Farewell to Don Clare


A man passes from this life to the next and in doing so often leaves an empty space, so it is with Donald E. Clare: historian, preservationist, musician, writer, and Friends of Big Bone Member. His untimely death on October 23rd leaves a void in Boone County that few if any will fill. A zealous individual, Don worked at making things happen in his Boone County community. Big Bone Lick State Historic Site and Friends of Big Bone emerged as two of his passions.

To Don, promoting the historic and prehistoric significance of Big Bone was a priority, so in early 2000 he developed a proposal that if everyone in Boone Co. donated just one dollar to FOBB, the money collected could be used to improve the notoriety of the park and educate the public regarding Big Bone Lick: the birthplace of vertebrate paleontology. Now to some, this might have sounded like a hair-brained scheme, but not to Don. At the park’s Salt Fest that year, he proudly sat at a table with his cigar box open and a sign that read Friends (with the s crossed out) of Big Bone and a request for donations. If no one else was going to do the job, this guy certainly was going to try. My husband and I were amused, but we made a donation, and eventually became drawn into the historical background of Big Bone. Like Don, we too developed a passion for the place as did other members who worked diligently to promote the park’s significance.

Seventeen years have passed since, and over that time money has been donated, collected, and granted to FOBB resulting in some changes. In 2013 the park’s designation went from a recreational park to an historic site, and up-dated signage on the main trail complete with accurate information was installed that told the story about the history and pre-history of the place.

Later FOBB tackled the revitalization of the Visitor’s Center from 2015 to 2017. The Exhibit Team from the Cincinnati Museum Center focused on three phases resulting in the completion of nine thematic cases, the Bison Antiquus diorama, and the skeletal reconstruction of a Harlan Ground Sloth that delivered a more complete picture of Big Bone.  Don was present at all those soul-satisfying moments when money collected made a difference in the promotion of the park’s significance at a local, national, and world level.

Because Don Clare’s zeal and knowledge spread to others over time, Big Bone Lick State Historic Site’s status has grown. FOBB members continue to take up the cause he diligently supported for years. Though his presence will be truly missed, the results of his passion remain.

Patty Fox
Friends of Big Bone President

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