Palo Alto Online - Lasting Memories - Richard (Dick) Nye Clark's memorial

Richard (Dick) Nye Clark
Sept. 20, 1934-Feb. 5, 2024
Palo Alto, California

Richard (Dick) Nye Clark, industrial designer, ingenious artist, social activist, and community champion, died on Monday, February 5, 2024, at Stanford Medical Center of heart failure. He was 89.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, on September 20, 1934, Dick grew up in the company of two older sisters, Sylvia (Sally) and Catherine (Kitty). He was a Cub Scout, spent summers working on the family dairy farm in Ohio, and served as president of his class at Eastern High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from the University of Michigan in 1957 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy that year, serving as Lieutenant Junior Grade for four years.

After finishing his military duty, Dick headed west to San Francisco and never looked back. In 1961, he began his career at what later became known as Ford Aerospace in the Human Factors Laboratory. During his 29-year tenure, he worked on design projects ranging from NASA mission control consoles to satellite tracking systems in Hawaii. After retiring in 1990, he embarked on another chapter of his life, devoting himself to his artistic pursuits and social activism.

Dick was a long-time resident of Palo Alto, where he met Glenda Jones in a graphic design class. By the late 1980s, they were dating and soon built their life together. He embraced Glenda’s two grown children and their families as his own. Their home was a place for art, design, collaboration, healthy debate, and beauty…both natural and hand-crafted.

Dick, ever the problem-solver, loved crafting solutions to the challenges he observed around him. No part of the house or daily life could not be improved upon. To Glenda’s delight, Dick also became the family cook, often with provisions from her garden.

Dick’s design skills came to life in thought-provoking works that advocated for social change. He was a graphic designer (at one point having founded Nye Clark Designs) and printmaker, working with Glenda on creating their pithy protest banners and holiday cards. He brought his design and building skills together in a series of kinetic sculptures that invoked his always up-to-date grasp of politics and the state of the world. He was the subject of a short documentary about his hand-cranked sculptures by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, entitled Gizmo Politics. In the work, Revolving Door, a hand crank is turned, and a US Senator circles out the doorway of Congress and continues the tight turn into the doorway of a prominent business lobbyist.

Dick is described by his minister, Rev. Amy Zucker-Morgenstern of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, as a “sustainer of community.” He was a lifelong religious and political liberal. With Glenda and fellow U.U. members, he shared a commitment to social justice and activism in the Palo Alto community. For many years, he was the steadfast and well-loved editor of the church Bulletin. When he retired from that post, he was praised as “editor extraordinaire, paragon of patience, lord of layout, and composed compositor of crucial communication.”

Dick’s intellectual curiosity about how things work led him to join the Museum of American Heritage (MOAH) in 1994. With his keen eye and craftsmanship, Dick quickly became indispensable to the Museum staff, who said he had a hand in supporting “nearly all” of MOAH’s exhibitions from his arrival until the week before his death. “He was the magic behind a lot of the exhibits.” Like many others with whom he worked, the MOAH team found Dick reliable, enjoyable, and encouraging. He always arrived well-dressed, in his signature suspenders.

Dick Clark was creative, imaginative, generous, caring, and kind. He is survived by his wife, Glenda Jones, of Palo Alto, CA; his sister Catherine Clark; Glenda’s son, Ian Forsberg; granddaughter, Natalie Mittan; grandson, Connor Forsberg; a great-grandchild Atlas Forsberg. Dick was also close to his sisters’ children and grandchildren. He inspired two of them to follow him west from Michigan, including his nephew, Wes Mitchell, who will deeply miss their shared tradition of talks over coffee in Palo Alto. He was cherished by his family and all who were fortunate to know him.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto Capital Campaign, or the 2024 Democratic Presidential Candidate of your choice.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Tags: veteran, arts/media, business, public service

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