GETTYSBURG — Esther (Petersime) Clark, a resident of the Brethren Retirement Center for the last three weeks, said she was surprised to learn that she had been named grand marshal for Saturday’s parade at the Gettysburg Homecoming Festival.
Clark, who celebrated her 80th birthday on Easter Sunday, March 27 this year, is the daughter of the late Ray and Bernice Petersime of Petersime Incubator Co. fame in Gettysburg.
“Petersime’s has been in business 80 years,” she said. “My grandpa, Ira Petersime, started it. It went out of business in 2006 in its third generation of operation.”
Clark had served as clerk for the village of Gettysburg for a number of years and retired in 2012. She was active in [and still attends] Oakland Church of the Brethren, Gettysburg Fire Department and the Gettysburg Cemetery Association.
She devoted many of her recent years to the Cardinal Center, which formerly housed Gettysburg School. She helped found the Friends of the Cardinal Center and was its first treasurer.
Clark is a 1953 graduate of Gettysburg High School and went on to graduate with a business degree from Manchester College, now Manchester University, in North Manchester, Indiana.
“After that I didn’t know what to do,” she admitted. “There is a Brethren Volunteer Service program through the Church of the Brethren and a friend Arlene from Potsdam and I went to New Windsor, Maryland to do some volunteering. There was 50 of us there.”
Subsequently the two friends decided to go to Puerto Rico for two projects there.
“We got on a big plane to Puerto Rico at midnight,” Clark recalled. “Arlene was a school teacher there in a one-room school and the project was a hospital. She taught the children and I was treasurer in the office next to the administrator, who was from Michigan. The hospital was like an Army barracks with 35 spaces.”
She said Arlene decided to return home after their two-year stay in Puerto Rico but Petersime wanted to stay there to watch the new hospital being built, so she was there 2 1/2 years. She kept up her friend with Arlene over the years and even went back and forth to Bradenton, Florida, to spend time with her before she died.
Clark came back from Puerto Rico in 1961 and began working at Manchester University for the dean of women.
“I never dreamed I’d work for her,” Clark said. “In the meantime, I found Jim or he found me.”
Jim is the man who became her husband in July 1963. They had met through the Church of the Brethren in the early 1960s through a young adult group which put on plays in the churches.
“There were six marriages that came out of that group in a year,” she said.
Jim had worked for Monsanto and was transferred to St. Louis.
“We dated back and forth from St. Louis to North Manchester,” she said. “We lived in Brentwood in St. Louis for two years and decided to buy a house in the suburbs We went to the oldest Protestant Church west of the Mississippi and were there for six years. Ours boys were born there and our daughter was born here [in Darke County].”
She had four siblings, sister Mary Anna of Springfield; and the other three of whom are deceased: Norman Ray, who drowned in a pond; Marvin, who lived in Gettysburg; and Ruth Carol Miller, who lived in Michigan,
Her brother-in-law, Norman Miller, is also a resident of the Brethren Retirement Community and moved from Michigan to live here.
The Clarks had married in July 1963, and were the parents of four children: Scott Clark of Gettysburg, an electrical engineer married to Kristy and the father of five children; Brett Clark of Gettysburg, married to Patty, a school teacher, and the father of four; and daughter Susan Stall of Lima, a pharmacist and mother of one. Son Deron died at the age of 32. There are also two great-grandchildren.
Brett, a musician, took his mother’s place as village clerk at Gettysburg.
Although she still drives, Clark said Brett will probably take her to Gettysburg on Saturday.
“I’ve been blessed I really have,” she said.
She plans on sitting at the Petersime Incubator display inside the Cardinal Center and visit with guests and passersby following the parade. The parade will start at 11 a.m. at Norcold in Gettysburg.