The Eulogy of Clinton “Fatman” Clarke
For those of you who do not know me, my name is Robert Kelly and I am one of Clinton’s best friends, but I am not unique. Clinton had many best friends. It is with great sadness that I stand in front of you this evening to celebrate the life of our friend.
We are happy to see so many friends and relatives. We know that many of you have travelled a long way to be here and Clarke would have greatly appreciated this outpouring of love and recognition. Most likely though, he would be crying like a baby by now as I am about to do. Evidently that was one of the things he and I had in common. Tony was an emotional youth who would shed a tear at the drop of a hat. If you knew Clinton, however, you would know that he would not have missed your own celebration, no matter his physical condition or the distance he and Denese would have had to travel, be it to London, Atlanta, Miami, Toronto or Jamaica. And yes, Denese was his American Express Card, “he never left home without her.” That was the essence of Clinton, a selfless, generous individual who would give you the very shirt off his back if he thought you needed it.
Clinton Anthony Clarke was born in Kingston at Jubilee on December 29, 1953, the first of eight children to Dorcas Thompson and Traverse Clarke, his siblings being brothers, Desmond (deceased), Edward, Dennis (deceased), Philip, and sisters, Mavis, Vivenne and Hillary. He attended St Anne’s as a child before successfully completing his common entrance. He came to KC in 1966 and remained here until 1972.
Actually, Clinton never left KC. He competed in form football. I remember him doing belly flops in the swimming pool. He was goalie for our school’s hockey team, he sang in our illustrious choir, but it was his performance as a shot putter that brought him the most recognition as a school boy. At the National High School Championships, Champs, Clinton placed third once and second twice behind Leo Brown of Calabar, who was finest shot putter of that era. There is of course another name for that institution that is frequently used in Jamaica, but I will refrain from using it here.
After graduation he worked for D&D in Kingston and returned to KC to volunteer as strength and conditioning coach, assisting the legendary Mr. Youngster Goldsmith. He spent many weekends travelling with Foggy Burrowes in those pioneering days of Jamaica track and field, hosting meets on makeshift tracks, identifying talent and creating opportunities for youngsters to excel. He was a revered and feared figure, who lead by dedication, hard-work and by example. Noel Gray recalled that Clarke would warn the guys that if the exercise was not done correctly the ten count would be repeated and on his watch the count was longer with lots of do-overs. However, no one argued or questioned his decisions fearing that it would make matters worse. At the time of his death he still remained our most reliable fundraiser.
Clinton and I first met in September of 1967 when the second formers could not contain their curiosity and wanted to see first-hand just how huge was this new heavy weight. So, Clarke, Sangunetti, Escoffrey and some normal size students descended on Form 1E. And yes, there truly was now a heavier boy at KC. Later in the school year we met in Church, French Street, Hannah Town at Full Truth Deliverance Center, Bishop Wilfred A. Shaw, at a Church convention one night. I guess we were living a double life, tough at school Monday to Friday and Church boys at nights and on Sundays.
When I limed recently with several old boys, inevitably much reflection was directed at “Fatman.” Rodney relayed an incident in El Salvador when a tiny man with a huge sombrero first saw Fatman and ran out of a bar shouting “mucho mucho grande” and Clarke, scared out of his wits, equaled the record Bolt had not yet set with knee lifts showing as much form as Maurice Beecher and leaving many wondering why his only events at Champs were shot put and discus. Bowla Morant remembered Thursday nights at “The Eatery” when twelve or fifteen old boys would get together and the tables were not large enough to fit the Heineken bottles. Clarke and Bowla of course consumed most of the beer.
Maurice Weir, not knowing better, called Clarke and my event of April 1970, the original “rumble in the jungle,” three years before Ali pounded Foreman. However, our incident lasted about two minutes, as the senior students would not tolerate it and the next day, Tuesday, we played ping pong in my car port and shared what Clinton told the whole school was “Sunday Dinner on Tuesday,” rice and peas with chicken and carrot juice. However, Teddy “Booms” Martin reminded me of the real rumble, between Clarke and Anthony Allen, an intimidating fast bowler with bad intent behind every ball, when they were in first form. Their fight is perhaps still the longest in the History of KC. It lasted two successive weeks. They would come to school and fight before class. The bell would ring and they would stop. During break-time, they would fight again, until the bell rang. Lunch time they would continue, until the bell. After school they would continue the fight. Eventually everyone got tired and stopped watching as no one was winning and that is how the fighting stopped.
During our first trip together to South Florida several years ago, Clinton schooled me in the art of selling Scholarship Dance tickets, Memberships or Boat Ride tickets to guys who would be 1,500 miles away when we were boarding the boat. Years later, I remember telling Clarke that a certain old boy who played cricket was hiding from me at the Big Purple Session, Clarke said, don’t worry Robert, I got a check for $200 off him already. This relentless fundraising is something I have emulated and moved it to an even greater distance, to Jamaica. He taught me that we should collect an offering at every board meeting, paraphrasing from Matthew 18: 20, “’Where the twos and threes are gathered touching anything concerning KC an offering should be collected.” That’s why he would be disappointed with me tonight. There are over 300 old boys here. No merchandise or boat ride tickets are being sold and no membership dues are being collected.
If you called Clarke or he called you and you were late answering, you had to form a cue. Immediately, he would be on another call. He kept in close touch with just about every KC Old Boy or knew a person who did. He was a socialite, a very popular man and one who was very concerned about the wellbeing of others. Clinton and I spoke most Sunday mornings for years, usually about 9:30, but under no circumstance would he miss Sunday morning worship service. We did not speak on his final Sunday, his line was busy. When we spoke on Saturday afternoon, he said he had to learn how to come up the stairs back ways, as it would force him to take a break, because coming up front ways he just did not pause enough and it left him short of breath. I miss him dearly. I miss his sound and practical advice, I miss his knowledge, creativity and imagination, I will miss his trust, but most of all I will miss his friendship.
A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth. This makes Clinton a billionaire.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.
“His life was gentle; and the elements
so mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
and say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!”
Clinton is in heaven now and we are here at his funeral. This is not the time for us to grieve his death but it’s our time to celebrate his life.
Tony, may you have food and raiment, a soft pillow
for your head. May you be forty years in heaven,
before the devil knows you’re dead.
Rest well my friend, rest well!
Fortis Cadere Cedere Non Potest
The Brave May Fall But Never Yield