Woodville merchant mariner loved nights at sea

Warren A. Clark, 69, of Woodville never finished fourth grade, his wife said, but he was intelligent, literally a worldly man who for years circled the globe as a merchant seaman.

Mr. Clark, who died Monday of natural causes, was born in Sydney, Australia, where his father, Myron, had taken rest and recuperation after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. There the elder Clark met his wife, Florence Garland.

After the war, they returned to Myron Clark's home in Montana. Their son joined the Merchant Marine at 14, and came to know many ports, including San Pedro in Los Angeles Harbor. He met his wife, a nurse at the old Springville Hospital for tuberculosis patients in Tulare County, on one of her visits to San Pedro, and they married in 1969.

Mr. Clark stayed at sea for days or weeks at a time during the Clarks' marriage, and Mrs. Clark continued working at Springville Hospital until it closed in 1970. His times away came as no surprise, she said, because she understood the life of a merchant mariner's wife when she married him.

He loved nights at sea, looking out over the dark, endless ocean and the stars above, Barbara Clark said: "He loved to see different countries: India, Italy, Bangladesh and Asian countries. Some don't even have the same names anymore."

Mr. Clark did not care for the danger that came with ferrying troops and supplies during Operation Desert Storm in the 1990 war with Iraq. That duty was "intense and scary" for her husband, Clark said.

He made it through the war without injury, but later fell from a ship's boiler, hurting his neck and back. Mr. Clark knew it finally was time to climb ashore, and he became a logger, loading heavy lumber onto trucks near Springville. He also owned the Woodville Bar & Cafe.

Daughter Stephanie Myer was 15 when Mr. Clark was called for duty in Desert Storm. His times at sea made intervals he spent at home with her and her mother more precious.

"He was not book-smart," Myer said, "but he was one of the smartest people I knew."

She called her father worldly, and said he could build just about anything once he observed it carefully. He built lawn furniture, a carport, chicken coops, picnic and coffee tables and a three-tiered bar. Mr. Clark called friends "mate," and accented the first syllable of the word "garage," signs of his time Down Under.

The Clarks overcame sadness. Mr. Clark outlived two of their children. Steven died of natural causes, Barbara Clark said, and Brian of an accidental shooting.

After grieving, Mr. Clark managed to regain his good cheer.

He liked to relax at the Eagles Lodge in Tulare. Kathy Johnson, a member there, remembered him as a positive, cheerful fellow Eagle who liked to socialize and enjoy music. He never mentioned his grievous losses, she said, but few do.

Services were Thursday in Porterville, and Barbara Clark said she hopes to have her husband's remains sent to Australia as he wished.