IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Centenarian couple recall 'Dutch' Reagan, Johnny Carson

From John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, WashingtonWill Clark got to know Ronald Reagan in the 1930s when they rode horses together each Sunday for the Army Cavalry Reserve at Fort Des Moines in Iowa."We were good friends, but he was a very poor horseman," Will, 104, said recently of our 40th president.Will was a dentist in Des Moines at the time, and "Dutch" Reagan was a popular radio personalit

From John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington

Will Clark got to know Ronald Reagan in the 1930s when they rode horses together each Sunday for the Army Cavalry Reserve at Fort Des Moines in Iowa.

"We were good friends, but he was a very poor horseman," Will, 104, said recently of our 40th president.

Will was a dentist in Des Moines at the time, and "Dutch" Reagan was a popular radio personality on WHO.

"He was a gay young blade around town," Will remembers. "He had a convertible  car, and he was a very attractive man, always a friendly sort of fellow."

Will's wife Lois, 101, also has fond memories of Reagan.

"We'd have breakfast on a Sunday morning, early, early, and he was always there, at Fort Des Moines, entertaining us all," she said. "I remember one morning he had some food and he happened to stumble just a bit and dropped it down my back."

Will said Reagan had a flair for the dramatic, even then.

"We loved the guy, but he was always 'on,'" Will told the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 2001. "He was always the actor type, and he got a little boring at times with it. He was always talking, you know, on and on and on. He never stopped."

When Reagan left Des Moines for Hollywood in 1936, his friends threw a farewell dinner for him at the Des Moines Cavalry Club.

"I always remember something he said at the dinner," Will told me. "He'd played football in college, and the coach told him one time, 'Twenty-five years from now you will not remember another student in this school, but you'll always remember everybody on this team.' And Reagan said, 'That's the way I feel about you guys.'"

Years later, in 1975, Will saw Reagan at the Republican Club in Tucson, Ariz.

"He was nice and friendly, you know, but he didn't have a clue who I was," Will said.

Besides knowing Reagan, Lois Clark can boast of bouncing Johnny Carson on her knee. That was back in 1926 in Corning, Iowa, Lois's hometown. She was about 18 years old and the future "Tonight Show" host was just a baby.

"He was a good baby," Lois said. "His mother used to bring him down to the electric plant office where his father was my manager. I really enjoyed seeing him. He was very likable."

Carson's family moved to Norfolk, Nebr., soon afterward, and Lois never saw him again.

Carson died in 2005 at the age of 79. Reagan died in 2004 at age 93. Will and Lois, with 205 cumulative years between them, just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in Tucson.

AP photo of Ronald Reagan, circa 1932, in Des Moines. Family photos of Will Clark in Army Cavalry Reserve, circa 1936 and Lois Clark at age 19, in 1926. 

Will and Lois were among the centenarians featured by Willard Scott on NBC's TODAY show. If you know of any centenarians who've had a brush with history over the past century, please tell us a little bit about them in the comments section below and be sure to fill in your return e-mail address so we can get back to you for more details.