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Linda Kellett - St. Johnsville and Fort Plain firefighters knock down a fast-moving fire that consumed the 35 Church St., St. Johnsville home of local musician Pat Clark on Nov. 14.

Joshua Thomas - St. Johnsville Masons are pictured with fire victim Pat Clark during Sunday’s benefit dinner at the Masonic Lodge. Front row, from left: Don Chaffin, Bill Farber, Pat Clark, Derik Flanders, and Phil “Curly” Brown. Back row, from left: Jim Liddle, Charlie Weaver, and Dave Mosher.

Linda Kellett - The front of 35 Church St., St. Johnsville.

Joshua Thomas - Jacque Mosher and Char Chaffin serve spaghetti dinners during Sunday’s event for Pat Clark.

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Locals come to the aid of fire victim

Thursday, November 22, 2012 - Updated: 7:46 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE — On Sunday, the St. Johnsville Masons held a benefit for village resident Pat Clark, who just four days prior lost his Church St. home and belongings to a fast, devastating fire.

The Masons already had a spaghetti dinner planned for Sunday, the funds from which were originally earmarked for Masonic Temple heating, although when they heard about Clark’s home, there was no question the proceeds of the event would go to him.

“He’s a very likable guy that’s been in the village his whole life,” said Senior Warden Bill Farber of Clark, noting that the decision was approved immediately by every Mason present at the recent meeting, as he explained, “We’re a benevolent organization. We’re here to help each other, brother Masons and the community.”

“He needs the money more than we do right now.”

After the decision was made to donate the money to Clark, Farber said he went out to purchase more food for the event, as they planned for increased turnout. Farber said Sunday’s benefit had a “great turnout,” with over 200 served already two hours into the three-hour event, including at least 150 takeouts. Attendance, he noted, was “fast and furious.”

Clark, in attendance at the event, has been moved and overwhelmed, to say the least, by the local show of support. While he noted that he’s always had faith in his community, and has seen them spring to action before for others, becoming a source of such overwhelming kindness is something he said that he, a person “not usually at a loss for too many words,” is having a hard time putting into words.

“I thank them so much for doing this for me,” said Clark of the multitudes who sprung to action in the aftermath of the fire. “Everybody’s been so generous,” he said, noting that the proceeds from Sunday’s event — which Farber said would be provided to Clark the following day, save for some checks addressed to Clark that he’d receive that evening — will go “a long way” in helping rebuild his life.

Clark, who’d been living at 35 Church St. since 1977, lost nearly everything in the fire. A member of the local band Spike and the Boys, he was able to save a few pieces of musical equipment, although that was about it, aside from the clothes on his back. The fire happened so quickly that Clark was left running out the door of his home, phone in hand. He planned to run back in to grab his wallet and keys, but the fire had already consumed the home.

To Clark’s surprise, he said that upon returning to the residence after the fire was extinguished, his keys and wallet were amongst the few items he found “relatively unharmed,” although he noted that the clothes they were in were reduced to ash.

He explained that there were numerous, strange “little wow factors” that occurred in  returning to his charred home. He found his CB radio set up completely unharmed although everything surrounding it was destroyed, including his collection of books (hundreds of them), along with his computers.

“I’m not homeless anymore,” though, Clark added, explaining that he’s currently living in a home provided by family. The next step in the process of returning to his life, he said, is to finish cleaning up the mess from the fire — shoveling ash and throwing out burned belongings.

Clark, a member of Spike and the Boys, is “always playing benefits for someone else,” said an officer with the St. Johnsville Fire Department, who wished to remain anonymous. “We were happy to see he wasn’t in the house. We’re so thankful he was out.” He was able to escape with a few of his treasured guitars. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to save anything else. He didn’t even have a jacket.

The official said firefighters saved what they could of the small, one-family residence, “but there wasn’t much.”

Clark, who is staying in the trailer of friends, had no insurance, the official said.

Also damaged during the blaze was an adjacent structure, which had some melting of siding, and Clark’s vehicle, which was parked next to the building. The heat melted the vehicle’s grill, “but I guess it still works,” the official said.

While an exact cause of the blaze hasn’t been determined, it was believed to be accidental in nature, starting in the area of a furnace, another fire official said.

Toni Brown, the owner of Curley’s Video at 6 East Main St., has offered her shop as a drop-off place for clothing, furniture and other items for Clark. Items can be delivered to the store during business hours only: From 1 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or 1 to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Collections will then be taken to the St. Johnsville Masonic Temple.

A post on the St. Johnsville, New York Facebook page lists clothing sizes (men’s shirts and sweatshirts, size large; shoes, size 7 1/2; 36 x 30 pants) and other items that Clark might need.

The St. Johnsville Masonic Lodge #611 already have their next benefit planned, where they’ll raise money to heat the spacious building during the winter. The chicken and biscuit benefit will be held on Sunday, December 23, from 3-6 p.m. The organization has also been working to supply complete Thanksgiving dinners to 15 local families. They have collected full meals, which will be distributed through the school system.

Linda Kellett - An area resident watches from a distance.

Linda Kellett - A cable TV employee walks in front of the home

     

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