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Forrest C. Clark

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Forrest C. Clark, 100, of Rich Hill, Mo., died on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, at the Bates County Memorial Hospital in Butler, Mo.

He was the second of eight children born to Audley and Cora Cartmill Clark, born on Aug. 15, 1911, in Rock Creek Township, Kan., on the way to their homestead in Elk City, Okla. Growing up in the 1920s, when life was simple and a bit slower, Forrest could be found playing "Tops" with other children. He had a competitive edge and won area Top Tournaments, becoming an exceptional player and wore the name "Toppy" for the rest of his life, 100 years, six months and one day.

The eight children, four boys and four girls, born to Audley and Cora Clark all graduated from Butler High School, Butler, Mo., and Forrest C. Clark, "Toppy," graduated in 1931.

Toppy learned to drive with a team of horses, and then came the Model T's and other cars. His first memory of the family car was a Reo and he recalled that the family would take long rides from Butler to Spickard, Mo., long before there was air conditioning and paved roads, to visit family. Toppy's grandfather was a Grundy County judge and the whole family piled into the car for visits to Spickard.

Toppy drove young and this started his long love affair with the automobiles. When the Model A Ford cars came along, he thought they were better than a slice of bread. And, over a span of 75 years, he collected more than 80 cars. In 2008, his cars sold at auction; consider for openers, a 1929 Ford Model A Sport Coupe Convertible; a 1931 Ford Model A Vicky; and a 1932 Ford Model A Roadster. But his pick of the pack was the very rare 1929 Cadillac V-8 four-passenger Sport Phaeton car, but his list of desirables just went on and on.

In the 1920s and 1930s, work was hard to find, and a job with Oak Hill Cemetery in Butler, Mo., for $1,000 per year was a difficult task that he shared with his father and brothers Hap and Bud Clark, but it helped put food on the table for the family with eight growing children. Toppy had a saying many years later about cutting grass with a push lawn mower, "cut grass my ass." He said it was so hot in the summers in Bates County, that and he and many others would sleep those 'hot nights' before air conditioning, on the Courthouse lawn.

The Great Depression and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, and the 1929 Stock Market Crash, the end of Prohibition, World War I and World War II and so on, well Toppy lived through them all and recalled what it was like. Toppy knew people that lost family on the sinking Titanic, and Civil War veterans, and he was one of the first persons to fly in a plane from Bates County. He had family members that served in the Civil War, three brothers and two brothers-in- law served in World War II, and many good friends that served in World War I.

He was a proud supporter of the Bates County Old Settlers Society, and in 2010, while attending the 150th anniversary and meeting in Butler, Mo., and listening to a skit about the orphan trains that stopped in route from New York, he had a far away look on his face and the tears welled up in his eyes, and he whispered, "..those where hard times.."

He courted his future bride, Irene Mae Jamett in a 1937 Chevrolet, his father-in-law's car, they married in 1945. They celebrated a golden wedding anniversary before her death in 1996. Irene was his partner for life, bookkeeper and "savvy" business partner; they worked seven days a week, 14 hour days, but yearly would close up the "Clark's Drug Store" and go on vacation for a month. They made trips to Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., and he enjoyed visiting the old towns that had a casino, and car museums all over the United States.

When it came to eating, he would say, "eating is a habit," and when he had a drink of whiskey, he said, "three fingers." He ran around with the "good old boys," and liked to "shoot craps" in his spare time, he liked to gamble and was always looking for a good deal. He made lifetime friends with fellow car collectors, and before his death, often reminisced sadly and said "my friends are all gone."

In 1933, he attended pharmacy school in Brunswick, Mo., and became a registered pharmacist. He was honored with a letter and gold certificate from the Board of Pharmacy in recognition of 50 years as a pharmacist in 1988. While in Butler, Mo., he worked for Root's Drug Store then in 1938, he worked for Northrup Drug Store in Rich Hill. He opened his own drug store, buying the Gregory Store from Lowell Davis in 1945. In 1962, Toppy bought the Loy Moore Drug Store in Rich Hill. He was co-owner of the Hume Drug Store with Ted and Edith Koontz, his longtime friends of Hume, Mo.

Many children in the area were given half dollars, and silver dollars whenever they met Toppy; he never forgot the "hard times" and gave from his heart.

Toppy was a lifetime member of the Elks Lodge. He enjoyed having his antique cars in the Rich Hill Fourth of July parade, especially his three red, white and blue 1956 Ford Thunderbirds. He was also a supporter of the McGinnis Youth Center, and the Pappinsville Historical Society.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Irene; brothers Hap, Bud and Don; and sisters Hazel Wagner, Alma Allen and Ruby Rodeberg.

He is survived by his son, Terry J. Clark and wife, Frieda Louise Clark, of Rich Hill, Mo. He also leaves three grandchildren, Maria and husband, Randal Griffiths, of Rich Hill, Mo., Donald and wife, Stacie Hudson, of Lewisburg, Penn., and Stephanie and husband, Steve Lyon, of Nevada, Mo.; great-grandchildren; and great-great grandchildren.

He is survived by his sister, Marjorie Askew and her husband, Glen, of Eagle Rock, Mo.; sisters-in-law, Letha Clark of Butler, Mo., Louise Jamett of Joplin, Mo., Jo Ann Bennett and husband, Charles "Chuck" Bennett of Fort Meyers, Fla.; brother-in-law, Ray Vidal of Huntington Beach, Calif.; special cousins, Shirley Vansandt and husband, LeRoy, of Smithville, Mo., and Raymond Lafever of Rich Hill; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services were held on Sunday, Feb. 19 and on Monday, Feb. 20. Services were held in the Sheldon-Goodrich Chapel, Osceola, Mo., presided over by Scott Buerge, longtime friend, and in the Clark family residence, Rich Hill, Mo., presided over by, his niece, Donna Clark Fuller, and the Revs. Bill Perky and Scott Buerge. Casket bearers, "Toppy's Good Looking Girls" were: Phyllis Koontz McCulley, Mary Wilson, Marilyn Wheatley, Ruth Wheatley, Maggie Perry and Charlotte Buerge. Interment followed at the Carbon Center Cemetery, Vernon County, Mo., with arrangements by Randy and Debbie Sheldon, Randy Sheldon-Goodrich Funeral Home, Osceola, Mo.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggested gifts or donations be sent to the Carbon Center Cemetery, Pappinsville Historical Society, McGinnis Youth Center, or Bates County Old Settlers Association, or donors choice and sent to "Toppy Clark Memorial Fund," 201 E. Park Avenue Rich Hill, MO 64779.