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A LIFE TO CELEBRATE
Words used to describe him were loving husband, father, mentor and friend, as were dedicated, forthright and loyal. Jack W. Clarkson was all of these and more. At the age of 74, while on an extended vacation in Coronado, Calif., he succumbed after a determined, face-to-face battle with cancer on Nov. 20, 2011. Jack never gave up easily and his battle with cancer was no exception.
Jack dropped into life on Aug. 26, 1937, in Monrovia, Calif., the son of Paul and Era Clarkson. At age 16 he left home to explore, examine and experience more of life.
He served in the United States Air Force for nine years, and while stationed in Japan literally danced himself into the strong and unwavering arms of his constant love and lifelong partner, Shigeko. They were married in Tokyo on Oct. 19, 1959.
Jack extended his service learning and attended college in Culver City, Calif., for two years before joining Hughes Aircraft where he devoted his time, energy and focus for the next 28 years. Starting at somewhere below bottom at Hughes, Jack's determination led him to earning a degree in aeronautical engineering at the same time as he moved upward. His work took him all over the world supervising an array of projects, many of which were top-secret. He was among the team that placed the communications towers atop the World Trade Center.
While with Hughes, he and Shigeko and their two children, Janet and Steven, experienced living in Guam before settling in California.
In 1975 Jack, looking to the future and new experiences, asked Shigeko if she would be willing to move to West Yellowstone where, on the shores of Hebgen Lake, they would buy the Madison Arm Resort from his Aunt Tommy. Thus began another chapter of life for their family as Shigeko managed the resort while Jack continued his work with Hughes.
Long summer nights spent around campfires with hundreds of visitors and locals who became lifelong friends gave the Clarksons a universe of cherished memories.
Jack began yet another career in 1994 when he became a drug and alcohol abuse counselor. His nearly 10-year devotion to this field led him to become the president of the National Association of Drug and Alcohol Counselors.
In 2000 Jack and Shigeko's beloved daughter Janet, an extreme tri-athlete was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma. The next year of their lives were devoted to the encouragement and support of Janet as she brought her life force, as did her father in later years, to meeting the challenge head-on. In 2001, at the age of 37, with visions of yellow and white tulips surrounding her, she slipped away in La Mesa.
In his West Yellowstone years, Jack served on the Town Council, was president of the Chamber of Commerce numerous times, served as the West Yellowstone representative to the Greater Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities Coalition and became its director. Jack was in the second graduating class of the Yellowstone Business Partnership's Uncommon Sense Program of sustainability and sponsored the Green-up West Yellowstone campaign. His work with sustainability at the Madison Arm Resort earned him the respect and appreciation of the Gallatin National Forest, area county commissioners and legislators. He was an active member of the Republican Party.
Renowned for his monologues and soliloquies at meetings, Jack's life experiences and lifelong study of a myriad of subjects enabled him to speak with knowledge and conviction on many topics. He was a voracious consumer of knowledge and he willingly shared it with anyone who cared to ask (and even those who didn't). He tossed out challenges to everyone, encouraging them to join in learning and commitment - to succeed and to exceed expectations.
He was a fantastic cheerleader and a dead-eye critic when he believed a person could be and do better. Forthright, often blunt, he challenged many to accomplish more than they thought possible. He wore his patriotism proudly and was unrelenting in his determination to get people to take their right to vote as a serious responsibility.
Indeed, it is a life to appreciate and celebrate.
Jack was predeceased by daughter, Janet, and both of his parents.
He is survived by wife, Shigeko; their deeply loved son, Steven (Christine) of Belgrade; brother, Bob of Bozeman; sister, Pat of California; and three grandchildren, Kendra of Billings and Brendan and Garrett of Belgrade.
A festival for Jack's life will be held for family and friends on Saturday, June 16, at the Madison Arm Resort on Hebgen Lake in West Yellowstone.
Memorials may be made to the Janet Clarkson Scholarship Fund, c/o Ann Hermanson, P.O. Box 1096, West Yellowstone. MT 59758. Cards may be sent to 1760 Avenida Del Mundo, Coronado, CA 92118.
4266 Mt Abernathy Ave
San Diego, CA 92117
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Dec. 11, 2011