Ross T. "Rusty" Clark lone surviving sibling, Mildred Tullis of Florida, who recently turned 92 herself gives her 100 year old brother a kiss. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

100-year-old veteran led interesting life

United States Military Veteran served his country well

GREENVILLE – Family and friends gathered on Feb. 5 at East Main Church of Christ in Greenville to help Ross T. “Rusty” Clark, celebrate his  100th birthday. And, was he thrilled! His daughter, Nancy Clark Guthrie, and son Terry Clark welcomed guests in the sanctuary of the church.

“We’re here today to celebrate the birthday of our daddy,” Nancy said.

A Color Guard, representing Top Priority Veterans and including locals Fred Dean, Steven Eldred and Rick Hyatt, took part in the program and subsequently presented Rusty with two flags; one that flew over the Capitol Building, in Washington, DC., and the second flag that flew over the Ohio State Capitol Building. They even presented him with a certificate from Congressman Warren Davidson.

Director/CVSO and Darke County Veterans Service Officer Thomas A. Pitman presented the centenarian with a certificate from the Veterans Administration.

“I had a good time in the service,” Rusty said. “I was a clerk. I just typed.”

Guthrie then introduced her father’s only surviving sibling, Mildred Tullis of Florida, who recently turned 92 herself.

She divulged a lot of information on the brother, of which she is proud.

According to a program that was handed out, Ross and his twin brother, Robert, were the first-born of 13 children. The twins were born in the middle of the night in 1922, upstairs in an old farm house in Huntington, Ind.

Following their births, two more sets of twin boys and a set of twin girls were born and they were followed by the arrival of three single siblings, all males.

“Three of the sets of twins were born in February,” Tullis said. “The day these boys were born it was so nice out. People had their windows and doors open. Rusty was always obedient.”

She did point out, however, there were some times of orneriness among the boys.

“In our family, everybody had a job,” she reminisced. “The two oldest, when 14 or 15, had to take over the farming with horses and plowing. Mom sent me and my twin back to where the boys were, and they sat us on each end of the plow. I fell and the horse’s hoof had me.”

Rusty was a 1940 high school graduate in Andrews, Ind. “He was a good student,” Tullis said.
Rusty responded, “I graduated,” with a little laughter.

She went on, “He was a baseball player in high school and won lots of games. All of us were baseball people.”

Rusty, she said, went to the service after graduating, joining the Army Air Corps in Panama and serving from 1940-45.

When he got home from service, he always had to have his clothes washed,” she said.
He did his own, starching his own clothes and his pants until the latter stood alone.

She went on to tell about when he went to the World’s Fair and had blisters on his feet.
And, he organized trips for his siblings to twins’ conventions.

“It was a lot of work to get eight of us ready,” Tullis said. “The last one was in Omaha, Neb. Rusty was the wagon train leader while we were there. He was always nice to be around. I’ve never been a bit disappointed. He was such a delight and pleasure to be with. I’m proud of him for reaching 100, it is something no one else in our family has done.”

Rusty then asked to talk, taking the microphone, “We all graduated, married, had children and we all got along pretty good.”

It was in 1945 that he married his wife, Jackie, after dating six weeks. They worked together at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio.

Their love story included three children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

In other facts revealed at the celebration, it was learned that the Clark brothers played basketball together from 1946-51, and traveled with the Harlem Globetrotters domestically and internationally during 1950-51.

Later on in the celebration, two of his granddaughters came down the aisle dribbling a basketball, which was presented to him. It was signed and handed over to him, thanks to a grandson-in-law who made it happen.

“They were a good bunch to play with,” Rusty said. “We played in Bay City, Mich. We tried to put on a good show. The government sent us to Europe for two months and paid for everything.”

Another memorable moment in Rusty’s life was getting to meet Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in the Olympics in 1936. They met in Europe.

“I am a clodhopper and got to meet Jesse Owens. What an honor.” Rusty said.

Another memorable and proud moment for him at the time was when he met and shook hands with the Pope.

“He is the greatest man in the world and he shook hands with me,” the birthday honoree said.

In 1958, it was noted that Rusty was involved in a head-on collision and broke his neck and severed the optic nerve of his left eye, leaving him blind in that eye.

“During this time, he developed lifetime friends with five couples at their church…a friendship which lasted more than 50 years,” Nancy said.

In 1972, he retired and moved to Fort Myers, Fla., and then accepted an invitation to dig water wells in Zimbabwe, Africa, in 2018. He went for a two-month commitment and stayed for two years, serving at Chiadamoyo Hospital.

He returned to Ohio in 1991 and built a home with his son, Terry. He worked as a food demo person and was able to share his life stories from playing with the Globetrotters and The Clark Twins.

After 67 years of marriage, Jackie passed away of dementia in 2012. They had down-sized from their home and moved into a cabin in the woods near Terry. He still lives there with his cat, Yellow, and enjoys his neighbors, church friends, watching sports on TV, doing puzzles and telling stories of his life.

Before heading for the basement of the church, where a reception with refreshments were served, guests sang several songs of Rusty’s choosing. They were “How Great Thou Art,” “Holy Holy Holy,” “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” and “When We All Get to Heaven,” accompanied on piano by daughter Nancy.

He was also presented another flag acquired from a granddaughter whose husband retired from the military. That flag flew over the Pentagon on Jan. 20, 2022.

Closing remarks were given by Jim Moreland, pastor of the church that Rusty attended for many years.

“This is great,” Rusty said about his birthday party. “I would never imagine this many people coming out for this.”

He had more to say throughout the day, “I thank Terry and his wife, Julie, for taking care of things. Terry brings me a hot lunch every day.”

He said he and his siblings have been listed in Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and were even featured in a Life Magazine article.

“I never smoked; I never drank and it seems that’s why I made it to 100,” he concluded.

Director/CVSO and Darke County Veterans Service Officer Thomas A. Pitman presented the centenarian with a certificate from the Veterans Services Commission. (Gaylen Blosser photo)
Mildred Tullis tells stories of growing up with her brother, Ross T. "Rusty" Clark. (Gaylen Blosser photo)
Ross T. "Rusty" Clark takes gives his "side of the story" at his 100th birthday celebration. (Gaylen Blosser photo)
Director/CVSO and Darke County Veterans Service Officer Thomas A. Pitman presents Ross T. "Rusty" Clark a Veterans cap. (Gaylen Blosser photo)
Ross T. "Rusty" Clark lone surviving sibling, Mildred Tullis talks with her100 year old brother at his celebration. (Gaylen Blosser photo)
Darke County Now Staff - Linda Moody - Staff Writer

Linda Moody / Staff Writer

I am a Darke County native living in the Ansonia area with my son. I have been in journalism 50+ years and enjoy what I do.

Contact Darke County Now Media Correspondent Linda Moody @ lmoody@darkecountynow.com or 937-337-1955.

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