'Russ' always left you with a smile - Community mourns funny-man Russ Clever
Russ and wife Dody performed musical comedy together in many venues. Above is a scene from the 2013 Greencastle-Antrim Old Home Week pageant. At left the pair were "Two Nuts and a Bolt".
Sorrow swept through Greencastle over the weekend, as residents learned of the death of Russ Clever, an icon in the community. Clever was known for his good humor, and his public appearances as a funny-man at many events.
Clever's wit was apparent in his daily life and whenever he was on stage. He put it to good use as director and premier end man for the Rescue Hose Company Hobo Minstrel Show, as co-chair of the unofficial opening of the triennial Old Home Week, and on the road with his comedy act "Two Nuts and a Bolt".
Some of his closest friends recalled their days alongside Clever.
Frank Mowen and Lee Shank started Two Nuts with Clever in the 1970s.
"We performed at the midnight Old Home Week sing-along and people seemed to like it," said Mowen. "Then we went into nursing homes. We had a good time with that."
The group lately was comprised of Clever's wife Dody and pianist Trevor Timmons, with others available as backup. They performed at banquets, conventions, club meetings, parties and churches.
Mowen said Clever was a natural successor to Wally McDonald as premier end man at the annual minstrel show. "He did a terrific job."
The duty was shared with Ben Thomas Jr., who felt honored to serve at the other end.
"Russ was a fantastic entertainer. He loved to get people to laugh. He will be sadly missed with all his talent."
He added the Clever could make people in Greencastle and the tri-state area smile just by being Russ Clever.
Greg Hoover was in the minstrel show with Clever for over 40 years.
"I hope people remember Russ as an entertainer. He put smiles on people's faces. He loved to do that."
The two crossed paths in many other ways, dating back to Hoover's childhood.
"When he was the American Legion baseball manager, I was his bat boy."
They also took leadership roles in Old Home Week activities. This past summer Hoover stopped by to watch pageant rehearsal. Clever called him over, and asked him to be a pallbearer when the time came.
As Clever worded it, "I've been carrying you all these years in the minstrel show. You can at least carry me one time."
Hoover, Mowen and Thomas are among the pallbearers at the Wednesday afternoon funeral.
They remembered good times through the years.
Clever was well-known in the area, and his legacy will be the laughter he generated.
"It seemed like everywhere he went, somebody would holler at him," Mowen said. "And at the local establishments, someone would always call out, 'Watch your beer, Russ is here.'"
His friend always made Mowen's mood better, and he expected Clever to be missed by the community.
Hoover knew that Clever was always Clever.
"What you saw in life was just personified on stage."
Thomas knew the serious side too, as the pals discussed Clever's military days and other topics during quiet times. Annual Greencastle traditions will have to continue without his input, but Thomas took comfort from the final scene at every minstrel show.
"We always ended with 'til we meet again'. That puts a smile on my face."