by Daniel A. Neary, Jr.
Telling tales with Rod Clarke appeals primarily to those engaged in the newspaper trade. That’s because his life’s work put him in a clear view of the inner workings of crime, recreation and government.
Rod Clarke and I were “regulars” in the 1960s at The Thrush Tavern, a place that hosted reporters who covered the State House. Mention the words “The Thrush” and Rod would fill your ears with stories.
My favorite was the story of one bureaucrat who decided to run for office as Auditor of Accounts. When he decided to run for office, for his formal message, he ordered a “Rusty Nail” for all. Consequently, every afternoon a person could find our bureaucrat tossing down a cool one, one after another. The results of this strategy? He won the primary running for office from a barstool in the city’s most famous bar.
Our candidate was really surprised. But the booze went to his head for deciding on a course of action for the coming general election. His fatal misdeed was to adopt a conventional course of campaigning, including writing a press release, holding a news conference and the like. He was to go out in person on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, it backfired and our bureaucrat went on to lose the election by a substantial margin.
Clarke also had other achievements in his career. It was his idea to organize a motorcycle parade in Montpelier to bring toys to children at the State House.
Clarke was an aggressive reporter who wrote snappy leads. He used to share thoughts and stories that had a lasting bite.
Although we competed every day for a time to beat each other on getting stories, I always got along with him.
During our childhoods, we played baseball for awhile on opposite town teams. When I was called upon to pitch for our team, I threw Rod a hanging curve, and he hit a homerun out behind third base.
When my daughter, Carla, asked me to write a tribute to Rod, I hesitated because of our years of competition. But the words “Ode to Rod Clarke” kept coming back to my mind.
I looked it up and it seems far more appropriate than I thought at first. It made me think of Rod Clarke as the man who wrote snappy leads, the man who was thick with the motorcyclists and the man with a devoted family.
Thank you, Rod, for all that you have done. My condolences to you and your family.
Editor’s Note: The author and Clarke were rival reporters, with Neary working as Associated Press Bureau Chief while Rod Clarke worked for United Press International on the Statehouse beat. Neary is also the father of Carla Occaso, managing editor of The Bridge.