On April 8, 1983, a 16-pound, 6-ounce baby boy was born in Toms River, New Jersey.
The giant bundle of joy, Kevin Robert Clark, sparked a media frenzy and was thought to be the biggest newborn ever delivered in the state at the time.
Now 35 years old, Clark weighs 300 pounds, is 6 feet, 9 inches tall and has some advice for the latest headline-grabbing big baby, Harper Buckley, who was born last week in Elmira, New York, and who tipped the scales at 15 pounds, 5 ounces.
“Be prepared because at social gatherings, and at almost every family reunion, people are going to want to talk about it,” said Clark, who now lives near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and works in biomedical engineering. “Nobody is going to believe that it’s true— that your mom could [survive] that.”
When Harper was born last week, it took three doctors, a medical “vacuum” and a C-section to deliver her upstate, her exhausted mom, Joy Buckley, of Corning, said.
If, like him, Harper grows up to be “heads and shoulders” above her peers, it won’t always be easy, Clark said. “She’s probably going to be embarrassed at some point. It’s part of the territory,” he said. “I’d tell her: Just be yourself and have a sense of humor.”
Not long after Clark was born, “Saturday Night Live” spoofed his size, he said.
The show poked fun of his weight in its Weekend Update segment, with a joke about Jimmy Hoffa, a union leader who had vanished several years before.
“Their headline was, ‘We found where Jimmy Hoffa has been hiding!’ They were saying it was me — and I’d been hiding inside my mom,” Clark said.
The whole country was tuning into the story.
On April 13, 1983, the New York Times ran an article, saying the massive infant couldn’t “fit in a bassinet or his baby clothes.” It quoted his mom, Patricia Clark, who called her new son “a real bruiser.”
“Everyone talked about it,” Clark said. “It was covered by ‘Good Morning America.’ One of my favorites was when the National Enquirer did a story on it.”
The tabloid had a headline screaming: “I couldn’t even lift my big beauty — but I love all 16 1/3 pounds.”
Honchos at the paper paid his parents about $2,500 to run a campy, first-person-style tale. It quoted Patricia Clark saying, “Before I nursed him the first time, the doctor asked if he wouldn’t rather have meat and potatoes!”
“It was very much a big deal for my parents,” Clark said. “The money allowed us to to fly to California to see my grandparents and be there for their retirement.”
Clark’s family was soon flooded by letters from prominent people, he said.
“I got a letter from an NFL director saying, ‘Hey, we’re gonna offer you a job when you’re grown up because you’re so big. You can work for the Giants.’ I still have a teddy bear from the Giants,” Clark said. “I got a letter from the US Coast Guard offering me a paid visit to their college university [when I’m old enough.]”
By age 12, Clark — who moved out of New Jersey as a youngster because of his military family — was 5 foot, 7 inches tall.
He had sprouted to 6-foot-5 by his junior year of high school.
Along with being forced to retell the story of his scale-tipping birth, being big wasn’t always fun, he said.
He often had to bite his lip through lame jokes and comments about his height. People always assumed he was in charge or was great at sports. Sky-high growth spurts were tricky when he was young.
“A challenge in high school and adult life was finding clothes and shoes that fit — I could never shop off the rack,” said Clark, whose dad is 6-foot-7 and whose mom is slightly taller than average. “As a teenager, I grew so quickly I always needed new clothes.”
He often got pigeonholed as a jock — though basketball wasn’t his thing.
“There was always an expectation that I would play basketball because I was so tall. I had a conversation with my high school health teacher, who was also a coach and he said, ‘If you want to pass health class, you’re gonna play basketball.’”
Clark added, “He said it in jest but there was truth to it. It was a small school and they needed me to play. But it was never my passion, and I wasn’t actually good at it.”
Clark was far more interested in the outdoors and spent his days hunting and fishing. “My parents were always really supportive and let me be who I am with no expectations.”
But baby Harper should have a heads up about some of these size-related stereotypes, he said.
“As girl, there might be different challenges for her — going to a school dance and being taller than the guy she’s with. Not being able to wear heels,” he said.
Despite pressure from coaches, Clark didn’t end up playing sports in college. Instead, he joined the Air Force and later became a military cop in Texas.
“There’s a natural tendency for people to think that because you’re tall, you’re in charge. I always say, ‘Everyone looks up to me,’” he said.
“I was a police officer for a while and everyone instantly would ask me questions, like I was in charge. I’d be in the same uniform as them, sometimes with less stripes,” he added. “Conversely, though, I was never able to hide in a crowd.”
Once out of the military, he got his MBA and married his wife, Jenna, who is 6 feet tall. The towering couple even bought a tall dog — an adorable great dane named Tex.
Ultimately, he still uses humor to cope with being different, he said.
“There isn’t a day that goes by when someone doesn’t ask me how tall I am. I like to joke that I’m 5-foot-21. When people ask if I play basketball, I ask them if they play miniature golf,” he said.
As for baby Harper? “There will probably be times when you don’t blend in,” he said. “Just go with it.”
Source: New York Post