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A Lesson In Happiness

A dart throw this time sent Correspondent Steve Hartman to Sussex County, Va. And shortly after his finger found this week's story in that area's phonebook, he heard the understatement of the day over the phone from a woman named LuAnn Clark.
"I have a very interesting family," Clark said, with a laugh. And the next day she was at the hospital where her father Bill had just been diagnosed with a blood clot on his lung.

Bill Clark, on a heparin-drip, played bluegrass on a six-string guitar for his wife Virginia and their daughter LuAnn.

"I like seeing people enjoy life, because I enjoy life. I do," says LuAnn Clark. The 45-year-old unmarried financial assistant has a long-standing reputation.

Since seventh grade she has been trying hard to make people happy. "Back then my nickname was Mamalu," she reveals.

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"She mothered everybody; she always did," her mother adds.

And clearly she still does. She is the kind of woman who will volunteer to bake a cake for her co-worker's husband's retirement party, even though she never met the guy.

She even will stop an interview because she's decided that a reporter needs a sandwich.

Her mothering is literally inescapable.

This is the LuAnn Clark friends and family have grown to know and love, and yet what almost no one knows is the reason she is that way.

"On the inside, it's very complex," she says.

Back in school "Mamalu" was actually the nicest name they called her. LuAnn Clark had a serious weight problem. Doing all these things for other people became her way, her only way, of being accepted, she says.

"They wouldn't have had diddle-squat to do with me. Most people don't realize that. But I do," she says.

That realization tortured her, she adds.

"I went through a very major stomach bypass operation" 15 years ago, says LuAnn Clark. "I went from a whopping 310 pounds down to 175."

Today, although she has put some weight back on, she is a ton happier, but not because of the surgery. That was never going to fix anything, she says.

"I did that for the wrong reason," LuAnn Clark reveals. Things only got better when she realized that fat or thin, she was who she was, she says. "I love that person that I am now. I love doing for other people."

And so that's why LuAn Clark has no plans to stop her doting over friends, family and any stranger who happens by.

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