ELYRIA — Looking fit and trim in his Navy uniform and white cap set at a jaunty angle on his head, Bill Clark could have collected a lot of bets from people trying to guess his age.
The 86-year-old Sheffield resident served two years aboard the minesweeper USS Vigilance in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
“The saying went, ‘Where the fleet goes, we’ve been,’ ” Clark said, referring to the standard practice of sending minesweepers out ahead of fleets preparing for amphibious landings to clear their sea-going path of explosives.
Clark was among 128 veterans formally recognized for their military service Friday during a luncheon program at Spitzer Conference Center on the campus of Lorain County Community College.
Each of the veterans, young and old, male and female, stood as their names were read, and they were personally thanked for their military service and presented with a pin in recognition of their duty to country.
“I have a great deal of pride in my uniform and time of service,” Clark said.
The luncheon was sponsored by LCCC and Hospice of the Western Reserve, which hosts veterans’ recognition ceremonies as part of its Peaceful & Proud program that trains staff to recognize and work with veterans on issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, remorse, regret, anxiety and substance abuse.
Clark never saw combat in his time aboard the minesweeper, which went on to receive three Battle Stars during the Battle of Okinawa, in which the Japanese put up fierce resistance against the Allies, fearing the fighting was a precursor to an invasion of mainland Japan.
The Allies prevailed after nearly three months of fighting. The war ended less than two months later with Japan’s surrender days after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“I was a short-timer,” Clark said, referring to his length of service in the Navy, which totaled two years on active duty and another 11 months before his discharge following the end of the war.
Settling back into peacetime, Clark was an educator for 38 years, teaching physics, math and chemistry in high schools in Ohio, including Clearview High, and in Pennsylvania and other states.
When he wasn’t in the classroom, he coached a variety of sports, including baseball, football and basketball.
His 29 years of coaching included stints at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania and Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, where he served as head basketball coach for a time.
Clark grew up in the Warren area, where he met Glenda, his wife of 68 years.
While he was in the service, Glenda worked for Packard Electric as an inspector of wiring harnesses for the B-29 bomber.
The couple has a married son and daughter, four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
“The nice thing is that eight of the 10 are within 35 miles of us in Parma and Strongsville,” Clark said.
George Vourlojianis, an LCCC history professor who has authored books on Ohio’s military history in the Civil War, served as the keynote speaker and told the veterans America’s military forces are the best-trained, equipped and educated in the nation’s history.
“We are a great and peaceful people who have always demonstrated determination and grit” when called upon to defend the country’s freedom when it was threatened, Vourlojianis said.
He urged everyone in attendance to “raise a glass, say a prayer and take off your hat” in tribute to those who have served and are now serving in the military.
Clark said he stays active these days, as evidenced by his qualifying in table tennis last summer at the Ohio Senior Olympics for the National Senior Games finals, which will be held in Cleveland in July.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.