By Michael Jacobs
michaeljacobs@reporternewspapers.net

Howard Clack’s home at Cartecay and Appalachee drives was in the middle of two big annual events in Brookhaven Fields: the spring fling and the Halloween parade.

Now that DeKalb County has purchased the Clack family home to be turned into a pocket park, the neighborhood hopes to have Clack’s Corner completed in time for the Halloween parade to begin and end in the park.

And the surviving family members of Clack, who died in early 2006, are eager to help make that a reality.

“I’m very pleased to know this parcel of land has been set aside to keep his memory. The whole family is part of this,” said Howard’s last sibling, Jerry, who lives in Durham.

The Clack children grew up on rural land the family bought in 1926, and all but Howard moved away in adulthood as the Atlanta area developed around the tiny house.

“Howard watched over it. It became part of him,” said Jerry, noting that his brother’s ashes were scattered on the land.

Reid Mallard, whose father-in-law was Howard’s brother Charles and who has served as the family’s local representative in dealings with the neighborhood and the county, said it was not Howard’s idea to turn the family homestead into a public park. But given that no one from the family was going to move into the old house, it’s a use that fits his desires.

“Preserving it and saving it from commercial/residential development around him was ultimately what he hoped for,” Mallard said.

He said Howard battled chronic anxiety but enjoyed his neighbors’ visits and their generosity. The neighbors helped take care of him and were rewarded with his poetry, his drawings, his piano music, and talk about the math problem or riddle he was working on.

“He was a very nice, very gentle, quiet fellow,” Mallard said. “He was always willing to give someone else the benefit of the doubt.”

The family is grateful that the county gave the benefit of the doubt to the outside-the-box idea to spend up to $250,000 of public money to buy and clear the land.

“I’ve been truly amazed at the enthusiasm of the neighborhood and the attitude of the county about it,” Jerry Clack said. “I thought it be nice thing, but I never thought it would be done.”

The effort gained momentum in early 2007, leading to a town-hall meeting in February 2008, the approval of the use of park bond money this spring and the sale in May.

Throughout the process, Mallard said, family members and neighbors supported each other to achieve their shared goal.

That cooperation is continuing after the sale. Although Howard’s heirs couldn’t afford to donate the site, Mallard said the family is contributing $10,000 to the fundraising for the park’s creation and maintenance.

A committee led by Bentley Marane is working to raise at least $30,000 for the park installation. Also on the committee are Meredith O’Connor, Maggie Anderson, Mary Alice Nesmith, Jay Bernath and Sonja Greeley.

“The best part is the family is so engaged and so involved with us,” Marane said.

She said the committee might offer commemorative brick pavers that can be engraved with the donors’ names or in memory or in honor of others. The plan is to hold an “Uncork Clack’s Corner” fundraising kickoff.

If the committee can raise the money before October, the park could be finished in time for the Halloween parade.

Park Pride is handling the administrative side of the fundraising, so people can go to www.parkpride.org, click on “Make a Donation” and specify Clack’s Corner.