What would you do if you were widowed with eight children in 1979? June Spitler Clark knows . . . find a way to survive. June Clark was born as a child of the Great Depression in Tecumseh, Michigan on January 31, 1922. In June of 1940, she married the love of her life, Jim, who became a dashing young pilot of the United States Army Air Corp. Head over heels and ready for adventure, they embarked on a life of military service.
June was originally raised a Quaker, but then became Episcopalian. She bore two sons under that religion. She became a brave young pilot’s wife and boarded a ship to Japan with her two young sons. The time was just post Hiroshima. Countless lives lost from the bombing. What a site it was to see the gorgeous country of Japan leveled. She was called a round eye by the Asians, as she was one of the few Anglo women in that part of the world. Despite the culture shock, June immersed herself in the traditions of this strange land, desperately trying to understand and relate to the differences during countless hours alone, while her husband flew missions.
They returned for a brief time to the United States and were at Spokane, Washington. Her third son was born there. But Jim’s overseas assignment then brought them to Guam. During her travels as an expat with her pilot husband to these faraway lands, June was introduced to the concepts of Catholicism. So distant from home, June began to embrace the staunch and solid beliefs of Catholicism, finding comfort in the rigors and rules of the faith. She became a convert in 1956. Dutifully following the Catholic traditions of natural family planning, June subsequently produced another five children, two boys and three girls. Interestingly enough, all of June’s children are have a middle name that is of an Air Force base. She chose their first name and her military husband their middle names.
The family were then off to Spain. It was exciting to be in Europe, but the first of several tragedies loomed to burst the bubble of her idyllic, exotic lifestyle. In 1962, one of her young daughters was stricken with spinal meningitis whilst being cared for by a Spanish maid. In a matter of months, not only was the three year old’s life threatened, but her brain permanently damaged. June’s previously healthy, beautiful, blonde, baby girl would live mentally retarded for life. It knocked June to the core. Could she? Would she? Ever forgive herself for leaving her child with a caretaker?
Devastated, she turned to her faith; resolutely determined to carry on for her other children. By that time, her oldest became a Coast Guard communications expert. Upon their return to the states, her second son, was sent off to Vietnam. The 1970s were rife with unrest. June experienced the horrors of the Vietnam conflict first hand, when she received her brilliant second son home as a shell-shocked, Vietnam vet, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Not only that, but her ill daughter was in a state of massive decline. At the same time, her husband’s military service became illusive and secret, with him becoming part of the CIA and cold war conflict. Again, her husband’s assignments took him away to foreign lands.
June was left to care for her severely crippled daughter by herself. Jim was away much of the time. June’s children were now mostly teenagers; all trying to find their way during the turbulent 1970s. The burden of the care became too much, and her daughter had to be institutionalized. One would think that life had brought her enough tribulation to endure. But there were two more tragedies hidden in the wings.
In November, 1979, June’s young adult son was killed in a flying accident while joy riding in a small plane. Her husband flew home from his distant and clandestine overseas assignment. The family was photographed, symbolically as one, planting a tree in the young man’s name. But there was more sadness to come. Just one month later, June became widowed on December 14, 1979 when Colonel Jim Clark was fatally wounded in a terrorist attack while on duty as a government contract engineer in Istanbul, Turkey. It was almost more than she could bear. Abject and lost, it nearly did her in. Christmas presents remained untouched. A dark depression loomed.
She relied on the strength and fortitude of her third son, who was devoted to his faith within the Catholic church. John and the rest of her children became her rock. Her only source of survival. She cottoned onto John’s mature strength of character as he navigated the complications of a CIA agent being murdered overseas. Not willing to succumb to life’s devasting blows, June turned to inward to her talents. At the encouragement of John, June enrolled in university and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education. By rekindling her cognition, she overcame her desperate grief.
Unfortunately, there was one more funeral in which she had to attend in 1983. The demise of her brain-stricken daughter. Bittersweet relief was realized. June wrote a poem, entitled Tiny Tita about how her daughter, who once loved to dance, now finally could in heaven. Her child’s pain was over.Yet again, June turned to her faith. The power of prayer got her through.
By this time, her children were grown adults, navigating their own trials and tribulations. June continued with her art and creativity. In the early years of the millenium, around 2000, June wrote and published a book. Down the Lane is about her childhood, describing the Great Lakes legend of the Ogo Pogo. That book is still in publication today. June’s large family has grown. She is now is the grandmother of 10, great grandmother to 11, and has one great-great grandchild on the way. Just this month, at age 90, June was the featured author at Benbrook Library, doing a special reading to children on her book. She still attends Catholic mass each week at St. Peter’s in Fort Worth with one of her children in attendance.
For her strength and fortitude; sheer determination and courage. . . AgeView Press names June Elizabeth Clark as Belle of Steel number three. To read about Belles of Steel number one and two, click the link Belles of Steel in the category margin to the left.