upjohn Company.
Bill was a man of many interests. He liked Indy car racing, boxing, and The Triple Crown horse race, and he was known to watch and re-watch westerns. Bill liked Elvis, Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson and other oldies, and he had a huge sweet tooth. Fudge, popcorn, and black coffee were among his favorite things, and he rarely met a candy bar he didn’t like. As his family and friends can attest, he made the best BBQ chicken, and he liked his wild game including squirrel. It could be argued that Christmas was his favorite time of the year as it allowed him to give to others in a very tangible way. He was usually the first to have his Christmas shopping done including the wrapping, and he bought gifts for countless people. On their 25th Wedding Anniversary, Bill was able to buy Beth her first diamond. Every 5-years following, he upgraded her diamond. They made a great team as they were 50/50 in everything. He loved to say that he loved Beth, “more than a brand new hamster, a live one,” which showcased his fun-loving sense of humor. Recently, Bill began tinkering with old HO model trains.
All who knew Willard “Bill” Clark would agree that he was one of the most kindhearted, giving, and humble people around. He never wanted to be in the spotlight, and he could even be sentimental when it came to the people and memories he cherished. His niece Becky, or as Bill referred to her "Angel Pie", was the daughter he never had. Becky spent so much time at Bill and Beth’s, the neighbors thought Becky’s was theirs. Kids were known for gravitate toward Bill, probably because he was also so much fun. There was no greater treasure in his life than his family, and he never seemed to forget anything. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
Willard “Bill” Clark, of Kalamazoo, age 66, died on September 22, 2020 at his home. Bill was preceded in death by his father, Bud Clark. Surviving are his wife of 48 years, Beth Clark; 2 sons: Willard Lee (Kim) Clark and James Paul Clark; grandson: Matt Clark, extra special niece, Becky Sausaman; Bill’s mother, Nita Clark; 2 siblings: Cliff Clark and Kendra Mallory and many nieces and nephews. Visit with family and friends on Sunday from 5-7 p.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Monday, 10:30 a.m. at St. Monica Catholic Church. Burial will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit Bill’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Humane Society.