Game inventor: Christopher Clark

It is with a heavy heart
that we learned of the passing of our dear friend Christopher Clark in November 2021. We will continue to make his fine, award-winning games as best as our loving skills allow.

Christopher Clark was born January 19, 1940, in the city of Barnstaple near Devon's north coast in England. Britain was at war, and city children were being sent to rural villages to escape the bombing. So Chris and his mother went to the country home of a kind elderly lady. His very first memories in life were of trying to gather eggs from very protective chickens. Food rationing was in effect, so each egg was precious.

Later, they found themselves in a convoy heading across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada and safety at last. Theirs was the end ship in the last row of the formation. Luckily, the convoy went undetected by enemy submarines. After landing in Nova Scotia, they headed south by train to New York City. Chris recalls nothing of the voyage but does remember many uniformed men talking and singing in the railroad car.

His father was already in New York, having narrowly escaped the hostilities in the Far East. Destined for San Francisco, his ship had arrived in Hawaii just 10 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Long Island was home for the Clarks for the next few years. Their apartment was on the second floor of a three-story brick building with a huge grass lawn in back, the playing field for croquet during the summer months.

In March of 1944, Chris's mother, at the urging of a neighbor who had entered her daughter, took Chris to a baby show sponsored by the Brooklyn Women of the Moose. Before long he was featured in magazine ads for products like J&J Band-Aids, Kodak film, Wheaties cereal, and Colgate toothpaste.

In 1947 his father took the family back to England on the steamship Queen Elizabeth, with the intention to stay. But recovery from the war had been slow, and hardships were still prevalent. So, after a year they returned to New York, then traveled west to California. They settled in a suburb of Los Angeles. Bonnie, a six-month-old collie and soon to be faithful companion, joined the family. And for Christmas 1949, Santa left the first bicycle. Later that year a baby brother entered the picture. Life was fun.

The summer after his high school junior year, though, was a time of turmoil. Chris was experiencing a mental breakdown. Practically homebound for many months, eventually he was able to return to school and to graduate.

The next 20 or so years were spent doing the things that people do. First came college courses. Those in science Chris liked best. A six-year enlistment in the Coast Guard Reserve followed, plus many years working for an international food company. And somewhere along the way a very special gal was found, then lost.

Another severe episode of depression was just around the corner. Bewildered, unemployed and unable to cope, Chris went back to live with his loving and supportive parents. He was 40 years old.

On a cold December morning in 1982, with six inches of new overnight snow on the ground, an idea for a board game was born. That game became Gallop. And for a guy with no known talents this was exciting stuff. It raised Chris's spirits and was the lifeline to recovery when Kadon published Gallop in 1991 as inlaid acrylic, and later sd the beautiful wood sets handcrafted by Chris himself.

In time they left the mountains behind for the central coast of California, where Chris found work at a local bank. Then, within only a few years, once again depression struck. But this time good things were about to happen. With the newly discovered medications, in just a couple of months Chris was back on the job. Shortly thereafter came another board game idea, which would become Transpose, published by Kadon in 1996. Both games also won a place on Games Magazine's list of the 100 best games, with Transpose in first place in the strategy games category.

And a few years later inspiration struck again, and Chris's wonderful Reveal and Hmm... game ideas were published by Kadon in 2006.

All these games are continuing to be produced and published by Kadon Enterprises, Inc. Chris happily promoted the gamepuzzles website with a sign on his car and sent us this picture to prove it.

No longer was there a fear of his illness returning. The future looked bright, and making the wooden game sets gave passion to his life. Here is a touching vignette about his successful recovery that added happiness to his remaining years of life.

In his leisure time Chris enjoyed California living, the beaches and the sea. When he wasn't working at the bank or practicing his fine woodworking on the Transpose and Gallop gameboards and Reveal checkers, Chris liked to read mystery novels and anything to do with European paleolithic art. Time at the local beach was also high on his list, along with attempts at body surfing in summer months when water temperatures permitted. And, quite naturally, seeking knowledge of the earliest known games was a primary interest.

Chris found beaches peaceful, "a good place to contemplate." We wondered what neat new game ideas would come out of his contemplations next from his overcrowded but very tidy workroom. Chris' attention to detail, accuracy and uncompromising quality will remain an inspiration to all of us at Kadon.

Incognito:   The arch-reserved and extremely proper British gentleman, Christopher Clark, in a reckless Halloween 2001 moment as a wild biker, complete with temporary mustache and tattoo.

Below, at Halloween 2002 office party as Rocky!

Chris hung out in California and refused to travel, so never visited Kadon headquarters. In fact, we had never laid eyes on him in an entire quarter century, until we finally crossed the continent ourselves to meet him in his lair in 2018.

Postscript: Christopher Clark's passing in November 2021 had one poignant aspect. He had kept in touch through the years since 1975 with that very special gal he had found, then lost. Though Diane lived in Indiana, when Chris became ill she drove to California to be with him and to attend to his legal needs, and they had wonderful and happy times together, albeit in the hospital. Diane wrote, "I cannot adequately express the amount of joy we experienced together the last four weeks of his life. I was truly blessed to be with him and to give and receive unconditional love at its finest!! It was an experience like no other!"

Chris was an amazing and wonderful human being, and his last moments were with that special person who had meant the most to him in all those decades. Here are a couple of touching photos Diane sent us, from first to last, 1975 and 2021.

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