by Tanja Vass/Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
The City of Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Department planted a tree for its Arbor Day ceremony in memory of Cody Clark April 28 at the Leavenworth Skate Park. Clark was a civilian employee with the Directorate of Public Works on Fort Leavenworth and member of the Leavenworth community. He was killed Jan. 31, 2023, when the front-end loader he was operating was struck by a train. He was 28 years old.
In opening remarks, Mayor Jermaine Wilson ceremoniously proclaimed April 28 as Arbor Day in the City of Leavenworth, explaining the social and environmental importance of celebrating Arbor Day as a nationwide holiday, while also honoring the life of Clark and the legacy he has left in the Leavenworth community.
In his dedication before the planting of the tree, Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Director Steve Grant explained the significance of the tree’s location by the Leavenworth Skateboard Park. In 2009, Cody helped spearhead the design and construction of the skateboard park.
“I heard of a young man who had a passion and a vision (who) corralled a bunch of his buddies to collectively get their voices together and to get them heard through the upper administrative staff of the City of Leavenworth and ultimately to the city commission,” Grant said, noting the lasting impact Clark had on the community. “Truly, the skate park behind us became a reality because of Cody, and it’s been a great addition to the city for all the youth.”
Clark’s parents, retired Lt. Col. Jim and Lori Clark, were in attendance and spoke before the planting of the tree. Jim Clark, strategic planner at the Global Simulation Capability on post, mentioned that the park had turned into a family project and held a lot of personal significance to the family.
“When we moved here in 2005, we were looking for a small-town feeling, a community feeling. We just never knew how huge little Leavenworth was,” Jim Clark said. “Cody always said that he never wanted to leave Leavenworth, so it gives us comfort knowing that Cody’s tree will be here forever. It will continue to grow, providing many years of memories and shade for the future generations of Leavenworth, its skaters, and continue giving back to the community.”
An October Glory maple tree was planted by the skateboard park in Cody Clark’s memory. Jim Clark thanked the Parks and Recreation Department and all those in attendance and urged them to remember his son through the tree and the skateboard park.
“Please cherish Cody’s tree as we all cherished Cody.”
Alongside Clark’s friends, co-workers and family members in attendance were skateboarders who had either boarded alongside Clark or who had grown up learning to board at the skateboard park that he played such a large part in creating.
After the planting of the tree, the skateboarders spent some time boarding in the park in Clark’s memory.
The ceremony was also attended by Cody’s girlfriend, Keeley Brown, and her 10-year-old son, Brantley Widdice, who held Clark’s skateboard throughout the ceremony.
“(Cody) was the most selfless person I have ever met,” Brown said. “He would do anything for anyone and expect nothing in return.”
When her son expressed an interest in skateboarding, Clark was the first to buy him the proper board and teach him the basic techniques.
“Cody used to bring (Brantley) out here to teach him,” Brown said. “There (weren’t) many hobbies that Cody had that were just for him. A lot of it was with other people or with friends, and this was something that was just him. When he was out and when he was skating, he was in his zone and he was happy,” she continued, explaining the significance of skateboarding in Clark’s life. “I don’t know that I could have thought of something better to put up for him, because he wasn’t really a materialistic person. This is something he would’ve enjoyed.”