- Special Sections
- Public Notices
If Jack Clark has an old flame, it probably has to do with his work as the first art director for Zippo lighters.
The walls of his Calabash home where the 83-year-old retired eight years ago is lined with the lifelong artist’s work—paintings and colored pencil drawings of people’s beloved pets, a watercolor of a swan, portraits of his son and daughter.
“He works in all mediums,” said Jackie Himes, Clark’s girlfriend who also worked in the art department of Zippo Manufacturing Co. headquartered in Bradford, Pa.
“I work from photographs,” said Clark, who turns 84 in May.
More of his work is preserved in albums—pheasants and other wildlife, more dogs, a few cats, portraits of friends’ grandchildren and a logo he submitted for the 1994 Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta adorned with a peach and dogwood.
His studio is lined with mementos, including his World War II cap and a framed drawing from “Li’l Abner” cartoonist Al Capp, in appreciation for a specially designed lighter Clark gave Capp.
Clark also has a treasure trove of collectible Zippo lighters, including his original designs as well as the subsequent manufactured versions. But like a lot of other people, Clark doesn’t use Zippo for tobacco anymore. He quit smoking in 1977.
Clark, who once turned down an artistic job with Walt Disney, did “everything” during his 37-year tenure at Zippo, Himes said.
In fact, Zippo founder George
G. Blaisdell put Clark in charge of developing the process as well as designs for the company’s trademark metal flip-top lighters.
He said he actually brought his work home with him, baking his painted designs in his late wife Roberta Rose’s oven.
“Before we got a production run, I was developing a process,” he said. “They sent me to New York” to learn about baking a lighter design for one hour at 400 degrees. At the time, he explained, Zippo didn’t have any ovens.
In Bradford, once renowned as the “coldest spot in Pennsylvania” where Clark was born and raised, he credits his mother, Edna, for providing artistic inspiration. He sat on her lap while she drew Jigs and Maggie, an old cartoon. She also worked in ceramics.
“She more or less influenced me,” said Clark, who grew up with a sister and two brothers. He took his only art lessons when he was in high school.
Clark’s other claim to fame was serving in the 26th Infantry Division under General George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He was drafted into the Army during his senior year in high school.
“I only saw Patton a couple of times,” Clark recalled. “He came up to give our officers hell because we weren’t moving fast enough.”
He said he froze his feet three times and was injured twice by artillery blasts and shrapnel to his leg and right arm but refused medical treatment and therefore received no war awards.
“I said I’m not going,” he recalled, preferring to stay with the other men.
“I had buddies that left and didn’t come back,” Clark said. “So I didn’t want to leave them.”
At the end of the war, Clark said he was among about 2,000 soldiers who also visited Hitler’s summer home, where they carved their names in a conference table.
After the war, Clark worked “for a few days” as a background artist for Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. But after his colleagues went on strike, he moved on to a job with Standard Oil Co., where the fumes burned his eyes.
Eventually, he settled back in Bradford, where Zippo founder Blaisdell hired Clark as his art director.
“I want you to build me the biggest and best art department in this part of the country,” Blaisdell told Clark. The rest is history.
Technically, Clark is retired now—he retired from Zippo 25 years ago. But he says he hasn’t retired from art.
“No, I’m still doing artwork,” he said. “I love the artwork.”
He said warmer weather lured him to Calabash, along with his son, John, who lives in the area.
Locally, residents will recognize Clark driving around with his personalized license plate bearing—what else— the word “Zippo.”