Driver, 97: Age no role in McDonald’s crash

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Orren G. Clark is 97, and says he’s often mistaken for being in his 60s. His driving record is clean.

He said he can explain why he backed his car into the side of a McDonald’s restaurant on 28th Street SE on Saturday.

“I put it in reverse, and I stepped on there (the gas pedal), and I didn’t pull my foot off because of being fatigued,” he told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday.

Clark said the crash, which left a gaping hole in the restaurant, had nothing to do with his age.

In fact, he said, once his car is fixed, he plans to return to the road.

He said he isn’t like some others his age.

“I don’t have wrinkles on my face,” he said.

He works out three times a week on his Total Gym in his bedroom and lifts weights that are scattered around his Kentwood apartment. His biceps are like timbers. He rides his bike, listens to American history lessons on CDs, and recites poetry.

“‘’Twas a balmy summer evening and a goodly crowd was there which well-nigh filled Joe’s Barroom, on the corner of the square, and as the songs and witty stories came floating through the open door…” he said, quoting from “The Face on the Barroom Floor” by Hugh Antoine d’Arcy.

“I just like to keep my mind active,” he said.

Orren G. Clark
Orren G. Clark

Clark said he’s the fifth cousin of Teddy Roosevelt. He said he was a metallurgical scientist for General Motors Corp. in Cleveland, and then retired about 30 years ago.

He also divorced years ago, is a father of four, grandfather of three, lives alone and still pines for the woman he met while in the U.S. Army in Germany.

Her black-and-white photograph is on his dresser, along with one of her love letters, dated Dec. 16, 1947.

“I was engaged to her in World War II,” he said.

On Saturday morning, he ate two Egg McMuffins for breakfast at the Cascade McDonald’s, then climbed into his new Impala parked across the lot. He said he stepped on the gas as he backed up.

“I just backed right into, and I knocked a couple of windows out,” he said. “Boom, just like that.”

He said he was tired, not confused, because he had stayed up until after 1 a.m. watching a movie, then got up at 5 a.m.

“If I’d had more rest, I’d have been more alert, because I was really too tired,” hes said, “I mean, what, four or five hours of sleep? That’s all I had.”

Moments before the crash, he had been in the restaurant, talking to a young family with two children sitting at a table next to the window he hit. They left the restaurant before he did, he said.

That table ended up under his car.

“I’d have been devastated if I had injured someone,” he said.

He said nobody — not the police, not his son — have suggested taking his license away.

Clark said his current driver’s license is good until he turns 100 in October 2016. He plans to renew it then.

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