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May 31, 2020

5/20/2020 2:39:00 PM
'A hard role model to follow'
Small town 'Godsend' receives accolade parade
Ronnie and Dorothy Clark wave to family and friends as they ride past on motorcycles. Clark was “completely surprised” by the parade held to honor his birthday.
+ click to enlarge
Ronnie and Dorothy Clark wave to family and friends as they ride past on motorcycles. Clark was “completely surprised” by the parade held to honor his birthday.
Dorothy and Ronnie Clark are all smiles during the celebration.
+ click to enlarge
Dorothy and Ronnie Clark are all smiles during the celebration.
Briana Barger
Graphic Designer

I met Mr. Ronnie Clark for the first time eight years ago. I remember it fondly: It was about midday on a warm, sunny June day in 2012. I was driving back to Bloomington from North Vernon in order to stay the night for an early morning summer course I had signed up for when disaster struck: my speedometer acted up, my stereo shut off, and my engine shut down. Then finally...the steering wheel locked.

Being the calm and collected gal I am, I squealed loudly and managed to navigate my car (without crashing) into an abandoned parking lot.

You may be wondering how I remember the time frame so well. You see - it's because the previous week, a homeless man in Florida took bath salts and ate the face off of another homeless man.

Morbid? Yes. Is this important to the story? Also yes.

It's important because where my car died and rolled to a stop was in a town called Gnawbone.

That is right. Ronnie Clark saved me during the middle of the zombie apocalypse in a town called Gnawbone. I will never forget him or his kindness and willingness to drive all the way out there in the evening for me and my poor, broken down pathetic Toyota, "Old Spiffy."

Reasons such as this is why so many people hold Mr. Clark in such high regard. And why so many turned up to attend his quarantine time birthday parade.

"Everybody loves him," said Annette Clark McKeand, daughter of Ronnie Clark. "He's taken care of so many people in need. His heart is so big, and he gives it to everybody."

This reporter heartily agrees with that assessment.

According to McKeand, Clark used to drive a church bus and would help people out when they had nowhere to go, by bringing them home with him to stay with the family.

"He was always reaching out to people," she said.

McKeand and her daughters thought up the idea of the parade as a fun way to celebrate his 78th birthday, and to also cheer him and his wife Dorothy up during this time of the year.

"That week is always a hard time for my parents because of Mark's death," McKeand said.

Mark Clark is the son of Ronnie and Dorothy Clark, who died in a car accident 30 years ago on May 10.

"Dad has been feeling a little under the weather," said McKeand, "so we thought we would try to make his birthday extra special."

And special it was.

Even though it had all been planned and had the word spread on a Friday, scheduled for the following Wednesday, the news spread fast and spread hard.

Over 200 vehicles turned out to surprise Clark on the big day, including firetrucks, EMT's, motorcycles, vintage vehicles, tandem bicycles, police cars, and more.

"We were very honored to see the love and respect that this community gives to our family and it shows us how much he is love," said McKeand. "There were even so many people who reached out that couldn't make it. Thank you all so much for making it amazing!"

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