Hero from the heart of Virginia: Edward Clark

Lynchburg's Ed Clark served in two different wars before retiring from the Merchant Marine service in 1980. (Photo: Annie Andersen)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- At 100 years old, Lynchburg's Ed Clark still loves remembering his days in the Merchant Marines.

In front of a holiday tree decorated in his academy's colors, he talks about his time at Massachusetts Nautical School. Smiling, Clark said his favorite part of school was "We made two six months voyages. That's all part of the training." In those trips, he visited Europe and several of the islands in the Atlantic.

After graduating in 1936, Clark joined the Merchant Marines, who played an important role during World War II. "We were torpedoed during the war.-1944. Ship was bound from Sicily to Naples, Italy," said Clark. In that attack, 53 people, 52 soldiers and one member of the Navy died. Clark was the captain of the ship at that time.

When asked if he still haunts him now, Clark said, "It sure does. That was the second time I was torpedoed by the way." The first time was off of the coast of Jupiter, Florida.

While Clark says he'll remember those times forever, he and his family prefer to remember happier times, like summers spent off the coast of Maine. Clark says he loved those summers, smiling when he said "I did some lobster fishing."

Clark has a thick mustache, and his daughter, Lisa Burstein says how he got that mustache is a funny story. "He was the youngest on board the ship. So in order to command some sort of presence, he grew a mustache to look order and started smoking a pipe."

Now, at 100 Clark is attached to the mustache and has no plans to get rid of it.

Ed Clark retired in 1980, but didn't become an official veteran until 1988. That's because the government didn't recognize World War 2 merchant mariners as veterans until 1988, so Clark and thousands of others were given veteran status retroactively.

Clark has a large family, and was able to see all but one of his children, although he saw her via Facetime, for his 100th birthday in October. His family took him to northern Virginia for a cruise along the Potomac River.

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