Fontana Success Story: Former Police Chief Larry Clark devotes his life to helping others | News



Early on, for as long as he can remember, Larry Clark wanted to go into law enforcement. When asked why, he replied, “Because I enjoy helping others.”

Once again, as with other honorees in our series of Fontana Success Stories, truer words were never spoken.

Larry, the oldest of five children, was raised in humble conditions. Certainly not well off, and yet, not “dirt poor,” either. Larry had nothing handed to him. With the passing of his father in 1979, Larry assumed the mantle of patriarch for his younger siblings. And he has been helping them and others ever since.

Larry has been my friend since 1974, his year of his Fontana High School graduation, when I was a student teacher at Fohi, and he was one of my students. Larry was not a troublemaker in any sense of the word; however, I never envisioned him eventually becoming a cop

Larry sat in the back of my government class with three other guys: J, K, and one other male student who shall remain initial-less for reasons soon to be revealed.

Three of those guys flourished after graduation, especially Larry, and went on to honorable vocations: K began as a P.E. teacher at Fontana Junior High where I was assistant principal, and later left the education arena and became a firefighter here in Fontana.

J enjoyed a successful career in the ministry. Later in life (age 62), he became the oldest man then in professional wrestling.

And the third guy, well, he didn’t enter the ministry, although I’m sure he had many visits from the chaplain.

Larry gained a reputation for helping others; a trait he maintains to this day. He still helps one of those two high school buddies who suffers from a myriad of health challenges. I can personally attest to seeing him help scores of people with plumbing or electrical or flooring or TV problems. Or any problem. Or using his truck and trailer to help folks move in or move out of town. He helps families. He helps widows. He helps couples. He helps singles, and he helps teenagers. He helps whomever needs help. Period.

I have no repair or mechanical skills. My brain simply is not wired that way. Tools are dangerous in my hands. I once changed my brakes at age 19 and had parts left over, even though I took polaroid pictures of where everything belonged. Larry knows this, which is why he’s been at my home with his toolbox so many times I’ve lost count.

For years, Larry was a scoutmaster and helped many young men earn their Eagle Scout award. He was active for years in the Boys and Girls Club. And all the time he was serving others, he worked full-time in the Fontana Police Department, rising from reserve officer to chief of police.

During this time, he was also earning college degrees, with an Associate’s Degree from Chaffey College in 1983, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands. He also graduated from the California Command College and the prestigious 13-week FBI National Leadership Academy in 1995.

But his major professional accomplishment was being sworn in as Fontana’s chief of police in 2004, succeeding fellow Fohi grad (’67 and last week’s Fontana Success Story) Frank Scialdone.

When asked what he considers his major successes, Larry said: “Instituting a Verified Alarm Response policy which is still in place today, and the changes it allowed in our overall response times to all calls for service, along with increasing proactive time for officers.”

—– HE CONTINUED with a story that made national headlines and was written up in the Reader’s Digest: serving as a detective in the Dr. Felton/Dr. Gillespie case.

“In May of 1988, I was assigned to Investigations. My partner (Detective Jeff Decker) and I were assigned to a case which had been occurring for over two decades and involved thousands of victims. A man had victimized thousands of women by making phone calls to female victims living in San Bernardino County and stating, ‘We have your sister at the San Bernardino County Hospital.’ He sometimes used ‘We have your daughter at Kaiser Hospital.’ He would then tell the victim that unless she performed sexual acts, their family member would be harmed.

“Fontana Police Lt. Mickey Carns identified a pattern to these calls and this information was provided to Detective Decker and me. With the assistance of the phone company, Decker and I were able to record the incoming calls and phone numbers for the people we thought would be his future victims. And it worked! One evening, this suspect, Bobby Gene Stice, began making calls to our predetermined female victims. We then had the information needed to obtain a search warrant, which led to his arrest and conviction. In addition to prison time, Stice was required to register as a sex registrant. We (Decker and I), l received calls, letters and cards from his victims from all over the country, thanking us, as they too were traumatized by Stice.”

Like previous Chiefs Ben Abernathy and Scialdone, after retirement, Larry was an elected official, serving as a member of the Fontana Unified School District Governing Board. I asked Larry his thoughts about serving in that capacity. He said, “It was a very enlightening experience, learning the nuances of the Education Code and how slow it is to make changes.” (As a retired school attorney, I can vouch for what Larry said. He hit the nail on the head!)

In 1979, I (this writer), graduated from the Sheriff’s Level II Police Reserve Academy, and, after being elected to the City Council, I resumed my ride-alongs with Larry, but not as a police officer — this time as an elected official.

One night, Larry and I responded to a call of a man with a gun. We arrived at the home, and a man walked out on his front porch, covering something up with a large white towel. I immediately slithered down in the front seat (I was unarmed), fearing the man would drop the towel and shoot at us with what appeared to be a rifle or shotgun. Calmly, Larry said, “What are you doing?” I said, “The guy’s got a gun.” Again, calmly, Larry said over the loudspeaker, “Sir, drop the towel.” The man complied, dropped the towel and revealed … nothing … but his underwear! He had just gotten out of the shower when we arrived and simply brought his towel outside with him.

—– LARRY HAS fond memories of growing up in Fontana.

He loved going to Fohi football games in their glory days, when it was not unusual to have more than 10,000 people in attendance at Steeler Stadium. As with this writer, Fohi’s football teams did not flourish when we were students there, so with the arrival in the 1970s of coaches John Tyree and then Dick Bruich (another Fontana Success Story), and their winning ways, it was finally our turn to watch great Fohi teams.

Larry has always had a love of sports and has been involved in supporting athletics, from coaching his boys’ Little League team to officiating high school and college sports. His exposure to officiating began in 1976 when he started officiating basketball, volleyball and softball in church leagues. He was then quickly exposed to high school athletic events. He has had the opportunity to officiate basketball at many levels, from CIF championship games to working Division 2 college games.

But opportunities to continue officiating throughout his law enforcement career was minimized due to his police assignments. When he retired, he returned to working full competitive seasons. In 2009, he accepted the position as assigner for both basketball and volleyball, covering, at one time, more than 200 high schools in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. This responsibility, which he still holds, includes assigning and scheduling up to 220 officials and has kept him active in problem solving and building relationships with officials and athletic directors.

I asked Larry who his favorite teachers were. In one of the greatest honors a teacher receives, he said, “Bill Freeman, who was doing his student teaching in my Principals of Democracy class my senior year, because of the friendship we have enjoyed over the years (almost 50).”

I guess one could say Larry Clark was MY favorite student, “because of the friendship we have enjoyed over the years.”

Chief Larry Clark represents the exact type of Fontana Success Story whom we honor in this column. Humble beginnings, a desire to succeed and a strong work ethic. Thank you, Larry, for your nearly 50 years of friendship and service to our community!

(This month, we hope to continue with more Fontana first responder success stories. Also, I’m still looking for help getting in touch with Fohi ’57 grad and former Assistant Secretary of State Les Janka, as well as contact information for pro baseball player and World Series champion Jesse Chavez and Super Bowl champion Nick Barnett, both Fontana A.B. Miller graduates. I can be contacted at billfreeman68@yahoo.com.)



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