A Modern Day Don Quixote

Just over two weeks from now will be the second anniversary of one of my best friends, Dr. Clark Hoshall. This blog is an updated version of a newspaper column I wrote about Clark just a few days after his tragic death in August 2011. The world would be a much kinder and better place with more Clark Hoshalls in it.

Just a few years before Clark died in a fall from a balcony, I had a serious heart attack, the kind known in the graveyard of the medical profession as “the widow maker.”

The first few days back home after the stents in my blocked coronary arteries, I felt bulletproof. I’d beaten the deadly widow maker. Nyah! Take that, Mr. Death. But then the gravity of what I’d been through snatched me unceremoniously back to Earth and left me, as is fairly common post-heart attack and heart surgery, feeling blue. I was also afraid. I remember nights not sleeping so much and feeling my newly repaired heart thumping inside my chest, wondering if I’d live to see the sun come up.

No long after, my buddy, Clark, came to see me. When he asked me how I was feeling, I confessed that I was a little scared and just glad to be here, albeit for who knew how long. Clark slapped me on the shoulder, laughed, and said, “My friend, any day on this side of the grass is a good day.” And then we both laughed like a couple of fools. Just doing that made me feel better. How could you not laugh at Clark-isms, as his witty one liners were widely known? I felt fortunate to have been blessed with one all my own.

But Clark would too soon make that journey to the other side of the grass, one we’ll all make eventually. Clark’s death dealt a mighty blow to our little island community. You see, Clark was a wealthy man, but he also had a trillion dollar surplus of friends and loved ones who still mourn his passing. His premature death left a gaping, Clark Hoshall-size hole in the community. His wealth of friends left behind would make Solomon’s gold look like mere lumps of clay.

He was one of the most compassionate, selfless and giving people I ever knew. Clark wouldn’t just give you the proverbial shirt off his back, but, if he even thought you needed it, his entire set of clothes, his shoes, his car and enough gas money to get you where you needed to go. He’d also give you some money to tide you over. I remember once when the kids were young and my wife and I were struggling financially, Clark heard about it somehow and gave me a sizeable chunk of money to see us through. He didn’t want to be repaid, but I insisted on doing it anyway. But even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have even made a little ding in our friendship.

Clark was a larger than life activist for the poor, the downtrodden and the afflicted. He was truly a modern day Don Quixote type. He was fearless ands relentless when it came to taking on their causes and being their advocate. No man or entity was too formidable for him. When he couched his lance and charged, powerful men trembled at his brilliant and confident voice. Laws actually changed or were written because of his relentless advocacy for justice.

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for the sake of justice, for they shall have their fill,” one of the eight beatitudes decrees. I’ve no doubt that it’s true. It’s been proven time and again, not only in this country, but elsewhere. We don’t have to look as far as Mother Theresa or Dr. martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy or Gandhi to find tireless, unflinching warriors for just causes. We had one of them right here in our midst in the wry, laughing person of Dr. Clark V. Hoshall.

Clark, no doubt owing somewhat to being a doctor, also had a deep and abiding concern about the well-being of an individual. If he knew, or sensed a friend was sliding into the abyss, you could count on him being there with his hand extended. We had a mutual friend here in our community who’d been struggling for years with substance abuse problems. Clark picked this person up time and again, long after most people would’ve just written him off. Our friend, who’s also now gone, finally defeated his demons and died clean.

Clark wasn’t a maudlin, sappy type of man so I don’t want to go too heavy on the syrup here. It just wouldn’t be fitting. And he’d be sure to have a zinger for me if I did, were he still here. I prefer to remember his big, boisterous laugh, his bright smile and his keen intellect. He could talk with you about a subject far above your pay grade in such way that you could understand and without feeling patronized. He did that a lot with me, and I’m the wiser for it.

He would be proud of the well attended memorial service that his long-time partner, Amy, had at their home. We laughed and told Clark-isms about the man we all loved so much.

The world since Clark left it has become a bitter place. Elected leaders want to force us backward to the days or Jim Crow and when women, like children, were to be seen and not heard. Clark Hoshall wouldn’t have that. He’d spend his last dime fighting for those who bring so much pain to us just because they can. He’d leave a lot of them bloodied and bruised and wanting no further part of the fight. We have politicians now twisting themselves around the axle and trying to frighten us because they claim that men are becoming somehow emasculated by the enlightenment that men didn’t once have. They’re all hung up on the ridiculous John Wayne image of the manly man. I can hear Clark laughing derisively in their faces and making fools of them and that notion. Clark Hoshall wasn’t what these people would call a swaggering, macho manly man. They’d call him soft and weak. But he’d make hash out of them, laughing merrily while he did it.

I’m going to end this with a snippet of Simon and Garfunkel’s big hit, Mrs. Robinson. I’ll just tweak the words a bit.

“Where have you gone, Clark Hoshall. The community turns its lonely eyes to you.”

Have you read A Mariner’s Tale yet? I invite you to grab a copy for yourself and anyone you love this season…

A Pulpwood Queens International Book Club Selection, an American Fiction Award finalist, AND now optioned for a motion picture!

A Mariner’s Tale makes the perfect Christmas gift for the young and the young at heart!