LAMOINE — If he gets his way, there will be no tears at Don Clark’s goodbye bash — only smiles.
The Lamoine man and former Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year is losing his three-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, but not his positive attitude. When he learned his disease was terminal, he decided to throw a party.
Set for this Saturday, the event will have free food and drinks (nonalcoholic) and music — a passion of Clark’s.
“I was always planning to do this if I got sick,” explained Clark, who is 62.
“You get one life and I’m gonna live it till the last day.”
Clark’s not sure when that day will be. Retired from a 17-year career with Time Warner, he spends his free time doing “anything I want.”
That’s meant a lot of camping in his RV and riding his Harleys.
With the spread of his cancer, Clark is no longer up for riding. This is also the first year he’s been unable to help with his many causes.
His charitable efforts spanned 22 years and earned him the title of Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce 2017 Citizen of the Year.
Clark said his passion for helping others stems from when one of his daughters became seriously ill as a child. Someone helped him and he’s been returning the favor to the community at large ever since.
He’s thrown benefits for cancer patients and fire victims, fundraised for Toys for Tots, started a local Christmas gift drive and delivered free meals.
For eight years, he organized an annual motorcycle toy run that “raised a lot of money for a lot of kids.”
He was the organizer and head chef of the annual free community Thanksgiving meal at the Elks Club. The Elks now run the program, which draws more than 200 diners each year.
He and his wife of 37 years, Mona, ran a local secret Santa program for eight years. Santa and his elves would appear on family’s doorstep with gifts and Christmas dinner.
Then there was the Feed a Friend program, which delivered 100 food baskets to seniors so they could have a Christmas dinner with all the fixings.
“It’s good to give and I really miss doing it,” Clark said. “It’s good. It’s good for you. Pay it forward.”
His nomination for Citizen for the Year stated “no one deserves this recognition more.”
In his acceptance speech, Clark said the honor really belongs to the community for its support.
His diagnosis has been harder on his family and friends than it has been on him, Clark said.
He has lived his whole life in Lamoine except for a six-year stint in the Navy during the Vietnam War era.
He first heard “the C word,” when a tumor was found in his kidney. He was treated but cancer later turned up in his lungs. Chemotherapy appeared to be successful, but weeks later the cancer was back and hasn’t stopped. Now it’s “everywhere.”
“It’s fine,” Clark said. “Life is good. You have to have a very positive attitude to get anywhere in life. When you’re having a bad day, someone else is having a worse one.”
To that end, he wants “nothing but enjoyment” for guests at Saturday’s party. “I want everybody to have a good time. It’s not about me.”
The event will be from 1-5 p.m. at his home.
The band The Lost Boys, friends of Clark’s, have reunited for the occasion and will play “happy stuff.”
Clark said he understands why loved ones are sad, but the party is a time for celebrating, not grieving.
“We’re all going to die someday — every stinkin’ one of us,” he said. “Do I want it to happen now? Well hell no, but it’s fine.”
He’s expecting more than 100 guests, perhaps more. Clark said he has 1,300 Facebook friends.
“If they all come, I’m in trouble,” he said with a smile.
Clarification: While Clark extended an open invitation to family and friends, the party is not for the general public.