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Calm and Collecting

FORT WAYNE, IND. (WPTA21)-“I keep it in the same place all the time so I know where it is,” says collector Ben Clark. 

At 86 and struggling with illness Ben Clark is moving a little slower than he once did but neither age nor infirmity has slowed his mind.

I’m reading a book now called ‘The Black Indians’,” says Clark. “Some people can’t understand the concept of how that came about.”

For seventy years Ben Clark has been collecting, everything; coins, stamps, musical instruments, bottles, matchbooks. Not for any value they may hold but for what they can teach him.

I found more on Abraham Lincoln than I did on any of the other presidents,” he says. “Even George Washington.”

Ben began collecting stamps in the 1950’s when he worked for the Missouri State Tax Department. He was especially interested in stamps commemorating black history. This is a fraction of his collection. From stamps he moved on to coins.

And you have special coins made of him,” he says. “This is a commemorative I don’t have that particular coin.”

Ben’s collection contains tens of thousands of items, he lost count decades ago. But years of collecting have provided this collector with years of education he calls it, in history, government, conflict…the story of a young nation struggling with, but always strengthened by, change. Much of what Ben Clark has learned he says wasn’t taught in school.

This is a Native American dream catcher. They were always depicted as savages but they were ordinary people and they were protecting their homes. And I saw a different light in the Native Americans than I’ve ever seen.”

Clark shares his collection with schools and churches and social clubs, shares the objects and what he’s learned from them. Then brings it all back to his basement for more sorting and cleaning and studying. And simply to spend more time with all these things that opened up and continue to open up the world to him.

I have to start thinking about the possibility of me stopping one of these days,” he says, “but until that time really hits me I’ll just keep collecting.”

Eric Olson

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