NEW PORT RICHEY — The timbre of Jim Clarke's whistle was warm and familiar, unmistakably his own.
Mr. Clarke whistled all the way home from work. As a child, his daughter, Peggy Magruder, could pick out the sound halfway down the block.
He'd whistle while walking through the door. He'd whistle while giving his family hugs.
"That was my daily comfort," Magruder said. "Hearing him whistle. That's how big music was in his life."
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Mr. Clarke had many careers. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a doctor. But in the thick of the Great Depression, he took work in a steel mill. In the Army Air Corps, he worked as a navigator on secret missions.
He owned a sporting goods store in Indiana. He was a natural salesman, who soon became a Realtor, working in New Port Richey for many years at Davis-Clarke Inc.
Through change and uncertainty, he always found his voice.
It was a smooth, strong baritone, void of warble. Mr. Clarke loved Andy Williams and Eddie Howard and big band sounds.
"Music picks me up and relieves the stress of everyday life," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 1997. "There is nothing that can compare to the satisfaction of closing a sale or the rush you get from that first round of applause when you perform."
He sang in 1944 at the Hollywood Bowl at a military event featuring Bing Crosby.
He sang on the radio in Los Angeles. He sang in night clubs.
He sang at home around the television with his wife and daughter, transfixed by Mitch Miller's bouncing ball.
He sang on Christmas, behind a player piano, his grandchildren picking up the harmony.
He sang with vocal groups and friends at Elks lodges, restaurants and free charity events.
He sang Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree. Baby Face. I'll Take Care of Your Cares.
He sang so much that a friend dubbed him the "Singing Realtor." And if he was asked to sing during a home sale, he'd oblige.
He sang for the last time in 2007 at his 90th birthday party. It was a song called Back Home Again in Indiana.
He sang it better than ever, his family said. His voice didn't shake or crack or waver.
After a series of health problems, Mr. Clarke lay dying on Monday. He was 90.
His family surrounded him, turned the radio to the soft classics station, and sang until he went.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.