Clarence Seavers has touched the lives of many, many people.
I have known Clarence for more than 30 years, and will never forget the first time I met him.
It was back in the early 1970s, when as a new Register reporter part of my job assignment was covering the Health Department. At the time the department was housed in the city building on Meigs Street and there were two separate boards of health – one for the city and one for the remainder of the county.
The city board included one city commissioner and four residents from the community. Before the start of the first meeting I attended, an older man said to Clarence, “Clarence, some of your people have been sitting on my fence waiting for the school bell to ring.”
The statement brought the room to silence, and left me in total shock. But, Clarence’s response — to calmly remind this man that he should call the police (not him) if he didn’t want people sitting on his fence — made me smile, and realize I needed to find out who he was.
I stood in the parking lot after the meeting waiting to introduce myself to Clarence, to ask him who the guy was who made those comments, and why he wasn’t ashamed to demonstrate such ignorance.
It was the start of an amazing education for me.
In the 1970s Erie County was still new to diversity. It was a time when people understood there needed to be diversity on public boards and committees, but in this community it was proving to be difficult to find people with the patience, courage and strength of conviction to withstand the labeling that went with the appointments to those boards and committees.
More often than not, Clarence Seavers was the man asked to serve. He rarely said no. Over the years he found himself not only on the health board, but also the city’s recreation board, the board of elections, the Community Action Commission board, the YMCA board, the Goodwill Industries board, the Providence Hospital board, the Firelands Hospital board – and that is just a sample of his activities.
Some people might ask why a person would spend so much time on so many community activities. The answer is simple: Clarence has always believed in “the system” and has always believed that while criticism is good for “the system,” those doing the criticizing should have the guts to participate in the process.
His thirst for knowledge and truth, his belief in his convictions, his willingness to defend those who need defending and his search for understanding are what Clarence Seavers is all about. He’s an extraordinary man.
While Clarence has devoted much of his life to making Erie County a better place for young and old, and for all races, his true passion has always been the political process. The days and months leading up to the deadline for filing petitions for election to office and then the days and months leading up to an election, are the times he enjoys the most.
After convincing my family that I should put my name on the ballot as a candidate for the Perkins Township Board of Trustees, I called him to ask for his counsel. I knew he would tell me the truth, not just what I wanted to hear. Over the years I had watched him offer advice to candidates; explain to them what they needed to do to get elected, and to share with them what he believed were the important issues of the time. His knowledge of the local political scene — people, issues, alliances, history – is second to none. I knew if there was one person to call on for advice, Clarence was the person.
In 1989, from the end of August until the day before the election, he was my mentor, my counselor, my friend. He even volunteered to help knock on doors to distribute brochures. On one memorable occasion, we heard people talking and proceeded down the driveway to the backyard. As I attempted to hand the two men brochures, one of them said, “Lady, we don’t vote for ****.” It was then that a rottweiler began barking and pulling on its chain. Needless to say, we didn’t need to “look back,” because those two men didn’t get to see our backs. Afterward, Clarence laughed and said, “Welcome to politics.”
I am just one of a long list of people to whom Clarence has given his time.
This week the Erie County Democratic Party is hosting a dinner in his honor. The local party is the logical organization to host the dinner. Clarence is a lifelong Democrat and has always been an active member of the party.
It is also fitting that the dinner is the inaugural event for the Clarence W. Seavers Scholarship Fund, because Clarence is the type of person for whom we should be naming scholarships.
He is a man with mettle. And heart. And wisdom.
To some, it may sound like Clarence is one of my heroes.