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thedrifter
04-15-06, 12:52 PM
Article published Apr 15, 2006
Group to protest at funeral of Gibsonburg serviceman
By JILL FICK
News-Messenger correspondent

Bob Smith sometimes wonders what drives him to be a member of the Patriot Guard Riders. Friday night, he received a reminder.

Smith, a Sandusky resident, is a captain with a nation-wide group of motorcycle riders and others who support United States soldiers, sailors and Marines. He was in Gibsonburg Friday meeting with the family of the late Army Spec. Robert Lee "Bobby" Clark.

"(I met) Tom, Bobby's dad, and we hugged," Smith said. "And then I met his wife, Amy, and she wouldn't let go of me. We must have stood there for 10 minutes."

Smith had never met Clark, who was killed in a traffic accident April 8 in Colorado. But he was drawn to Gibsonburg when he learned earlier this week that an anti-gay group from the Westboro Baptist Church might be sending people to protest at Clark's funeral on Tuesday.

The Patriot Guard Riders, of which Clark was also a member in Colorado, attends the funerals as guests of the family. They do their best to lessen eruptions from the Westboro group.

"We try to absorb some of the pain," Smith said. "If the protesters are there, if we do our job, they won't see them. They will just see a lot of red, white and blue."

Smith expects up to 200 members of the Patriot Guard Riders to attend Clark's funeral. But, he added, it's more about support for the family than it is about protection.

"It's not about the protesters; it's about this family," Smith said. "I don't do what I do for (the protesters). I do it for the family."

And while he didn't know the Clark family before, he feels a part of it now.

"His family, they are classic Americana," Smith said. "They wouldn't take no for an answer. They invited me to their house tonight to eat."

Smith said he will always hold dear the vision of hugs from Bobby Clark's father and wife.

"That's when I get the drive to keep going," he said.

According to its Web site, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas calls the U.S. an "evil, hateful nation." Also, church members used to pray for America but they have declared it's too late, the site says. They mention that gays are running and ruining the country.

The group's Web site is www.godhatesamerica.com.

Visitation for Clark will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Herman-Kinn-Veh Funeral Home, 319 W. Madison St., Gibsonburg. Services will be 1 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.

Burial with full military rites by an honor guard from Fort Knox will follow at West Union Cemetery.

Besides his wife and parents, Thomas and Nancy Clark, Bobby Clark is survived by two children.

Ellie