By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
Over the course of the last few years I have had the distinct honor of writing remembrances of friends who had passed away. For one such, I was asked to write an obituary. At my age it is not unexpected to lose friends by their passing pretty much on a regular basis. I have lost them in a sense but yet will never lose the memories of them nor my feelings for them from my heart. It has become common place to hold Celebration of Life, activities for families and friends which modernize the old-fashioned Wake. These celebrations are bitter-sweet, but are a great time to remember, and share those remembrances, with friends and family of the deceased.
That being said, the motivation for this offering of my Wramblings, is twofold. The first was my involvement in a birthday celebration for a noted area music teacher who now resides in a local “assisted living” facility. I received a message yesterday from her daughter. A few months ago, knowing that I sang in musical groups, and had known her Mom, she had asked if I could get some of the singers together to sing at a birthday celebration honoring her mom’s 98th birthday. Initially I reached out to my Barbershop singing friends but they declined, not wishing to sing while having to wear masks due to Pandemic requirements. When I approached the Genesee Valley Chorus, another choral group that I am part of, they were all in. When the director asked how many would be available and willing to learn music, rehearse and then perform in a nearby city, there was a nearly 100% agreement among those who did not have other commitments that prohibited their participation. I did, and we did, and the birthday celebration was very well received.
The following “paraphrased” message was received from the daughter the other day and it swelled my heart to know that I, and the other singers, were blessed to have been a part of this. I have edited a little to remove specific names or identifiers but to still convey the warmth that was shared. The event that prompted this message was the passing of her Father-in-Law recently.
“I think my husband was feeling a bit mournful as he was thinking about his dad’s younger years and how active and how many people would have certainly wanted to be a part of his ‘home going’. Same thing with my mom when she is finally called to go home. How sad it is to live so long that by then there is no one left to remember. I then reassured him, that is why we do things we do while they are still alive so they can appreciate them. For when they are gone, it is only those that are left that will know.
I was reminded again by how thankful that you were able to pull off what you did for my mom’s birthday this last year, and, how so many in that chorus she knew or knew her. It is something she still talks about. It has forever changed the way she is looked at by the activities director because she had no idea who she was in her younger years or what she used to do.
Oh, how I wish others who pass, and their lives celebrated, could have heard those words, as this mom did, while they are still with us. I know that I regret never fully thanking my mom, even during her last days. So many memories to be shared, but we don’t always think to do it. I will certainly re-think my relationships and reach out more readily in the future.
The timing of the receipt of this thoughtful message shared to me comes shortly after the passing of another friend, Clark Perry. My friendship with Clark goes back as far as with any from the Wellsville/Scio area and began when we both played fast pitch softball in the Wellsville Men’s Fast Pitch League. Clark was the catcher for Bill Simon’s Texas Hot team if I remember correctly. What I do remember for sure is what a great catcher he was.
Clark W. Perry Jr., 71, of State Route 417, passed away on Saturday, February 18, 2023, in his home. He was born on April 19, 1951 in Wellsville, the son of the late Clark Sr. and Phyllis F. (Hollister) Perry. On August 18, 1973 in Ellicottville, he married Deborah J. Block, who survives.
Clark attended Allentown Union School and was a 1969 graduate of Scio Central School. He then attended Jamestown Business College, graduating in 1972. He was drafted into the United States Army and served 1972 – 1974, serving during the Vietnam era at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
If you had an appliance of some sort that needed repair, you likely knew Clark. He was employed by Carpet Town in Wellsville for several years, then opened his own repair shop, Perry Appliance Repair. No appliance was too small, nor too large for his abilities, and no hours of the day or night were outside of his efforts if you needed a repair.
Back to the Softball story and others. When you picture a person playing the catcher position in baseball, or in this case fast pitch softball, you typically conjure up images of a Johnny Bench or some other short stocky muscular hulk of a guy. Clark is just the opposite, but that by no means takes away from his ruggedness. Despite his tall lanky frame, he could take on the charge of a home bound runner with the best of them. I was pretty fast in my playing days and as a matter of fact when I was introduced to another coach by Hugh Elliott, one day he said of me, “he’s one of the fastest runners I know”. Quite an accolade that. Apparently, Clark never got that message. In all the years I played on an opposing team, I don’t think I ever successfully stole a base with Clark Perry as the catcher behind the plate. His tall lanky frame came out of that crouch in a heartbeat, and he fired a bullet down to second or third base for an easy “put – out” of the only half fast runner attempting the steal.
If there was a sport to be played that involved a ball, or something else to throw like a horseshoe, Clark was all over it, and excelled. Playing was not his only forte in athletics. Clark was also an excellent coach, sharing that talent and his “teaching skills” with youthful athletes ranging from those in the Allentown Little League, T-Ball and softball, up to and including the high school level, being honored with the “Paul Vienna Section V Coach of the Year” leading the Scio Girls basketball team to the 1993 Section V Championship. A little later in life golf became a passion and he was pretty good at that as well. One of the holes on the old Six S golf course in Belfast is a relatively short, Par 4, reachable for the long ball hitters. The green is down over a knoll not visible from the tee area and most people “lay up”, either by choice or lack of ability, such as in my case. Clark boomed a drive off the tee and easily cleared the knoll. Searching for the ball and not finding it, someone suggested looking in the hole on the green. There resting comfortably hiding from all was Clark’s ball. Not many people can claim a “hole in one” on a Par 4, but Clark could.
All who knew Clark were aware of his friendly, outgoing, always with a smile nature. When golf, and beer, are involved at the same location, it sometimes becomes necessary to answer nature’s urgings despite other than primitive facilities, like trees and bushes, being available. I tend to be a little shy in that regard and thus would go off by myself discreetly. Clark wasn’t quite that timid and was inclined to carry on your conversation by coming along and standing close next to you whilst still chatting away. I guess your (his) military background where many often line up, side by side at the trough, becomes your second nature. Rule is though, look straight ahead.
I can’t recall the number of times Clark had to be called to our house to make a repair to an appliance, bringing it new life, or at least to extend its life until we could afford a replacement. It didn’t matter when we called. He’d be there. I guess that crouching behind a batter behind home plate on the softball field gave him the flexibility needed to work on an appliance at ground level, which pains me to even watch.
I will leave you now with a poem that has been shared in these circumstances too frequently lately. I am pretty sure that Clark is “In His Hands” and has now escaped the pain that had been with him recently.