Music 20

William F. "Bill" Clark

March 24, 1940 ~ February 26, 2024 (age 83) 83 Years Old

William F. "Bill" Clark Obituary

These words from Todd Baptista-William F. “Bill” Clark, longtime host of Music Heaven on WATD-FM in Massachusetts, co-producer and host of several R&B vocal group harmony concerts with me in Southeastern New England, and the proprietor of the former Music Heaven record shop in North Easton, passed away overnight February 26, 2024 at home in Brockton, MA. Bill was 83 and had been fighting an aggressive form of lymphoma.

I was living in Boston and going to school there when I read about a record convention that was taking place at the Howard Johnson’s Hotel one Sunday morning in 1986. I was a few months shy of my 19th birthday, but I had a specific list of records I was looking for - all early rhythm and blues, vocal group harmony, first-generation rock’n’roll. I remember passing the tables of heavy metal, hair band and British Invasion music and stopping at the end of the room where this fellow had a large display of albums and 45s. What made me stop was a sky-blue album cover he had for sale with a picture of the Five Willows on it. That’s where and when I met Bill Clark. It was the first thing I bought from him.

I showed him my list and he was pleasantly surprised with what I was looking for – the music from his youth, not mine. He said, “I really like your taste”. I met up with him again a couple more times and found out he was living in the North Easton area, worked for the post office, and was planning on opening his own record store. He was honest. He was fair. But he also wasn’t someone people could take advantage of. He was a Navy veteran and also a veteran of the Boston streets and subways. We became close friends.

You always knew where you stood with Bill. In the business of buying and selling records and producing concerts- which we did together for a few years- there are lots of stories of swindling, broken promises, violated trust, and severed relationships. Bill had an interaction like that with the great Chuck Berry himself. If you treated him with disrespect, he wasn’t going to stand still for it. He didn’t care who it was. Yet in 38 years of friendship, there was never a cross word or disagreement between us. Together we planned, we dreamed, we celebrated- we traveled to New York and New Jersey- sharing many milestone moments. We did a lot of laughing. Bill didn’t dwell on negative thoughts. It was a trait that would be invaluable for the last 25 years of his near 84-year lifespan.

When he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 1999, there was a point where his chance of survival was identified as 5%. Through chemotherapy and radiation, he pushed on. With razor-blade swallowing sore throats, the loss of his hair, and drug-induced swelling, he pushed on. Retired from the postal service, he still made it to the store to work every day. He traveled, he produced, and planned and hosted concerts with me, and he maintained his weekly radio show, Music Heaven, on WATD. That Sunday night program began in 1997 and after 27 years was still running at the time of his death. Bill built up a loyal and devoted following of fans who tuned in every Sunday night, calling in requests, sharing stories, or simply checking in. On the few occasions he needed someone to fill-in and I had the opportunity to do so, I was amazed to find the show attracted 50 to 75 calls every Sunday. There was no “on air” persona. No pretense. He was a guy who loved the music, inviting you into his record room to share music and memories. And for more than a quarter of a century, people loved that. He built a family – a community of devotees – tied together by their mutual love and respect for the music. Through personal experience, I came to find that any detractors he had possessed ulterior and often selfish motives to the detriment of the hobby, the music, and the pioneering artists who made it. His respect for the artists and the musicians was absolute.

In recent years, doctors told him that the radical surgery he had undergone at the time of his initial diagnosis would not be the course they would follow today. However, they admitted, they never expected that he would live so long. The vast majority of folks had no idea of what he went through. An accident caused him to lose the use of several fingers. He somehow managed to find ways to joke about it in his deadpanned low-key style. Over time, the surgical scarring claimed his ability to eat, to drink, and to breathe- forcing him to use tube feeds and a tracheostomy. Eventually, it took his voice, as well.

Yet, none of these obstacles ever claimed his resolve, his determination or his drive.

But with challenges come special Blessings. Through it all- his life partner of nearly 30 years, Claire, was unconditional in her support and love. Today, our seniors are all too often left to be cared for by court-appointed guardians and are placed in skilled health care facilities. But Bill always had the Angel by his side, whether it was standing in the sunshine or seeking shelter from the storm. To remain in your own home, with comfort and peace, with a supportive caregiver, is a Blessing that can never be overlooked or overstated.

As for me- I’m comforted by the recurring thought that with our friendship came an understanding, a loyalty, and a trust that I treasured. I always say that the bonds we forge and cultivate with those we love can transcend the passage from this life to the next. Bill will always remain a part of my life. In my vision of music heaven, Bill is with my dad, our dear friend Eunice, and our radio pal, George, cherishing the songs and the artists he loved. His voice is loud and clear and he’s enjoying the pizza and the cup of coffee he’s waited so long to enjoy again.

-Todd Baptista

 

Bill is survived by his life partner, Clara “Claire” Lineberry of Brockton; he was the beloved father of Donna McNally of Raynham, Lori Meunier (and Dave) of Middleboro, Mari Psarakis (and Peter) of PA and John Lineberry; loving grandfather of Amanda McNally of Bridgewater, Kyla McNally of Lakeville, Courtney Mandeville (and Jeff Rosen) of Halifax, Casey and Connor Mandeville both of Norton, Madee, Makenzie and Marissa Psarakis, and Sarah Lineberry; great-grandfather of Ava Babcock, Henry Babcock, Lily, Charlotte and Hazel of Halifax; Bill is also survived by his brothers John Clark of Florida, Robert Clark and sisters Sandra (Don) O'Connor of Florida, Geraldine Monterio of Arizona, and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Bill's life will be held at a later date. 

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