When workers at Fairwinds Desert Point went to pick up Will Clark's birthday cake, people in the bakery asked what the "106" meant.
They never imagined it would be a man's age.
On Aug. 17, Will Miles Clark, D.D.S., turned 106 years of age. A couple of days later, he celebrated it with family, friends and a few Golder Ranch firefighters, one who dressed in full turnouts, joking it was going to be a fire code violation if they lit all 106 candles on his cake.
Clark, who was born Aug. 17, 1904 in Mitchell, S.D., is still mentally sharp. He retains a valid driver's license that was recently renewed.
"There is no secret, it is luck of the draw," Clark said about his longevity and health. "You have to have good genes."
For breakfast, Clark will have maybe some melon and a banana, two or three slices of toast with some sort of jelly on it, all along with a cup of coffee. He doesn't eat what he used to eat, a "big ol' farm meal." He always wakes up hungry.
Clark can easily recollect the trials and tribulations of the Great Depression. He can recall the three years he spent fighting during World War II, including his time on Iwo Jima. Clark remembers his father passing away when he was 3-1/2. He has seen Halley's comet twice, once in 1910 and the next time in 1986. Until April of this year, he shared most of those memories with his wife Lois, his bride for 76 years.
"His memory is astounding, it really is," his son Terry said. "He has seen classmates in later years … and he'll say, 'Oh, you're so and so,' and they don't even know who he is."
In the mid- to late-1930s, Clark was in the Army Cavalry Unit in Des Moines, Iowa, riding alongside Ronald Reagan, who was seven years younger than he was.
"He came as a gay young blade there, I had been there and done that," Clark said of Reagan. "He was a typical politician, oh he 'knew you,' but you knew darn well he didn't know who you were. But he was a nice man."
He studied dentistry at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Dentistry, like so much else Clark has experienced, has become "another world today."
When Clark was a dentist, the field was just starting to use anesthetics to block pain, and people would get sick from them. Today, each person gets a brand new sharp needle; he would try to re-sharpen dull, thick needles. He is astounded by all of the equipment and the size of the staffs he sees in dental offices today. "I never paid a girl over $25 a week and I never paid more than $35 a month for rent," Clark recalled. "Now, a girl is insulted if you offer her less than a thousand dollars a month."
Clark received the Legion of Merit for exemplary service because he helped establish preventive dental programs for the Army. It was presented upon his retirement from the U.S. Army Dental Corps as a colonel in 1964.
In the '40s, Clark and his family moved to Colorado, where he opened his own dentist office. While living in Colorado, he also learned to play golf with his son Terry. Clark played golf, most of the time shooting his age or under, until he was 102. He enjoys reading and travel.
Clark has outlived his three siblings. One lived to 77, another died at 69, a third at 62. He has three children, seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.