Vancouver teen gets medal for lifesaving actions

He used his lifeguard experience to rescue boy from drowning in 2012

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter



Clark County recipients of the Carnegie Hero Medal

2003: Brett Michael Schott, Vancouver, aided a wounded California police officer.

1991: Jon K. Thomas, Vancouver, rescued two boys from a burning apartment building in Vancouver.

1987: John R. Boyes Jr., Vancouver, saved a woman from drowning in Ocean Park.

1984: Rose M. Griffith, Vancouver, drowned during an attempt to save a friend from drowning in Gladstone, Ore.

1984: Michael R. Howell, Vancouver, saved a woman from drowning in Spokane.

1966: Donald Elmer Morse, Vancouver, saved a boy from drowning in Tillamook, Ore.

1965: Andre J. Ledbetter, Vancouver, rescued a man from a burning home in Vancouver.

1961: Milton W. Odell, Washougal, saved a boy from drowning in Winton.

1956: Bert C. Bagley, Vancouver, drowned while attempting to save a girl from drowning in Long Beach.

1940: Harry D. Jabusch,

La Center, saved a girl from drowning in Manhattan Beach, Ore.

1933: Arthur A. Hilberg, Vancouver, drowned while attempting to save a man from drowning in Battle Ground.

1930: George H. Eversaul, Ridgefield, saved a boy from drowning in Deer Island, Ore.

1925: James G. White, Vancouver, saved a telephone installer from electric shock in Vancouver.

People from outside Clark County who received the medal for local rescues

2003: Johnathan H. Bolender, Silver Creek, prevented a Vancouver restaurant manager from being assaulted with a knife.

1942: Michael J. Oris, New York, N.Y., saved two men from a burning dormitory building in Vancouver.

Most people get bills, letters and magazines mailed to them. John Cody Clark is getting a medal in the mail.

The 18-year-old Hudson's Bay High School graduate was one of 22 people honored by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. On Wednesday, he opened a letter from the commission thanking him for rescuing a boy from drowning in Rockaway Beach, Ore., in summer 2012.

"They spelled my name wrong," he said with a laugh as he read the letter. "That's all right, I suppose."

The medal is to arrive soon.

He was surprised to win the national award, reserved for people who risk their lives to save others.

On July 1, 2012, Clark was flying kites on Rockaway Beach, Ore., with his girlfriend and nephew, when he heard a boy screaming for help. Someone on shore pointed toward the boy, 12-year-old Robert, who was bobbing in the waves 50 to 100 yards from shore.

Clark threw off his shirt and swam out to him — putting his lifeguard training into practice. Robert was too tired to swim, so Clark held onto him to keep him afloat. The waves pushed them out farther, past the breakers and into the swells.

They treaded water together for about 15 minutes. Before each wave would come crashing over them, Clark would tell Robert to get ready to hold his breath. Rescue crews went out to the pair on a Jet Ski, and Clark and Robert held on and were pulled to shore.

Although Clark was originally charged $2,600 for riding in the ambulance with Robert to Tillamook General Hospital, the bill was eventually dismissed.

After the rescue, people set up an educational trust fund to help pay for Clark's higher education. This summer, Clark did construction work, and now he is an independent contractor. He looks to attend a trade school and get certified in welding. When he reaches age 25, any unused funds will go to the Scholarship Fund of Clark College.

Clark is the youngest in a family of nine children and the youngest local resident to receive the award, according to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

The teen has since returned to Rockaway Beach, with its seven miles of shoreline. But he visits with a newfound respect for Mother Nature and stays out of the water.

"I don't think a lot of people recognize the power of the world we live in," Clark said.

More than a year later, the rescue still replays in his head often. It was scary when it was happening, but he saved a life and learned a valuable lesson: "The biggest thing I've learned is just to value every day we have. Appreciate what you have."

You can help

Donations to the John Cody Clark trust fund can be made at Chase Bank, 3205 N.E. 52nd St., or mailed to:

The John Cody Clark Education Trust, c/o O’Donnell Clark and Crew LLP, Fremont Place II, Suite 302, 1650 N.W. Naito Parkway, Portland, OR 97209.

Anyone with questions can contact Chase Bank trustee Jennifer Englebart at 360-750-3040.