My wife, Kathi, and I unexpectedly lost a good friend this past week—our neighbor and creative co-conspirator, Wayne Clark. Wayne lived cattycorner across the street from us, and we met several years ago when I called him about a plumbing problem we were having. Wayne ran his own plumbing and heating business, but to call him just a plumber would be a serious misrepresentation. Wayne was a creative artist at all that he did, and a true intellectual in his own right. He brought ingenuity and artistry to even the most mundane of activities. After completing that first plumbing job for us, when he discovered that I was a magician, he refused to take payment for the job, insisting instead that I barter with him to do a show for a small private party at his house.
We quickly became good friends, and Kathi and I were enriched time and again by his generosity. Allowing me unhampered access to his woodshop, Wayne taught me the art of cabinet making, and assisted and advised me through numerous projects, including new cabinets for our kitchen, a variety of "crafty" Christmas presents for our family, and a large hall tree/seat, to name just a few. In turn, Kathi and I helped Wayne with decorating his house, creating curtains and window treatments, and with a wide variety of creative projects for both our houses.
Whether it was helping me to build magic props for my act, offering advice on home repair, or just thinking through some building project, Wayne was an absolute wealth of information, expertise, and creativity. His artistic solutions to a variety of problems never ceased to amaze me. And he shared it all freely, never holding back.
Late night talks at Wayne's house also become a regular occurrence, with topics ranging from creativity and art, to philosophy and religion, to science and technology, to politics, to cooking, to just about anything and everything in between. Wayne loved to argue and debate and would often take a contrary position on something just to get a rise out of someone. He took great delight in getting under your skin and seemed to find tremendous joy in the intellectual banter.
But he was also one of the most caring and generous people I've ever known. While he'd be embarrassed to have anyone acknowledge it openly, he nonetheless cared genuinely about other people and consistently tried to offer help whenever and wherever possible. Even at his most cantankerous, he was never mean spirited, would never dream of doing anything intentionally hurtful, and in fact had a huge and compassionate heart that served as his moral compass. I would have trusted him with my life.
I can't help but think that in his need to be contrary he's finally gotten the last laugh: he left us long before we were ready to be done sharing our lives with him. I just can't believe I'll never again be able to walk across the street to get his advice on something, and I suddenly feel this big hole in my life where Wayne used to be.
Thanks for sharing with us, Wayne, we'll miss you more than you could have imagined.