BIRTHDAY CARD — From left, Sean Bailey, Jeremy Dunlap and, at far right, Teresa Rice, present Bill Clark, seated, a birthday card on behalf of the U.S. Navy.

William D. “Bill” Clark Jr. grew up on a farm in Tennessee during the Great Depression. He was 22 when America entered the Second World War in December 1941. Not long after, a draft notice from the Selective Service board came.

“He opened up the mailbox and then shut it,” said his daughter Sharon Clark. “He went down and joined the Navy right there.”

Sharon Clark said that action described her dad in a nutshell.

“He is so down to earth,” she said. “He assesses the situation, and does what he believes is going to work out the best.”

Sharon Clark talked about growing up with a member of the Greatest Generation.

“I admire him,” Clark said. “He was a Tennessee hillbilly, raised on a farm with nothing, and after the war he ended up the chief financial officer for an international company – Tupperware.”

Patricia Mitchell, a friend of Bill’s, and a resident of John Knox Village, where Bill Clark resides, also shared stories.

Bill Clark was born to William Sr. and Ethel Clark June 22, 1919. He grew up on a farm outside of Cookeville, Tennessee.

After high-school graduation, he went to work as a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocer, and that’s when he got the draft notice.

“He wasn’t going into the Army,” his daughter said.

William Sr. had told Bill not to join the U.S. Army because the trenches were hell. Bill Clark took his words to heart and instead joined the U.S. Navy. He was shipped out for boot camp training in April 1942.

After boot camp, he was selected to be a hospital corpsman and went to school at Balboa and Coronado Naval Hospitals.

CELEBRATE — Bill Clark’s family, Nancy Crommett, his daughter Sharon Clark, Ira Schleigher, Tricia Saylors, Richard Emery, Tanya Emery and Caleb Emery, gather to celebrate Clark’s 104 years of life.

“After completing school, Bill said he was ‘shanghaied by the Marine Corps,’” Patricia Mitchell said.

“The Navy told him to turn in his Navy uniform except for one dress uniform, and [he] was issued Marine Corps uniforms and gear.”

He was then sent to Camp Matthews for Marine Corps training.

“When Bill told his dad that he was now in the Marine Corps, his dad told him, ‘Son, you just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire,’” Mitchell said.

Bill Clark was a hospital corpsman who served with combat Marines, and was later referred to as a “Devil Doc.”

Clark served in the Pacific campaign at Guadalcanal, Bougainville and up and down the Solomon Islands.

When he arrived back in the States and was stationed in San Diego, he had earned enough points to be released from active duty.

“The Navy wanted him to stay, but he was very set on going somewhere he could make money,” Sharon Clark said. “There was money to be made, so we moved to California.”

He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy as a chiefs pharmacist’s mate.

After a couple of moves, Bill Clark went to work for Rexall Drugs in California, while he used the newly approved GI Bill to attend college.

“He thanked President Roosevelt for approving the new GI Bill,” Patricia Mitchell said.

Rexall Drugs was owned by Justin Dart, who noticed Bill Clark’s potential within months.

Dart had recently purchased a company called Tupperware. He wanted Bill Clark to help him take the newly acquired company worldwide.

And he did.

Nowadays, Tupperware is a household name in more than 100 countries.

Kraft Foods purchased Tupperware in 1980, and at that time, Patricia Mitchell said, they had a mandatory retirement age. So Bill Clark retired in 1984 at age 65.

HONOR AND CELEBRATION — Pati and Steve Mitchell present Bill Clark with a shadow box filled with Clark’s World War II medals at his 104th birthday celebration at John Knox Village.

Sharon Clark said her dad purchased property in Deltona, and they had a farm for quite a long time.

At age 95, Bill Clark made the choice to move to John Knox Village. The community and assisted living have been something of a family tradition.

“Both of my grandmothers were in John Knox; so was my aunt and my mother,” Sharon Clark said. “John Knox Village has done really well by my family.”

John Knox Village thinks Bill Clark has done pretty well by them, too.

“As retired Marines, my husband, Steve Mitchell, and I met Bill in 2021 when he volunteered to help at the Veterans Day ceremony held at the assisted living facility,” Patricia Mitchell said. “We have enjoyed getting to know Bill.”

While he is 104, Bill Clark is mentally sharp, and physically active.

“He is in great shape for his age,” Sharon Clark said.

Patricia Mitchell echoed the statement.

“He is very interesting to talk to. We would like to thank Bill for his service to our country, the Navy and Marine Corps. Semper Fi!”

BIRTHDAY BOY — Seen at left, Bill Clark Jr. celebrates his 104th birthday at John Knox Village, surrounded by his family and friends. Clark is a World War II veteran and the retired chief financial officer for Tupperware.

Bill Clark has one living daughter and a deceased daughter, two grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Sharon Clark confirmed her dad gets “The Question” all the time.

“What’s the secret to a long life? My dad loves that question,” she said. “He says, ‘The good die young; the mean live forever.’”

Sharon Clark laughed, “But my dad’s not mean at all.”

John Knox Village Director of Clinical Services Nicole Vega said it was an honor to be part of the community in which Clark chose to continue his family’s tradition of retirement living.

“We celebrate and honor his service, and look forward to his 105th birthday party,” she said.

In 1919, when Bill Clark was born:
• Woodrow Wilson was president
• The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series
• Milk cost 9 cents a quart
• Bread cost 50 cents a loaf
• Gasoline cost 25 cents a gallon
• Sliced bread didn’t exist
• Neither did the term “teenager”
• Television hadn’t been invented
• Women didn’t have the right to vote
• The high-school graduation rate was 54 percent
• The First World War didn’t end until November 1918
• The population of the planet was 1.8 billion
• 50 million people died from the influenza pandemic
• The average annual income for a family was about $3,200
• A house cost $6,300, and an apartment in New York City cost $60 a month
Definition: The Encyclopedia Britannica identifies The Greatest Generation as the “…generation of Americans born between approximately 1901 and 1924, who came of age during the Great Depression and the 1940s, many of whom fought in World War II.”


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