I grew up on the best street ever.
One day, I will write a novel about it.
The street was filled with some of the greatest characters.
Our Catholic grade school and parish church were at one end of the Terrace, our house towards the other end.
We would walk down Arch Terrace a couple of times a day – to school, to church, to the school parking lot where all of our fun took place.
The neighbors on Arch Terrace were as close as people can be.
Nobody had a big yard and everyone’s house was very close to the house beside it.
To say that everyone was up in everyone else’s business would be quite an understatement.
It was an idyllic, special, special place.
One of the houses that we would pass on the way to school and church was the Wagners.
My friend and classmate Chris Wagner lived there.
Chris’s mom and dad were dear friends of my parents and we were over there all the time.
Nina was the mom. Clarence was the dad. But no one called him Clarence.
He was Clank.
Clank and my dad were good friends.
They traded tools back and forth often and helped each other out on their crazy projects.
My dad would be building a deck for someone on the street and he would need a special tool.
He would send me over to the Wagners and Clank would tell me to just go ahead and take whatever my dad needed.
I remember that Clank and Nina hosted my dad’s surprise 40th birthday party.
That would have been 36 years ago.
A lifetime ago.
A different life. A different time.
One Christmas, the Hackings and the Wagners were the last ones to take their Christmas tree lights down.
Either my dad or Clank suggested that we have a contest to see whose lights would last the longest.
No replacement of any bulbs was allowed.
If all your lights burned out, you lost.
If you forgot to turn the lights on, you lost.
Chris and I were usually in charge of turning the lights on each night.
Clank and dad made sure that we did.
The Post-Dispatch put Chris and I on the front page of the newspaper.
Voice of America radio carried the story and the Wagners’ relatives in Germany heard about it.
My dad and Clank eventually stopped the contest after a year and a half because President Carter asked Americans to conserve energy.
Clank Wagner would give you the shirt off his back and ask if you needed another one.
We all loved Clank and Nina.
Dear, dear friends to my parents.
Mr. Wagner passed away suddenly this week.
He went to bed and did not wake up.
Clank and Nina raised 2 wonderful sons and 2 amazing daughters – Annie, Joe, Chris and Nina.
Special people, one and all.
Godspeed, Clank. You were truly loved.