I walk Martha in West Cemetery nearly every day, all year round, rain or shine. I frequently see people wandering around as though they are looking for a particular gravesite. Most of the time, they are trying to find Emily Dickinson’s grave, so I point them in that direction and off they go. It’s fairly easy to identify these folks, because they usually arrive in a late model sedan with Connecticut license plates – a rental car, for sure.
One recent mid-day, Martha and I spotted such a vehicle, parked near the Town Tomb. Three well-dressed Asian men got out, and looked around as though seeking – a particular gravesite. I approached and asked them if they were looking for Emily. To my surprise, they said no. They were looking for someone named “Clark.”
They explained that they were from Hokkaido University, and they were looking for the grave of William S. Clark. Clark, the third president of Massachusetts Agricultural College, had later been hired by the Japanese government as a foreign advisor to establish the Sapporo Agricultural College (SAC), now Hokkaido University. Although he was only there for eight months, Clark made a huge impression on the Japanese, and there is a large statute of him on the campus of Hokkaido University. He was buried in West Cemetery.
I remembered that the Town of Amherst has an online map and directory of West Cemetery, so I looked it up on my phone and soon enough we were standing before a large, white marble stone which bore the name of William S,. Clark.
Somewhere in Hokkaido, Japan, there is a photograph of three well-dressed Japanese professors, standing with me and Martha next to William Clark’s grave.