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From grief, comes cookies for Pfc. Clark's funeral

This is an undated military photo of Army Pfc. Ryane Clark, 22, of New London, Minn., released by his family. Clark was killed while on duty on Oct. 4, 2010, near Shekhabad, Afghanistan.1 / 2
Sue Anderson, from left, Becky West and Ruby Johnson, members of the American Legion Auxiliary for unit 537, bake cookies Tuesday at Peace Lutheran Church in New London, where lunch will be served Sunday following the 2 p.m. funeral for Army Pfc. Ryane Clark. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange2 / 2

NEW LONDON -- Hundreds of chocolate chip cookies, a childhood favorite of U.S. Army Pfc. Ryane Clark, are being baked by church and community volunteers all around the New London area this week.

By Tuesday, at least 2,500 cookies had been promised by a large network of community residents who grieve the fact that the cookies need to be made, but are eager to be able to do something to show their respect for Clark and support for his family.

Clark, 22, of New London, was killed recently in Afghanistan while on duty near Shekhabad, south of the capital Kabul.

His funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at New London-Spicer High School.

The cookies will be served as part of a lunch across the street at Peace Lutheran Church following the funeral.

At the request of Clark's family, including his parents, Rick and Tracy, the typical cake served after funerals is being bypassed and replaced with the soldier's favorite treat -- chocolate chip cookies.

The need for chocolate chip cookies was relayed at Sunday church services and by word-of-mouth to community and school organizations, according to Becky West, president of the American Legion Auxiliary for unit 537 of New London, which is coordinating the lunch with the help of numerous individuals and organizations.

By the first day, commitments had been made for 1,500 cookies and the phone is continuing to ring and the list of donors and the dozens of cookies they're bringing is growing, West said.

"Everybody wants to help," West said, adding that a local coffee shop, Latte Da Espresso, is donating the coffee for lunch. "People have come together without denominational boundaries. We're really gathering just as a community."

West said the Clark family has "touched so many" people in the community and the community wants to respond. Baking and bringing cookies for people to share in fellowship after the funeral can be part of a community healing, she said.

"There's that symbolism of breaking bread together," West said. "So many people have come together to show their care and concern for the family and their love for Ryane."

By Tuesday afternoon West said she'd stopped counting how many more cookies had been promised, but said everyone's contribution is valued and cookies will not be turned away.

Any cookies that remain following the funeral will also have an honorable service. Some will shipped to soldiers that are deployed, possibly to soldiers from Clark's unit. The rest will be given to veterans at the VA hospital in St. Cloud, said West.

"I was concerned if we'd be able to meet 1,000 cookies," said West. "When it's done, we may have 3,000 cookies. Wouldn't that be a great gift. It would be Ryane's gift to the veterans and soldiers."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750