The Liberty Gazette
December 4, 2018Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
“I have never been to a memorial service where there’s a full band playing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ but this was one to get up and boogie to,” said our friend Lisa Jewett of the memorial service of music legend, Roy Clark.
Lisa manages the airport in Grove, Oklahoma where Roy and Barbara Clark had a home and spent half the year. “He’d come to the airport just to talk. I knew him not as Roy the superstar, but as Roy the person. Every time he and Barbara stopped in, I knew we’d be a while because he just wanted to chat. He talked about the set of Hee! Haw! and traveling tales and flying, and he had friends all over the world.”
As a kid, Roy longed to fly. Growing up poor in Meherin, Virginia, he collected cereal box tops to send away for a cardboard cockpit. But his magic on banjo and guitar earned him the name, “Superpicker,” and the money that followed allowed him to reach his dreams. He bought a Piper Tri-Pacer, learned to fly, and took his father, who had always wanted to be a pilot, for his first airplane ride in it. Later, Roy flew a sleek Beechcraft Debonair to gigs far away and returned home when the last autograph was signed.
But he worried about fatigue after long evenings on stage. Smartly, he invested in a high-performance Mitsubishi MU-2J turboprop and a professional pilot to be his sidekick. In the cockpit, this picking pilot took flying seriously. Life was precious—everyone’s.
At his concerts, Roy would say, “Do something nice for somebody. And don’t expect a thank-you in return.” He lived his advice. Lisa’s father had been a big fan. When her mom died, she took her dad’s guitar and asked Roy to sign it. “He signed really big all over the front of that guitar, and now it’s just priceless. Dad was grieving and here was something that would make him smile, from a man who lived his life wanting to make people happy.”
Lisa found opportunities to give back to Roy. Ever since he was young he wanted to be in a helicopter. When money was no longer an obstacle, time was. One day when he was visiting Lisa, the DEA landed in a Blackhawk. He wasn’t getting around too easily by then, so she drove him in her car to the helicopter. DEA agents helped him climb inside and spent time showing him the aircraft. “He said that was the best time of his life. He did something he’d always wanted to do. He even had tears.” That’s one of Lisa’s favorite stories.
|When the Saints Go Marching In!|
“Roy was a simple, loving, giving man, a family man. He cared more about his family than anything else in the world. He was down-to-earth and humble, the kind of guy who would always say, ‘I love you,’ whenever he left. I like to think he spent his last days telling everyone how much he loved them.”