Clark Edward Wise Jr. of rural Champaign died at 6:34 p.m. Monday (March 22, 2021) at home surrounded by family. He was 97.
Mr. Wise was born on Nov. 15, 1923, at the Wise family farm west of Savoy, delivered by his uncle, Dr. Earl D. Wise. His parents were Clark Edward Wise and Florence Marie Sperling Wise of rural Champaign.
Mr. Wise graduated from Tolono High School in 1941, where he excelled in academics and was a member of the school’s basketball and baseball teams. When Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941, Mr. Wise enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July 1942 and went through basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago. Mr. Wise attained the rank of aviation machinists mate 1st class CA (combat aircrewman) and was a turret gunner in a Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber, flying from the carriers Yorktown, Bataan and Saratoga. He participated in six major engagements: the Solomons campaign; the Invasion of Hollandia, New Guinea; an attack on the Palau Island; the Second Carrier Attack on Truk; the First Carrier Attack on Tokyo; and the Invasion of lwo Jima. He was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation flying with Squadron 5 aboard the USS Yorktown and a member of Task Force 58. He was aboard the USS Saratoga at the Invasion of lwo Jima, an aircrewman with Night Torpedo Squadron 53, when the carrier was attacked by four Japanese kamikaze aircraft and three bombs, killing 125 men and wounding over 200. The ship was afire, but it was extinguished. The carrier returned to Pearl Harbor and was put out of action. Mr. Wise finished his naval career at Anaval Air Facility near Charleston, R.I. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 16, 1945, from Great Lakes.
On Aug. 20, 1946, Mr. Wise married Mary Julia Hartman of Pesotum at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Champaign. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in agriculture in 1949, Mr. Wise began farming on the family farm south of Champaign.
Mr. and Mrs. Wise had nine children, Clark Edward Wise Ill, Kathleen Theresa, Karen Elaine, Christopher Anthony, Cynthia Julia, Kevin Andrew, Constance Patricia, Charlotte Marie and Craig Alexander. The couple had 20 grandchildren, four stepgrandchildren and many great-grandchildren.
Mr. Wise was preceded in death by a grandson, David S. Wallace, and his wife, Julia, who passed away on Jan. 1, 1995. In February 1997, Mr. Wise married Arleen Bowyer Tempel in Bakersfield, Calif. She had three children, Christine, Thomas and Nancy. She died in November 2019.
As a young man, Mr. Wise obtained his private pilot’s license and enjoyed flying single-engine aircraft from Illini airport. He played in a competitive baseball league in Champaign and held many records, with a batting average of .330. He also participated in a bowling league. He was a lifelong Illini sports fan and loved Cubs baseball. He also loved visiting the family cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoyed fishing. Mr. Wise served on the board of directors of the Savoy Grain Company and Illini FS and was a lifetime member of the Champaign County Farm Bureau. He continued to farm with his son, Chris, into his mid-80s.
Mr. Wise was a member of Savoy United Methodist Church and at the time of his death was the oldest continuing member of the church.