For those who knew Charles Clark, he is remembered for his gregarious personality and superb storytelling ability.
“My dad had what the Irish call the ‘gift of gab.’ That lent to him being an excellent storyteller,” his son Jeffrey Clark said.
Clark made a name for himself in the Lodi area as the owner of Clark Pest Control, which he founded in 1950 out of Stockton. His company extended throughout California and into Reno, Nevada.
Jeffrey recalls his father always smelled like pesticides — but he had a deep devotion to the work he did. Charles Clark continued to work well into his 80s and did not retire until he turned 90, Jeffrey said.
“His employees respected and liked him, and he had many employees, but everyone who knew Charlie loved him,” said Tom Klinger, who was good friends with Clark for more than 60 years.
People always felt drawn to Clark because he had such an inviting personality, Klinger said — and because he was brilliant. Clark was an alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley, and he had a natural sense of curiosity, his friend said.
“Charlie was not a pretentious person. He was someone who loved to share what he knew with everyone, which is why he had a natural knack for storytelling,” Klinger said.
Klinger and Clark went on many adventures together, along with their wives. They toured most of North America and the world.
Clark’s sense of adventure encouraged him to expand his business, Klinger added.
“When we would come back from trips, he would immediately think, ‘I need to expand in this region or move in this direction,’” he said.
No matter how successful his business became, Clark was always humble about his success, son Jeffrey said. His father preferred to keep a low profile.
“My father believed that there are only two times in a person’s life when their life should be in the paper: when they’re born and when they die, “ Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey remembers how adamantly his father believed in giving back. Clark was a donor to many organizations that were justice driven and family oriented organizations, but he gave to various groups because he believed in contributing to the community.
“My father was a very modest man, he never flashed his wealth he drove the same car for 15 years and wore the same shoes for 10,” he said.
Clark was someone who was always more concerned with other people before himself, Jeffrey added.
His friendly nature and quiet presence were signature aspects of his personality that those who were close to him remember.
For example, Clark, who received a Purple Heart as an officer in the U.S., was never vocal about his past combat service. Jeffrey suspects his father’s reluctance to discuss his time in the Navy was due to the horrors he witnessed.
Clark was 18 when he enlisted, a month after Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was stationed in South Pacific when President Truman ordered the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. He witnessed the raising of the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima, from aboard his Navy vessel.
“One time we were watching a special on Veterans Day, and the scene of six Marines hoisting the flag came on, and he was telling me about how they recreated that moment,” Jeffrey said.
Klinger, who also served in the war, remembered the impact it had on Clark, and how it encouraged his quest for knowledge and sense of adventure.
“Charlie was never standing still, and that is why people loved being around him — because he made you feel like you were traveling with him,” he said.
Charles Clark is survived by his wife Shirlene, sons Charles III, Jeffrey, Joseph and Terrence, and six grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Woodbridge Golf & Country Club, 800 E. Woodbridge Road, Woodbridge. Friends and family are welcome to attend.