Remembering Mrs. Clark

In early August, shortly after moving to Fredericksburg, I studied a map of town to familiarize myself with the area. I saw Llano Street and wondered if it was pronounced the Spanish way, “Yahno” or the Americanized way, “Lan-no.”

How to pronounce it became unimportant when I noticed one particular block of land on Llano: Greenwood Cemetery.

Where have I seen the name Greenwood Cemetery before? I asked myself.

My long-term memory tends to be good, and almost immediately I thought of an newspaper clipping from a long time ago. It contained an obituary of an educated lady with diverse interests. Her smile suggested she had enjoyed life.

Then, I remembered: Mrs. Clark is buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

Mrs. Clark, a 1959 graduate of Fredericksburg High School (she was known as Delia Davidson then), was my English teacher during my junior year at A.C. Jones High School in Beeville.

Her class wasn’t easy, as we read and studied books like “The Scarlet Letter,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” We also read the play “The Crucible.”

My favorite book to read was probably John Steinbeck’s tale of the Joad family. It mirrored my Oklahoma-born mother’s family as they left the Sooner State on Route 66 to search for work in California. My mother’s hometown (Sayre, Okla., located in southwestern Oklahoma about 23 miles east of the Texas border) is even mentioned in the novel.

Mrs. Clark was a very stylish dresser and given the zeal she had for life, it didn’t surprise me at all to find out she was a very accomplished gourmet cook. She reminded me a lot of my own mother and was even close to her in age. She also treated me like the other students in class: I was from a blue-collar family (Dad was a mechanic and Mom picked cotton while growing up) amid a class of students from mostly white-collar families.

I graduated from JHS in 1991, headed off to college and thought of how fun it would be to visit her 10 years down the road and see how she was doing.

Unfortunately, it was not to be: Mrs. Clark died in 1995. If memory serves me correctly, she had leukemia.

She was 54 when she died, and as I attended her funeral at the packed First Presbyterian Church in Beeville, one endless thought pulsed inside my head: she’d died far too soon.

And so, in August, I decided to finally pay her a visit.

At her grave, I left a copy of “The Grapes of Wrath” (encased in a plastic bag) with a short note and spent some time visiting with her. The book I left as a memento, but also so that anybody who sees her grave will have an idea of what she did. How easy is it to walk past a grave and know nothing about the inhabitant, save for their name and when they lived?

Being at her grave and realizing she’s been deceased for almost 20 years is a sobering reminder of how short life can be and how death truly is no respecter of people: some, such as Mrs. Clark’s parents, lived to ripe old ages. And some die much younger, whether by an accident or a sudden illness.

Mrs. Clark, you are greatly missed.

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