Memories set in stone
Greetings of “Hi Harry” follow the man in the Bermuda shorts as he goes about his morning routine, which begins with a 7 a.m. cup of coffee at Patti’s Thunder.
On a recent morning Harry Clarke abandoned his seat at the restaurant counter and joined this reporter at a table for breakfast.
Our conversation continued during a walk around Gansner Park, another part of Harry’s morning routine.
The 91-year-old Quincy man routinely walks from his Main Street home to Patti’s Thunder. After coffee, it’s on to Gansner for a walk around the park. Then he heads for home, with a stop at Feather River Fitness where he sometimes swims, and the Courthouse Café for a glass of orange juice.
“That’s my social life,” Harry said of his daily circuit, which he makes in rain, sun or snow.
|Harry Clarke smiles as he sits on the marble bench that he commissioned in memory of his wife Joyce.|
It was during one of those early morning walks that Harry thought of a plan to honor his late wife, Joyce.
The couple, who had been married for nearly 62 years, enjoyed walking together. They had a favorite log in the park where they liked to sit and visit.
After his wife’s death in 2008 Harry continued to walk in the park, but the log had been removed. He wanted a place where he could rest and enjoy the tranquil mornings.
“All of these years I have been trying to commemorate her,” he said. “Then the idea of the bench came along.”
Harry initially envisioned a wooden model, but he wanted something more permanent that could withstand the elements. There was also the need to get permission to install a bench on county property.
In stepped Garrett Olney, a retired Plumas County Superior Court judge, and Harry’s friend.
“I told him about my idea and he immediately went to work, Harry said.
Olney helped Harry navigate the process by contacting Dony Sawchuk, the county’s director of facility services. Sawchuk worked with Harry to find the right location and then took the idea to the Board of Supervisors for approval.
Olney also contacted Susan Arterburn, co-owner of Chilcoot Monuments, and she worked with Harry to design a marble bench.
They selected a slab of Sierra white granite and Harry thought about the inscription.
He said that he wrote down about 50 ideas before settling on words for all four sides. The front reads “Rest a moment — Enjoy this beautiful spot.”
One end reads “Chuck” and the other “Terry” in honor of his children.
The back of the bench is engraved with “Remembering Joyce Clarke 1926-2008” and then after a little space “Harry.”
Harry was at the park on the morning of Aug. 1 as the marble bench arrived and then stood watch for two-plus hours as it was secured into place.
His good friend, John Schmidt, brought chairs, coffee and scones for the occasion, but Harry couldn’t sit; this was the moment he had been waiting for.
Harry knew exactly where he wanted the bench located and the angle that he wanted it to face. The bench sits along the path behind the ball field, sheltered by towering trees.
“It should be in shade most of the day,” he said.
Harry said that there were several sites along the path that would be great locations for a bench and he hopes that others might be added.
During the installation process, Harry alternately beamed and appeared wistful, happy to see his dream accomplished, but clearly remembering his wife.
“Our 66th anniversary is tomorrow,” Harry said, “so this is perfect timing.”
As the slab of marble was lowered for the final time, Harry sighed and said, “What a relief.” He had spent many months waiting for that moment.
Then, he couldn’t wait a moment longer, and took a seat.
“I hope the people will use it,” he said.