In Memory

Putman Clark

from Dave Brautigam:

Putman Damon Clark, otherwise known as “Putty” to most and “Pineapple” (a nod to his lifelong Hawaiian home) to his DTO fraternity brothers, was a kind and generous man who has left us prematurely.  He was modest and down-to-earth, despite his means.  His lineage in Hawaii traced back to the early 1800’s, when his missionary ancestors from New England were among the early white settlers on the islands (see Michener’s Hawaii).  Putty was the father of three girls and very active in community affairs.  He was a longtime supporter and board member of the YMCA and the board chair of his alma mater, Hawaii Prep Academy.  Any traveler to the “Big Island” of Hawaii would at some point notice signs for Clark Realty, the real estate company which Putty founded and grew into the largest real estate firm on the island.

Putty and I became friends as freshman living across the hall from one another on the second floor of Hepburn.  His room became a focal point of social activity and also the home of his enormous “Putty pile”…an accumulation of dirty laundry that was the subject of much joking and periodically grew out of control.  We roomed together in Stewart during our second year, and then again at DTO during senior year.  I can recall, as the Steward of DTO that last year, earning a couple hundred dollars per semester planning meals and ordering food for the fraternity.  Putty, who had had some experience at an early age dabbling in the stock market, offered this writer (with no experience in the same) a hot investment tip for those precious earnings…buy Hawaiian Airlines.  I thought, “Why not” and promptly lost my $200 as Hawaiian Airlines went out of business.

An adventurous soul, Putty was a Middlebury Mountain Club participant whose pre-Middlebury sense of adventure included a trek to the snowy heights of Mauna Kea to ski Hawaii and an ascent of the Matterhorn.  An even crazier scheme that he and Rick Fritz (’68) dreamed up (not quite so successfully) while at Middlebury involved trying to smuggle themselves into East Germany and then bring East Germans out during a European road trip.

Looking back in time to Middlebury years brings back memories for most of us of a mix of angst and hilarity.  I do my best to forget the former, while the hilarity with Putty remains.  Neither of us was particularly confident in relationships with women at the time, so an incident during a Winter Carnival dinner at DTO always evokes a chuckle.  Putty and I, with friends and our dates, were seated at the table for a sumptuous meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and peas.  Feeling very satisfied with the meal and the moment, Putty offered a sort of toast to the assembled group, “Ah…these peas are the essence of ‘pea-ness’”.  Immediately realizing a faux pas, with face reddening, Putty attempted to divert attention from his malapropism, blurting out that---er---yes, indeed, weren’t these potatoes also just the essence of potato-ness.  ….Guess you had to be there, huh!

During our senior year, while we were not busy with studying, there was probably entirely too much time spent at DTO playing cards or darts.  The dartboard in our room made for an endless distraction, so, as our skills developed and scoring the bullseye became routine, Putty and I added a new wrinkle to the game.  One of us would stand to the side of the dartboard waiting to snatch the darts out of mid-air as they approached the target.  Happily, no eyes were lost in the process.

Putty decided to return to Hawaii after Middlebury, but not before a couple of epic road trips, including six weeks exploring Europe with Cal Werner.  For me, the anticipation of adventure and a highlight of my sheltered, young life began as the two of us loaded up Putty’s VW squareback and headed off on a cross-country journey of ten weeks.  We stopped in Davenport, Iowa to visit Cal’s family, traced the journey of Lewis and Clark, visited scenic national parks, passed through Moose Jaw, Swift Current, and Medicine Hat on our way to the Canadian Rockies, and made it down the west coast to San Diego, before heading north from the Grand Canyon to Utah and Colorado.  I cringe a little now, in retrospect, at the thought of us cruising at 100 mph across the western landscape.  One morning after camping in a cow pasture, we packed up to resume our journey, but the VW inexplicably accelerated only up to 85.  Soon enough, we realized that the hatchback was still open and serving as an airfoil.  With the hatchback shut, the mystery was solved and we were right back up to 100 mph.

Putty’s wedding was the occasion for a mini-DTO reunion, as Cal Werner, Bill Sessions, Rich Edes, and I made the trip to Hawaii to share the experience with Putty.  I never made it back to visit Putty after the wedding, though we often spoke of planning such a trip.  The last time I saw him was at the UNH graduation of his daughter a few years ago.  A nephew of mine was coincidentally graduating in the same class as his daughter, so I traveled from Vermont and we met in New Hampshire for a satisfying post-graduation visit at my brother’s home in Durham.  I was concerned, at the time, that Putty had gained a lot of weight and seemed to move with some difficulty.  He confided that even his dad had cautioned Putty about his weight gain.  So it was that I learned more recently with sorrow, though not complete surprise, that my dear friend had died, leaving us so prematurely. 





















  Post Comment

06/29/17 04:47 PM #1    

David Sayre


    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Dave. I never did get to know Putty very well but I was very appreciative for his dating Nancy Savage, after I suddenly, and without any real explanation, broke up with her. A memory I am not very proud of. 

     I hope you are well. If you are ever near the Cape we live out on Martha's Vineyard until October. We'd love to have you come visit. 

Hasta la proxima, Dave Sayre

  Post Comment