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Don Clark

Don Clark

Don Clark—idea man for creation of the Placitas Community Library

—Bob Gajkowski

On Sunday mornings we sat on the portal at the old library on Tierra Madre and talked about anything and everything. After a short while, out would come his guitar and some sweet, rambling song he claimed to have learned long ago. Back and forth in the creaky rocking chair, he sang and mumbled his way through the lyrics for awhile, then conversation would resume. An early morning patron would pull up in the parking lot, and Don prepared to be “Mr. Library.”

It had all started with his idea during that first year of “the new place in town,” the Placitas Community Library. Housed in the 700-square-foot, long-ago deserted Allen transmission shop across the field from the Merc, the first library Placitas had seen since the mid-60s moaned and groaned itself into existence. Many inventive ploys were concocted to entice patrons to come to this new “gathering place.” His was one of the more casual, but unique examples of these enticements. It was simple. Open on Sundays… have the donuts and coffee ready… and, to lend the air of a library to the “trap,” have the New York Times available to for the patrons to peruse.

He suggested it, and I was caught up in its web. My wife Judy and I would arrive hurriedly from church services in the Village shortly after 10:00 a.m. each Sunday. He would be seated behind the small circulation desk just inside the door. Inevitably the first thing I would notice was his bright, multi-colored Hawaiian shirt draped over his Teddy-Bear cuddly frame. And then the coffee pot’s perking in the utility room would briefly garner my attention only to be quickly diverted to the large box of frosted, powdered, curled, and jelly-filled assortment of donuts awaiting the first patron of the day.

Among the regulars was Bill who stopped by to check-out a book or two and who would find himself staying a little longer to regale us with a story about his rapid departure by sailboat from a port in the Caribbean (or was Panama? …South America?) after a jailbreak in which he participated. But not to be outdone by such stories, “Mr. Library” would resound with his “one-upper” and so the late mornings and earlier afternoons would go. Some Sundays business was brisk and on others…well, we ate a lot of donuts.

It was for only eight months or so that our Sunday openings continued, but our friendship continued for several years after. When I started the Library’s History Project, he infrequently showed up with a newspaper article or some other item he had found while rummaging through his collections at home. His observations on events—both old and new—in the community were always right on. The people of the Village—for he was of one of the Land Grant’s extended families—were most important to him. Over the years, Judy and I joined with him on the Library’s Fourth of July Parade float. He was always decked out in one of his Hawaiian shirts to catch the darting eyes of the kids among the spectators. He led a friend and me to a turquoise deposit back in the hills on one of his overland treks. He was easy to follow—just watch the bobbing display of color on his back. Judy and I enjoyed his company at our home on far too few occasions, but each with the greatest pleasure.

Don Clark passed away last month. His memorial celebration at the Land Grant cemetery along Highway 165 drew a large crowd. I can just image Don looking down on that group saying “Where were all you guys on those Sunday mornings when I sat talking, singing, laughing, and eating donuts on the portal at the Library?”

Don, keep us in mind up there. We’ll certainly do the same for you down here.

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