FREEPORT, Ill. | It was from the newspaper that Bob Clark, 80, of Freeport learned of the passing of his old friend Andy Griffith, who died July 3 at age 86.
Clark said reading the actor's obituary was sad for him. The two men worked together when Griffith was starring in his famed television show, "The Andy Griffith Show," which ran from 1960 to 1968.
Clark, who was an advertising executive then with a company called Hess and Clark, got to know Griffith personally when Griffith lent his name and likeness to certain agriculture products being sold at the time. Griffith did radio spots for three years, working closely with Clark.
Clark said he and Griffith connected on a personal level, sharing rural roots. Griffith was born in rural South Carolina. Clark grew up on a dairy farm in Indiana. During the three years that they would meet in Chicago for Griffith to record the radio spots, the men often lunched together, talking and sharing stories from their pasts living in the rural area.
"Our company at that time was the leading company with pre-mix agriculture products," Clark said. "Griffith was one person at that time that related to our audience — it was a good fit.
"With his recent passing, it has taken me back to a time I remember fondly — Andy was just a likable good ol' boy you saw on TV," he said.
Clark said Griffith had a quick mind and often challenged Clark on some of the ad copy, suggesting changes to make it better. Clark said Griffith usually had just the right suggestions to make the radio spots better. What Clark liked was Griffith's easy-going style, which fit great with radio listeners.
It was Clark who approached Griffith's manager about Griffith being a national spokesman for the radio spots. Clark said he remembers people often coming up to him saying they had heard Griffith on the radio. Griffith was an effective spokesman.
"What I liked about Andy was he was sincere, honest and entertaining," Clark said. "He talked a lot about the cast members (of the TV show), really liking Don Knotts, who played Barney (Fife), and also said Jim Nabors was a bit of a ham."
Clark has an autographed picture from Griffith that was taken with Clark and other executives. This picture is a prized possession he keeps in the home he shares with his wife, Minnie. Clark said he doesn't show off the picture, but will speak of it when guests happen to notice it. Griffith also autographed a picture for Clark's son, Pete.
"It's in a priceless area all its own," Clark said.
Clark, who was in advertising for 40 years, also was able to meet Merv Griffin, who had a daily talk show. Clark has won national awards for his advertising work. He came to Freeport in the late 1960s, and retired from his job at Furst-McNess.
"I had a chance to work with bigger companies, but Minnie and I wanted to raise our family in a smaller town, so we came to Freeport," Clark said.
The couple have three children: Pete, Heidi and Anne.
"My friendship (with Griffith) was fun while it lasted, and there was a time later in years when I traveled near his home in South Carolina and thought about stopping in, but I chickened out," Clark said. "He was a humble man and didn't like people to fuss over him, and while I have met other people in my life who were a big deal, it never felt the same as it did with Andy — I'm glad I had the experience."