Appreciating the legacy of a very generous man

Plumas County lost one of our favorite citizens and characters in August of 2015, but the legacy of Welles Carlton Clarke, Jr., better known to us as “Captain Carl,” will live on through his magnanimous bequest to Quincy, Meadow Valley and beyond, for generations to come.

And so will the stories about him, and maybe even more, the stories that he told us in that voice of his that could only be the voice of “The Cap’n.” All of us got bits and pieces of a colorful past retold around campfires or at the bar of the Plumas Club … he worked: as a ship’s captain out of Newport Beach chartering trips for the likes of Richard Burton, for the Army Corp of Engineers bulldozing roads in (what was then) Burma and the creation of the Kawaihae Harbor in Waikoloa on the big island of Hawai’i. Locally we knew him as Grand Humbug for E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 8, Chief of the Chute Crew for the Solar Cook Off responsible for the set up for that event, a heavy equipment operator and the guy you would call on to get things done.

No one would have ever guessed that he was a man of means. You could find him most evenings at the Plumas Club, most any Clamper doins’, the annual Solar Cook Off or Sunday afternoons at the Town Hall Theatre where he sat in that same seat, Captain Carl’s seat, to see every movie we showed from animated fairytales to the bang-bang action thriller shoot-‘em-ups and everything in between.

He loved the theatre and cared deeply for his community. We learned that in his final wishes he wanted to make sure that some of his assets made their way to benefit the Town Hall Theatre.

In addition to Plumas Arts and the Town Hall Theatre beneficiaries from the Estate of Wells C. Clarke (totaling $1.7 million) include: Meadow Valley Fire Department; Plumas District Hospital; Meadow Valley Schoolhouse and Plumas Corporation’s Watershed Program; Feather River College Foundation for rodeo, women’s volleyball, sand volleyball, baseball, softball and basketball teams and Feather River Fitness; Plumas Community Radio; Buck’s Lake Fire Department; Plumas County Search and Rescue; Plumas County Museum; Plumas Hospice and Quincy High School; the Meadow Valley Community; Our Savior Lutheran Church; Quincy Untied Methodist and St John’s Catholic churches; Plumas Rapids Swim Team; Feather River Land Trust; Central Plumas Recreation District; Quincy and East Quincy Beautification Programs; Quincy MS Girls; Quincy Little League; E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 8; Quincy Rotary; dramaworks; The Common Good Foundation and Feather River Trout Unlimited.

For this astonishing distribution of funds, we all have Carl’s long-time friend Jack Brown to thank, because right up to the end Carl did not care much about the money. It was at Jack’s suggestion that money be given to the community and he handled the arduous task as executor of Carl’s estate without compensation. So here again we recognize a labor of love by another community-minded citizen.

With his donation to Plumas Arts, we were given a foundation that we had only dreamed of before. We still need to write grants, do fundraising and manage earned income programs. Memberships are still the backbone of our support base. Annual membership donations of $40, $50, $100 or more from hundreds of individuals, families businesses and organizations validate the importance of the work we do building community through arts programming in addition to the essential aspect of covering annual operating expenses.

But what we do have now, with heartfelt thanks to our Friend Captain Carl, are funds to take care of the historic facilities that we have been tasked to manage: the Town Hall Theatre, circa 1936, and the former Capitol Saloon, which is now the Plumas Arts Gallery. So now we do not have to have a panic attack when something breaks or needs repair.

We also established a Plumas Arts Endowment with funds held in public trust and returns invested in community arts services. That endowment also provides opportunity for others who may be interested in a legacy donation to help to keep local arts thriving in our community for well into the future. As an organization that has worked hard and struggled for decades to do the good work that we have become respected for, this is all something that we can still only barely believe.

Plumas Arts will offer a tribute to our most unexpected and beloved benefactor as part of our 36th anniversary celebration Saturday, June 9, at 3 p.m. Join us as we give tribute to Captain Carl and dedicate the mural on the back of Town Hall Theatre where his likeness smiles out to passers-by.

At 4 p.m., the celebration moves to Dame Shirley plaza for a party with free admission, circus fun and games provided by QUIRCUS, and dance-inspiring funk, rock, New Orleans-style jazz music by the eight-piece, horn-heavy band RIGMAROLE. There will also be a no host beer, wine and beverage bar and a barbeque meal available for purchase.

Thank you Captain Carl for giving us so much more to celebrate!