Hartford Man Turns 102, Reflects on Witnessing More Than a Century of History

Euyald Clarke came to the U.S. from Jamaica when he was 21 years old and says he worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. as a young man.

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A Hartford man has witnessed more than a century of history, and there will be a party to celebrate it.

Euyald Clarke turns 102 years old on Friday. Clarke has tap danced through many years, and if you ask him the key to a full life, he will be happy to tell you through song.

“It is no secret what God can do. What he’s done for others, He’ll do it for you,” Clarke sang.

Clarke’s birthday is Feb. 24, and he will have a big party on Sunday to celebrate with his wife, two sons, five grandchildren and seven great grandkids.

“He is the most joyful member of this family,” Victoria O’Connor, Clarke’s granddaughter said. “I grew up with him. I didn't just visit him on Sundays. I've seen my grandfather every day because we lived in the same house. And so his relationship is very important to me.”

She has a lifetime of memories with Clarke, and wants him to share his experiences with her.

“Ever since he turned 90 especially, I wanted to make sure that I just sit and talk with him, and just enjoy time with him,” O’Connor said.

One treasured memory: when he walked her down the aisle.

“He was 98 at the wedding,” O’Connor said. “He was able to walk me down the aisle with my dad. And it was it was really a dream come true.”

Just one special moment in a momentous life.

Clarke was born in Jamaica in 1921, one of 16 children. He travelled to the United States when he was 21 on a Naval vessel transporting 4,200 Jamaicans to the U.S. to help fill the labor void during World War II.

“Roosevelt was the President here,” Clarke said.

After landing in New Orleans, Louisiana and moving around the country, he made his way to Connecticut.

Clark worked on the Cullman Brothers Tobacco farm on the Granby-Simsbury line. He says he befriended Martin Luther King Jr., who also worked there as a teenager during summers.

“Martin Luther King, every year they came up from Georgia,” Clarke said. “So I met him there, and all the boys from Morehouse College. It was beautiful. I loved it.”

Clarke recalls witnessing segregation, and then the Civil Rights Movement.

He was one of the first Jamaicans to settle in Hartford, paving the way for the city’s West Indian community. Clarke is also a passionate traveler.

“Alaska, Bermuda. Athens, Greece, Turkey, Jerusalem,” he said, listing off the places he has visited.

Yet the best thing he ever did? Clarke says it is 60 years of marriage to his wife Eloise.

“That's the most beautiful thing I have ever had,” Clarke said. “She was so beautiful. Beautiful. Break my heart.”

Surrounded by family, he is ready to celebrate Sunday.

“Eat my cake!” he said.

And not just then. Clarke is already looking ahead.

“To see that I live to see 103-years-old,” Clarke said. “That’s God’s blessing.”

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