Palo Alto Online - Lasting Memories - William Clark's memorial

William Clark
1918-July 30, 2011
Palo Alto, California

William Hadley "Bill" Clark, an early partner at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, a lifelong teacher, community leader and a dedicated nature guide in his retirement, died July 30 following a lengthy period of failing health. Dr. Clark joined the Palo Alto Medical Clinic staff in 1946 and cared for patients for decades until he retired in 1983 following the first of several heart operations.

He served on the Palo Alto City Council during the politically tumultuous years of 1967 to 1973, showing a broad understanding of community issues and demonstrating an ability to listen to differing viewpoints -- relating to community growth, housing and the Vietnam War, among other issues.

He was a born in Oxnard, Calif., in 1918, but spent his childhood in Ventura County, where he worked with his father on a farm, chiefly raising chickens and selling eggs. After both parents died, he moved to Palo Alto with his stepmother in the early 1930s. He attended Palo Alto High School, where he got his first taste of leadership as student-body president. He graduated in 1936.

He attended the University of California, Berkeley, from 1936 to 1939, then transferred to Stanford University, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1940 and his medical degree in 1944 from the Stanford School of Medicine, then based in San Francisco, where he did his internship from 1943 to 1945.

Dr. Clark served in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps in the closing months of World War II, and was on a ship scheduled to participate in the invasion of Japan when it was canceled due to the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His ship was diverted to China, where he helped care for war victims. He later served in the Naval Reserve.

While in high school, he met Jean Helen Yuill at a picnic on the beach at Searsville Lake, beginning a relationship that lasted from high school until his passing. They were married in 1941 and had four children between 1944 and 1951: David, Carolyn, Peter and Bruce.

When the Stanford School of Medicine relocated to a new complex in Palo Alto in the mid-1950s, Dr. Clark was named Stanford Hospital's first chief of medicine in Palo Alto, during 1957-58 which his children recall as a terrible year of overwork and absences from the family. He later served as secretary, vice-chief and chief of the Palo Alto medical staff at the hospital. He also was an attending physician at the Palo Alto VA Hospital from 1960 to 1979.

Dr. Clark loved teaching as well as sharing his extensive knowledge of birds, plants and nature in his later years. He and Jean both served as docents at Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, which now encompasses their beloved Searsville Lake region.

He was a clinical professor of medicine at Stanford, was affiliated with numerous professional organizations, and in 1990-91 founded and was first president of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic Retired Physicians group.

Prior to serving on the City Council, Dr. Clark served on the Palo Alto Park and Recreation Commission in 1957-58. He was an avid hiker and a naturalist. He was also active with the Peninsula Open Space Trust, based in Palo Alto.

But the lasting memories of Dr. Clark by his family, medical colleagues, patients and friends included "his great gusto with which he approached everything in life," according to his youngest son, Bruce, now a physician. He also had a "rascal" streak as a youngster, including once getting kicked out of a Catholic school for tripping a nun. Dr. Clark also had a great love of teaching, his son David noted during a family reminiscence for the Weekly this week: "I've worked in schools most of my life, and watching him as a teacher in general ... he was a very good teacher."

"He was beloved," Carolyn added, noting that he had large turnouts for his grand rounds and twice yearly three-month teaching stints at Stanford Hospital. "He was a listener. He had a quality of listening and 'seeing you.'" She said he listened closely even to those with differing views during years of community leadership through organizations, including the Rotary Club and community-based organizations.

"He was a community builder," Peter added, and had an "incredible memory." They also said he was a great storyteller, from his Navy experiences to Sierra hikes to last night's sports game.

His and Jean's relationship lasted as "one of the great love relationships" even during recent years of health problems for both of them. The couple celebrated their 70th anniversary recently.

Despite heart bypasses and other physical problems, "his spirit just kept going," Peter said.

He is survived Jean; son David Clark and his wife, Catherine Clark, of Austin, Texas; daughter, Carolyn Clark Clebsch, and her husband, William Clebsch, of Menlo Park; son Peter Clark and his wife, Gail Hartman, of Minneapolis; and son Bruce Clark and his wife, Deborah Clark, of Novato.

Tags: teacher/educator, public service

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The family prefers memorials be contributions to the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and the Peninsula Open Space Trust.

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