A Memorial Tribute to Don Clark
written by M.R. James
It started with a phone call more than 40 years ago. “You must be a bowhunter,” said the voice on the other end of the
“Guilty as charged,” I admitted.
Thus launched a long friendship and eventual
business partnership that would last until March 17, 2013, when my good pal
Don Clark died at age 79 from complications of pneumonia. Back then I was
the brand new Communications Manager at Magnavox’s Government & Industrial
Division in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Don was an engineer in the
Anti-Submarine Warfare department.
He’d called my office shortly after
seeing a cover photo I’d chosen for the Magnavox Management Club’s monthly
newsletter. It showed a woodland scene of a camouflaged bowhunter ready to
release an arrow at an unseen deer. “Don’t Miss the Management Club’s Next
Meeting,” advised the headline accompanying my photo. An
avid archer himself, Don and I soon met. He introduced me to his good
friend, co-worker Bob Schisler, another engineer in the Magnavox ASW
department. We three shared a common passion, shooting and hunting with our
bows and arrows. We were all members of the Indiana Bowhunters Association
and soon formed a field archery club for Magnavox employees, with
tournaments held at the Isaak Walton Club grounds north of Fort Wayne. That
same archery club later evolved into the Tisepe Bowhunters, one of
northeastern Indiana’s oldest bow clubs. In due time, Don, Bob, and I all
became honorary life Tisepe members.
But Don’s phone call and
friendship resulted in an even more enduring monument to archery. In early
1971, Don, Bob, and I – along with Magnavox graphic artist Steve Doucette –
founded Blue-J, Inc., Publishers. In August of ‘71, after months of careful
planning and preparations, Bowhunter magazine was born. Its initial press run was
15,000 copies distributed mostly on newsstands in Midwestern states where
deer hunting is popular.
I was Editor, Don and Bob sold ads and handled
circulation/subscription chores; Steve laid out each issue for printing. It
was a winning team, made even stronger when Fred Wallace, an Ohio bowhunter
and salesman, joined us a couple of years later. Saying Bowhunter was
a successful special interest publication is a gross understatement. At its
peak of popularity, the paid circulation hit 220,000 with bimonthly copies
and three special issues printed and read by legions of devoted fans. What
started as a part-time business became a multi-million dollar publishing
company built on friendship and a shared interest in bows and arrows.
Don Clark’s contribution to the magazine cannot be
over-emphasized. For years Don and wife Pat were the public face of
Bowhunter magazine, attending countless clinics, trade shows, archery
shoots, industry gatherings, and club events. They traveled widely and
routinely manned the Bowhunter booth, selling magazines, books,
calendars, and a variety of other Bowhunter items to the crowds
attending these events.
Don later played a leading role in the Archery Hall of Fame, working
with Dave Staples to help make Dave’s dream of a permanent AHOF home and
museum come true. I was especially pleased when my old friend did honors at
my own Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2003. Remembering that special
evening and the many bowhunts Don and I had shared, was golden,
as were the multiple Pope and Young Club conventions we attended starting in
the 1970s, and the fun times spent together in the company of our growing
After we finally sold Bowhunter, Don
realized his and Pat’s dream of building a lakeview log home on their rural
property near Angola, Indiana. There Don enjoyed hunting in his woods and
watching the deer and other wildlife, spending his retirement years in the
company of family and friends.
Not that there weren’t troubling times along the
way. For a big, bearded, gentle giant of a man, Don seemed plagued by a
health issues. He underwent the first of two heart bypass
surgeries in his late 40s and was a cancer survivor. A couple of late life
surgical mistakes resulted in more serious problems, and Don also suffered
from Parkinson’s disease. Worn down by these physical ailments and advancing
age, he died peacefully surrounded by the people who loved him most, his
wife Pat and daughters Mary, Kathleen, Donna, Michele, and Kristen. Married
for 52 years, Don and Pat were the proud grandparents of Zach and Lily.
Standing beside the plain wood casket containing my friend, I was struck by
the look of peace on Don’s face. Dressed comfortably in jeans, a flannel
shirt, and a favorite leather vest – wearing his familiar turquoise bolo
tie, oversized belt buckle, and complementary jewelry, he was the
outdoor-loving Don Clark I remembered. A favorite Bear take-down recurve bow lay atop the pine coffin. A quiver and hunting arrows,
leather arm guard, shooting glove, and bow stringer were all within easy
reach at Don’s side.
How fitting, I thought,
that these well-used personal items would spend all eternity with an
outdoorsman and serious archer whose love of bowhunting will transcend
death. They’ll be readily available for the new adventures awaiting Don in
that perfect hunting grounds beyond the stars. So rest easy, old friend.
While we’ll miss you, we take comfort in the knowledge that you’re finally
at peace and in a far better place. I’ll see you again somewhere down the