If Chuck Palahniuk’s statement were to stand true for everyone, then that would include the unprecedented death of downtown’s most beloved homeless man, Clark Reedy. Clark has been stamping his legacy literally on our streets and through life’s hardships with a simplicity we could all take a note from: kindness.
While many people chalk up encounters with the homeless as a nuisance of street-walking vagabonds, pandering pennies, food, coffee and smokes, not as many can say they actually stopped to get to know one before making snap judgements. In Wilmington, I am proud to say many locals befriended Clark.
Having known Clark since my residency in Wilmington began, I served him many free sodas over the years at a local restaurant (in fact, all the waitresses did; it was just understood he got one or two a day), gave him food, found cigarettes for him but most importantly, talked to him like a human being.
Just last month, my BFF, Mandy, and I were kicking around in Target. Low and behold, there was Clark eating in the snack area. “Who knew Clark trekked outside of downtown?” we quipped. He approached us quickly, first with a kind greeting before asking for a cigarette. Declining nicely that we didn’t have any, we asked how he was. Within seconds, a security guard was escorting him out for panhandling in the store. We told the guard to be kind to him; he was our friend and not bothering us. Thankfully, the guard was nicer than many have been.
Clark Reedy passed on Friday, August 11; as of press the cause of death was unknown. Also as of press, I am still saddened by his passing. Yet, comfort also comes from the amount of people who posted their own distress of knowing his absence on downtown’s streets is and will continue to be very real. We’ll all be able to celebrate Clark Reedy on September 17th at the Soapbox, as Joe Jones is putting together a benefit show, wherein proceeds will be given to the Good Shepherd House in Clark’s name. A portion will also go to his family to help cover costs of his funeral, held Wednesday, August 17th at Wilmington Funeral Chapel (1535 S. 41st Street) at 6 p.m.
I thought it would be appropriate to share many thoughts that flooded my inbox over the weekend. Seemingly, Clark’s kindness will live on in others.
I have lots of memories of Clark. He would visit me daily at CD Alley. He loved music, especially Steppenwolf—the one with the wolf on the cover. Clark loved to chat with the regulars and was part of my day for several years. He always looked out for me. Rest in peace, Clark.
I met Clark about 10 years ago, and I must admit: I was afraid of him at first. I lived above the Glancy law firm, downtown. Clark would see me, and walk me to my car, often asking for money or food. I would tell him, yes, I had money but wasn’t going to give him any. That didn’t stop him day after day. Eventually, he just wanted to talk and didn’t ask for anything.
It wasn’t until Thanksgiving one year that I saw Clark and felt so bad that he was alone on the streets during the holiday. Here I was, loading up my car with enough food to feed an army, and Clark was alone sitting by my door. I felt horrible. I went back upstairs to my apartment and made him a meal that would feed him several times—or at least he would have enough to share with one of his buddies. He was so grateful, and that created a bond between us.
From then on, we spoke to each other on a first-name basis, and I really felt safe around him. He would walk me to my car to make sure I was OK. I would slip him a $1 or sometimes $5 so he could get coffee and something to eat.
Not long after, he disappeared. I was told he went to stay with family. I was really happy for him and thought he was getting a fresh start. Then, he was back again—full beard, looking scruffier than ever.
When I finally saw him, I hugged him. He didn’t smell or look so great, but I was happy to see him again. I told him that day he needed to shave, shower and wash his clothes so people wouldn’t be afraid of him. He told me he would, and a few days later, he appeared with a hair cut, shower and shave. His clothes were clean, and he had a strut! I was shocked. He waited for me by my door to show me. I hugged him and just felt so proud of him.
I think after that day, I felt protective of Clark. We had remained friends through the years; he even started asking me to go on dates with him. He would say, “Um Sherry. Um, I’d like to buy you a beer or a drink.” I always told him about my boyfriend, but he didn’t care.
All in all, looks are deceiving. Clark may have looked unorthodox to most, but deep down, he was a man that wanted to be respected and loved like everyone else. He was kind to me, and he was my friend. I will miss him greatly. RIP Clark, you will be in my heart and memory forever, you funny little man.
It’s hard to say what my fondest memory of Clark Reedy would be. He always made me laugh, and I really enjoyed his visits when I worked at CD Alley. I loved watching him come in, and find the same used Boston CD and play air drums while listening to it. I also loved his conversations with my co-worker Chris Rumple. He loved Chris and still asked me about him whenever we crossed paths.
Clark had a sincerely good heart; I will miss seeing him.
I’ll never forget once when I tried to help Clark get his finances in order. I took care of him for a month and tried to teach him how to budget his money. He told me at the first of the month he would pay me back with the check he got. On the day his check arrived, he said some “dudes” jumped him at the bank. I am 96 percent sure he made up the story, but I didn’t care because Clark’s heart was in the right place with me.
During my three-year hiatus from the road, I got the chance to experience downtown Wilmington in a way I never had time to do before. I took many short-term jobs during this period, trying to keep a hair above water. One of the hats I wore was as a barista at the Italian Gourmet. I worked the morning shift, and everyday I would walk the river at daybreak and would often see Clark greeting the sun.
One of my biggest displeasures on the road was the lack of meaningful contact with conscious people. I don’t think it takes a lot to look into someone’s eyes and have a mutual understanding that we are both on this Earth together. I welcomed this behavior from cashiers, waiters or with whomever I came into contact during normal day-to-day business transactions. Many people were shocked at first by my different approach to service but often it would create regular customers and friends. Clark would usually welcome any greeting from me, and carry on a real conversation before asking for a dollar and a cigarette—something the stuffy lawyers often gathered around were incapable of doing.
I saw Clark as no different than a paying customer. Although, he didn’t have a lot to offer financially, he had more than most, and you would know what I’m talking about if you ever took the time to get to know him. He would always remember and ask things that I greatly appreciated—things friends and family rarely askd about. He always asked about my daughter in Raleigh. He knew how old she was and what grade she was in—something even I failed at knowing during my last visit with her.
I got in trouble many times because I refused to kick him out of the coffee shop. I admired Clark because he did not abide by the confines of society, and no walls could ever house him. Clark Reedy was a beautiful man, deserving of remembrance.
Clark, I hope your end on earth was peaceful, and you now have the love you need.
Tom [Walsak] introduced me to Clark and always took time to chat or share a cigarette with Clark. Whenever I saw Clark, he asked after Tom. “Is he back on the road? Is he driving his truck? Where is he now? Tell him I said hello.” They were good friends.
Tom taught me to slow down and listen to Clark. I am happy to say that Clark and I recently shared a long walk on the river. He was excited to discover that I had adopted a new dog and after introducing himself to my pup, Huff, he told me he would join us on our walk to “keep an eye on you.” As we walked, he asked about Tom, Tom’s daughter, Alexandra, and my own sisters, Dannielle and Anne-Marie, by name. He told me that someone had recently stolen his meds, and he was frustrated by this. “I try to stay on track, but when something like that happens, man, it’s hard,” he said. “I may have a mental illness, but I know right from wrong, and that was wrong. I try to do the right things.” And I do believe he did. He will be greatly missed.