A young man touched many in his short time on Earth

07/15/2014 3:47 PM

07/15/2014 3:48 PM

While I read Friday morning’s newspaper, the picture of a young man jumped out at me.

His name, Johnny Ray Clark, rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it.

Still, I was intrigued because this man was only 22, and his photo was on the obituary page.

I couldn’t help but wonder how he had died. Did he have a disease? Was he in an automobile accident? Or was he the unfortunate victim of an assailant?

As it turned out, I would get an answer to those questions very quickly. When I got to my office and opened my email, I found a message that had been sent late the night before from Trina Charles-Yeandle. It said:

“As I type this note, my heart bleeds with sadness and grief. On Tuesday, 8th, around 2 a.m. Johnny Clark, a wonderful kid and student, one of the most resilient persons I have ever had the privilege of meeting, was shot and killed in Fort Worth.

“Mr. Sanders, I wanted to let you know of this because you were the speaker during Johnny’s 8th grade ceremony at Riverside Middle School in Fort Worth. Johnny was always a happy kid and smiling at all adversities he ever faced in life. On that day, in the spring of 2006, he was the happiest I had ever seen him as he stood proudly to have his picture taken with you, full of hopes to go to high school and eventually college, and on to a life of success.

“I was Johnny’s counselor at Riverside Middle, and I transferred to Carter Riverside and continued on to follow Johnny’s steps as he graduated from Carter in 2010. The last I knew from Johnny, he was attending UT-Arlington. I did not hear from him for about a year until this Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, a former teacher from Carter called me and told me about the sad news: Johnny was shot and didn’t make it on the way to the hospital. …

“I am attaching some pictures; I know Johnny would have liked to share them with you.”

The photos indeed showed a proud young man holding a large trophy and the promotion certificate he had received that day.

Yeandle, in her message, included information on the funeral service, which was set for 1 p.m. Saturday. It was a service I felt compelled to attend because even though I had not seen Johnny since that day in 2006, I felt connected to him.

The church was packed, filled in part with Johnny’s classmates and teachers from Carter Riverside.

It was obvious that he had touched a lot of people in his too-short life. He was a football player who wore No. 22 at Carter Riverside, and educators talked about how personable and outgoing he was as a student.

Many of those who knew him described him the way his mother did.

“He was funny and very smart,” said his mom, Brenda Lundy. “He had a soft, good heart and tried to help people. He was an awesome, awesome kid.”

She added, “My baby didn’t deserve this.”

A police spokesman said Johnny had “multiple gunshot wounds.” A 21-year-year-old suspect — reportedly the brother of Johnny’s ex-girlfriend — is in custody in connection with the shooting. He was killed, some say, based on some things the ex-girlfriend told him.

No, Johnny didn’t deserve this. No one does.

In college, Johnny studied mass communications and theater arts, and it’s a shame that this young man was shot down before he could begin to realize his dreams.

Last Friday morning I had no plans for a funeral on Saturday. But …

You never know how you may touch someone’s life, or how they may one day touch yours — even in death.

About Bob Ray Sanders

Bob Ray Sanders


Bob Ray Sanders is often criticized for writing about things he could not have experienced because, some readers say, "he can't be that old." The truth is Bob Ray has been a professional journalist for 40 years and in three media: newspaper, television and radio.

A Fort Worth native who knows and cares about his community, and those with whom he shares this planet, this is a columnist who is not afraid to speak out on behalf of downtrodden people or the abused Earth.

Email Bob Ray at bobraysanders@star-telegram.com.

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