Epitaph: "She did what she damn well wanted to!"

Obituary - Patricia E. Clark

Written by Patty Clark on November 22, 1995

for a class at San Francisco State University called
Holistic Health and Human Nature

Patricia Clark died last Tuesday in Pacifica at the age of 120, the second-oldest person in the state. The oldest is her sister, Ellinor Wheeler, of Belmont, age 130.

Clark and Wheeler were active back in the early 2000s for their leadership in the movement to dignify the life of working people by providing benefits they need to lead healthy, stable lives and take care of their families. They were best known for physically turning around to face their verbal attackers, raising one eyebrow, and saying, ''So?'' directly in their faces before walking away calm and relaxed. Some high-powered political and industry leaders appeared to nearly have strokes when treated this way, and the rank add file workers loved to see the interaction.

The pair were especially well-known for their absent-mindiness. Wheeler apparently never drove anywhere without getting lost and was nearly unable to organize her belongings well enough to get dressed and out of the house in the morning. Clark never planned anything ahead of time, simply noting the occasion in her date book and showing up rarin’ to go. She didn't seem able to grasp the concept of money management and eventually was put on conservatorship with her niece managing her finances for her and making sure she had food in the refrigerator. Neither one could seem to recognize anyone or remember their name until they had met three or four times. But the two women were so effective in their chosen area that they generated a grassroots support for workers' dignity that steamrolled right over the rich and influential opposition just four and a half years after the movement started.

A reporter from the New York Times who recently interviewed the pair received a lot of multisyllabled philosophical terms and one clear statement on succeeding at one's chosen field, “Concentrate on what really matters." Clark and Wheeler set out to ''make a difference'' in the lives of ordinary people and succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of anyone connected with the project's early days.

Clark had many kinds of jobs during her working career, including some in public relations that may have laid the groundwork for her success in appealing to working people. Employers were unable to tolerate her unusual ways of performing the jobs she was given. Her creativity didn't allow her to plow through work in the usual way. She couldn't stand the boredom of it. So when employers continually harassed her and called her stupid and shook their fingers in her face, she developed psychiatric symptoms from the mistreatment and ended up disabled. When asked how she managed to get so much accomplished working with.her sister, Clark replied, ''She loves me. She would never mistreat me.''

Clark is survived by her daughter, Donna, of San Francisco, her son James, of Santa Cruz, along with four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

No cause of death has been listed yet, but Clark's body was found sitting in a living room chair, staring straight ahead and smiling.