Patricia Clark's Biography

Patricia E. Clark

April 13, 1944 - July 17, 2005

Patricia Clark was born in Florida in 1944. She moved to Washington state, and then moved again to Carmichael, California when she was very young. Patty has one sister, Ellinor, who is 10 years older. At one point she convinced herself Ellinor was her mother rather than her sister, and throughout her life she looked up to, and took advice and leadership, from her sister.

Patty was diagnosed with autism about 1950, but was not told about it by her mother. In those days autism was supposed to be caused by bad mothering. Embarrassed by the diagnosis, her mother covered it up. Patty also suffered from allergenic asthma and spent more time in bed than a child should have to. One of her happiest memories was the time she spent with the Rankin family in Carson City. The dry air and low allergen count allowed her to spend the entire time she was with her foster family running around and just being a kid.

Patty skipped a grade in school (due to IQ test results) but had great difficulty doing the work at high school and college levels, due to not understanding what she was supposed to be doing or how. Even so, Patty graduated from high school a year early in 1961, but was unable to succeed at in the traditional college atmosphere. She dropped out and �worked for two years, then met and married her ex-husband. That was what girls did back then.

She was a submarine wife for 17 years (her husband was in the U.S. Navy). Submarines go out to sea for 6 months at a time, so she spent a lot of time at home alone. In 1974 and 1977 she had �her two children and became their primary caregiver, while she continued to work full-time. The family then got transferred to Guam, where after 5 years her marriage finally fell apart due to emotional and financial stress. She had worked for the civil service in Hawaii and on Guam, eventually she got a job as a Public Affairs Specialist, based on her ability to write and to sound "educated". She was very successful at that job and enjoyed it for them most part. Her duties were mostly photography and journalism and some administrative assistant duties. She used this job to support herself and her two children.

Patty's job had her going to all sorts of special events from the Governor's Mansion to the Ladies' Softball League games. During this time she also enjoyed camping at the beach, going on 'Boonie Stomps', and participating in a social group known as Parents Without Partners. She was a member of the Guam Chorale and participated in the chorale program that welcomed President Reagan to the island for his very short visit.

During her time Guam, she was misdiagnosed with, and treated for, bipolar disorder. Upon getting back to the mainland she was a support/peer worker and Census Bureau surveyor. However, after these jobs, she got five other jobs and was fired in quick succession. Looking back, her worst failures were when she was being treated for psychiatric disorders. She became convinced that things were harder for her than they were for everyone else. She argued with psychotherapists and friends. They all said she was imagining it. She was surprised when she was tested for autism, and was told that people with her level of ability are not able to finish high school OR work. Period.

After leaving the work force due to her disabilities, she decided to make another attempt at college. This time she chose a community college and took advantage of the new services offered to disabled students. After several years she earned an Associate of Arts degree with an A average. She gave up on going further, though, because she couldn't do the higher math class required for the BA degree.

In 1995 Patty's daughter (her oldest child) got married and settled down in northwestern Arizona. Patty had been living in the very expensive Bay Area and suffering from the same allergies that caused her respiratory problems as a child. A year later she and her son, James, decided to join Donna in Arizona. She bought herself a house in Dolan Springs. It was in Dolan Springs where she was able to relax from the rush of the city and overcome the worst of her allergies that allowed her to focus on connecting with others like her.

She got involved in a project called Save Ward Valley while she was still in California, whose intention was to stop the nuclear industry from dumping so-called low level nuclear waste in unlined trenches in the desert west of Needles. She was one of the few who made herself available to occupy the site (even to be arrested for doing so) and manned their offices when she couldn't stand camping in the desert any longer.

Unfortunately, she had increasing health problems that were not environmentally related, including a lime-sized tumor in her jaw, and several heart stents. It was also in Arizona that she was first diagnosed as being diabetic. The combined problems almost brought her to her knees, but instead of giving up she went looking for ways to develop herself and for ways to serve her community.

She volunteered her time at St. Vincent de Paul in Dolan Springs as well as helping her neighbors when she could. The people who work there still ask after her and remember her fondly. Later, she continued her work for the poor in Georgia at the St Vincent de Paul there.

For the last four years she lived in Atlanta, Georgia with her significant other. She was on the board of directors of the Autism Society of America - Greater Georgia Chapter, and on the educational committee of the Atlanta Alliance for Development Disabilities. She spoke regularly on the subject of what it is like to be an adult autistic and what preparation should be like for life as an adult autistic.

She was a natural computer geek, with computer experience going back to the room-size Wang that she used to write articles on Guam. She lived with a Significant Other who is also a geek. He programs/and she did email and IRC chat. She was on email lists for 10 years, and on IRC chat for 5 years or more. She became a highly valued and beloved peer counselor for the IRC community.

Patty died on July 17, 2005. She is survived by her two children, now age 28 and 31, living in Arizona, as well as two grandchildren.