Today, when I was walking my dogs at Piedmont Park, I found out that Roy Clark had died two weeks ago.
Roy Clark, a frail man, had worked at Piedmont Park for 46 years, picking up trash and lovingly taking care of the its grounds.
Although he was understated person, he was always a friendly, daily presence in the park. I would see him there working nearly every day of the week, whether it was cold and rainy, emptying trash cans, refilling doggie bag dispensers and removing debris from the roadways.
Roy’s one true love in life was Piedmont Park, a place where he had worked since he was 15 years old — first for the City of Atlanta parks department, and then (after he lost his job with the city in a round of cutbacks) for the Piedmont Park Conservancy.
It had been a few months since I had seen Roy, so I stopped the woman who worked with him for many years while she was driving the golf cart.
“He passed two weeks ago,” she said (I later found out her name was Cheryl, but I’m not sure of the spelling). “It was cancer. He suffered a lot.”
Roy loved the park so much that even when he was in great pain from the disease, Cheryl told me that he would ride in the passenger seat of the golf cart and keep her company while she worked. While he could hardly lift his head, Roy was able to enjoy being in the warmth of Atlanta’s precious park.
People who live around the park knew Roy and his quiet presence. He was just part of the park. Perhaps we took him for granted. Perhaps we thought he would always be there trying to make the park pristine for the thousands of people who came every day.
But did we ever let him know how much we appreciated what he did every day? Did we ever let him know how much we marveled at his loyalty and dedication?
Cheryl told me there was a small service for Roy. But there had not been an obituary, paid or otherwise, marking his passing in the newspaper. Roy not been particularly close to family. He didn’t have children, and he had never married.
All the more reason why I couldn’t let the day go by without recognizing all that Roy Clark did for Piedmont Park for 46 years.
It is a beautiful Spring day — a day many will enjoy in Piedmont Park.
But something, someone, is missing — the man who loved Piedmont Park more than anyone or anything on earth.
Good-bye Roy Clark.
We will miss you.