A Lincolnton man whose brave fight against a deadly brain tumor inspired strangers to help throw him a ceremony to renew his wedding vows last year will be buried today.
Austin Elijah, “Eli” Clark, 26, died Thursday after years of battling brain tumors. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. at Lincolnton Baptist Church. Burial will follow in Westover Memorial Park in Augusta. Clark died at the home of his grandparents, Roy and Beth Stringfield, where he and wife, Cheryl, had been staying. He was surrounded by family at the end, said longtime family friend Michele Mongrue.
“He just went to sleep,” she said. “He was not in any pain whatsoever.”
Clark suffered a seizure in March 2010 and was diagnosed with a brain tumor that initially responded to radiation therapy and shrank. About a year and a half ago, however, he began feeling worse and scans showed the tumor was growing again. A biopsy confirmed it was glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive tumor that is difficult to treat. As his health got worse last fall, Eli and Cheryl talked about having a real wedding ceremony to renew their vows. They had been married in 2008 at the courthouse with just the judge and a woman from the clerk’s office as a witness. Mongrue’s appeal for help - the couple’s finances had been devastated by medical bills - brought out scores of strangers to help throw a grand backyard wedding in September and give Cheryl the wedding pictures she had always wanted.
Even as Eli continued chemotherapy every three weeks, and as his ability to talk and to walk came and went, “he did not slow down,” Mongrue said. An avid hunter and outdoorsman, when he couldn’t climb to the deer stand to go deer hunting, a neighbor built him a blind.
“He didn’t get a deer but he was so excited,” Mongrue said.
The family had a big trip to Cherokee, N.C., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., around the end of February and Mongrue and others surprised him by showing up to help him celebrate.
“He was grinning ear to ear the whole weekend,” she said.
Even when he could no longer talk, he still texted and joked around.
“He was adored by so many,” Mongrue said. “He was always, always doing something funny.”
Even in the last week Mongrue hoped it was just the side effects of his last treatment that were slowing him down.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” she said.
He is survived by his wife, Cheryl Gracey Clark; his father, Clayton T. “Clay” Clark; brothers Caleb and Seth Clark, all of Lincolnton; a sister: Allie Clark Driver of Appling; maternal grandparents
Roy and Beth Stringfield and paternal grandmother,: Sandra P. Clark, all of Lincolnton. He was preceded in death by his mother, Angelia Stringfield Clark, and his grandfather, Harold Clark.