Thomas Breckenridge Clark III
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Gainesville, FL - Thomas Breckenridge Clark III, Commander (retired) USN; a member of the greatest generation, passed away on July 16, 2013.
He was born on February 18, 1923 in Glasgow, Scotland. He was the fourth child of 5 and the only boy. This pattern of the only male among females would persist for the rest of his life. He immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was 2 years old. He grew up in a small village in the Catskills, along the Hudson River in New York. He developed a great love for baseball, both as a player and as a fan during his youth.
A hard worker all his life, he earned money for him and his family during the Great Depression by caddying at local country clubs. A life long supporter of workers rights, he helped lead a successful strike for better wages for the caddies. He played baseball whenever he could and was late getting home many times. He would rely on his resourceful sisters to help him escape censure by his father when he was late.
His high school career was less successful and he dropped out of school at 17. He joined the Navy on the advice of his father. He started training during January 1941 and continued to serve on the east coast until the attack on Pearl Harbor. During WWII, he served on LSTs and was involved in multiple military actions. These included invasions of North Africa, Sicily (where his ship was sunk), Normandy, and Okinawa. It is a testament to the men and women of his generation that by the time of Normandy he was advanced to the senior enlisted man on the deck of his ship at the age of 21. His responsibilities included transferring men and equipment to shore under heavy enemy fire and to transport the wounded from the battlefield.
After the end of WWII, he decided to make a career out of the Navy. During 1947 he married Emma Balla who was also in the Navy. Two daughters, Christine Susan and Cynthia Jean were born. He also participated in the Korean Conflict at Inchon.
He received his commission as an officer of the United States Navy during July 1957. He received command of the LST Graham County 1176 during October 1966. His last assignment was as an executive officer at the Little Creek Naval Base. He retired with the rank of Commander during 1972. His career involved more than 30 years of service during which time he had seen action in 9 major military battles. After retirement, he held supervisory and executive positions in private business and he remained very active in local community affairs.
His wife Emma and his parents died during 1979. His daughter, Cynthia died during 2005. He and Caroline Brouwer married during 1987 and were able to spend their final days together in an assisted living facility in Gainesville, Florida.
He is survived by his wife Caroline Clark of Gainesville, FL; his daughter Christine Clark and husband Gerald Strope of Pittsboro, NC; step-daughter Mamie Brouwer and husband William Brewer and her daughter Elizabeth Howe of Seattle, WA; step-daughter Dana Felton and husband William Felton and their daughter Stephanie Felton of Vinton, VA and step-daughter Margaret Brouwer Ryan and husband Timothy Ryan and their daughters, Dana Ryan and Ella Ryan of Sanford, NC. Step-grandchildren include Leu Strope, his wife Lisa Duke, and Leandra Strope. Step-great grandchildren include Maya, Ella, and Pasha Strope.
He was a great man, an excellent sailor, and a wonderful husband and father.
Funeral Services will be held Saturday, July 20, at 10 a.m., in the chapel of WILLIAMS-THOMAS FUNERAL HOME WESTAREA, 823 NW 143rd Street, with Fr. Jeremy Hole as celebrant. Interment will follow in Wacahoota Baptist Cemetery, with military honors. The family will receive friends Friday, July 19, 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, those who wish may make memorials to the Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Rd., Suite 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256 or www.woundedwarriorproject.com. For further information, please contact WILLIAMS-THOMAS FUNERAL HOME WESTAREA, (352) 376-7556.
Published in The Virginian Pilot on July 19, 2013