Scholarship named after 4-year-old killed by dog; no criminal charges expected  

By David Gambino 

For the Enquirer  

A college scholarship named after Beau Clark, the Hartselle boy killed by a neighbor’s dog Monday evening, will be awarded each year to a Hartselle High School senior, family friends announced Thursday. 

Also on Thursday, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney Scott Anderson said no criminal charges related to the attack are expected. 

Mary Springer, one of the organizers of the Beau Thomas Clark Memorial Scholarship fund, said friends of the Clark family wanted to help beyond the immediate need of food and flowers. 

“We wanted to do something that was going to be a legacy for him,” she said. “We wanted for him to be remembered in the future in a happy way.” 

The scholarship money will go to at least one Hartselle senior each year, according to Springer, with the possibility of more awards, depending on the size of donations. Other qualifications for the award are unknown; Springer said the Clark family will determine the criteria. 

Beau’s mother, Hailey Clark, teaches English at the high school. 

Interested contributors can donate to the scholarship fund at any Bank Independent branch. Later, Springer said donations will also be accepted via Venmo and Paypal. 

“I’m hoping that we get some support for it because Beau was a precious child,” said RaJane Johnson, who also helped organize the scholarship. 

“His laughter was infectious,” said Johnson, a long-time friend of Beau’s paternal grandmother, Erlene Clark. “He just did everything quick: walked quick, talked quick. I think that’s from having older brothers that he strived to keep up with. He was as old as they were, in his mind.” 

Erlene Clark echoed the sentiment. She said Beau always felt like he was as big as his two older brothers, ages 8 and 11. A couple of years ago, she said Santa Claus brought Beau’s siblings two minibikes, or small motorcycles. 

“Santa Claus’ helper, which is my husband, looked at me and said: ‘Who do you think is going to be the first person at the ER?’ You know, with a little broken arm or something like that. 

“And we’re like: ‘It will be Beau.’” 

Come Christmas morning, as the kids swarmed the presents under the tree, Beau went for the minibike. 

“He’s sitting there with a pacifier, and he goes up to that minibike and he’s trying to pull the handle, like: ‘I know how this thing works, I can figure it out.’” 

He was precocious in other ways, too. At his brother’s baseball games, Beau became a real ladies’ man. 

“At the ballpark — and he loved blondes; his mama and I are brunettes, so it’s kind of offensive — he’d always pick some mother on the team and that was his companion,” Clark said. “He wouldn’t sit with the family. He had to go find him some other mama.” 

Erlene Clark lost her father last October. She said the family has had to navigate several deaths in the last year. At her father’s funeral, Beau was a junior pallbearer. 

“Beau got a suit, and he was so proud of that suit and bow tie,” she said. “He got to walk with his daddy as a pallbearer, even though he didn’t fully comprehend it. He was part of it.” 

Erlene Clark said her father, Earl Jacobs, was a character. Beau reminded Jacobs of himself as a child. Jacobs’ brother told Erlene Clark he was glad Jacobs didn’t live to see Beau’s death. 

“It would have just killed him,” Clark said. 

 

T-ball 

Beau was preparing for his first T-ball practice on Monday evening. His father, Kevin Clark, was going to be the team’s coach. Beau didn’t call it T-ball, according to his grandma, because T-ball is for babies. He called it baseball. 

“He was so excited because he was finally getting his turn at ball,” Erlene Clark said. “Kevin played high school baseball at Hartselle. Baseball was always a part of our life.” 

At the time of the attack, the neighbors’ dog, identified by MCSO as an Olde English Bulldog, was secured on its own property. The animal had no history of violent or aggressive behavior, the MCSO said. 

The neighbors are friends with the Clark family, according to MCSO, and Beau was familiar with their dog and had been around it many times before. 

On Feb. 26, Beau was riding his bike and “for unknown reasons entered the yard he had been in numerous times,” MCSO said. 

Anderson on Thursday said no one foresaw the attack coming. 

“Given the totality of the circumstances that include, but aren’t necessarily limited to, the desires of the family, the friendship that the two families share and the fact that everyone was surprised by the actions of the dog with regards to this unexpected attack, it does not appear, at this time, that criminal charges are warranted,” he said. 

Sheriff Ron Puckett asked for prayers for the first responders who “carry the weight of this tragedy with them.” All who responded to the attack have had or will receive mandatory counseling. 

“This is an incredible tragedy in the truest sense of the word,” Puckett said. “We continue to pray for both families and will continue to do so in the days to come. I am grateful for our deputies and the actions they took that night alongside our EMS, volunteer fire departments and dispatch partners.” 

According to Beau’s obituary shared by Peck Funeral Home, his funeral service was held this past Friday at 11 a.m. at Danville Baptist Church. 

MCSO on Thursday shared a Facebook post from Hailey Clark wherein she expressed her faith in God and gratitude for community support. 

“He was his daddy’s shadow and couldn’t wait to get on Flint Creek this spring in his daddy’s canoe and have his daddy as his baseball coach,” she wrote. “He’s changed me. He’s changed us. He’s taught me patience. He’s taught me to let go of things that really just don’t matter. Who knew you could learn so much from such a small child?” 

Beau was a preschool student in the ECLIPSE Program at Crestline Elementary School. The innovative program brings children with and without disabilities together in one classroom, as research shows children with disabilities learn more quickly when they can observe social interactions of same-age peers. 

Every nine weeks at the school, teachers nominate a “student of the quarter” who best exhibits the characteristics of a quarter’s theme. The theme this past quarter was “cooperation.” Beau won. 

He didn’t know it. He was scheduled to receive the award next week. His parents would have attended the assembly to watch Beau climb the stage and receive a certificate. 

“We’ve had grief counselors on campus every day,” said Crestline Principal Karissa Lang. “We’ve had a lot of parents say, listen, we just don’t know what to do. So, we sent some resources home to parents on how to talk to your child about death.” 

Lang said she and many of her colleagues know Hailey Clark, since she too works in the Hartselle school system. She said their “sweet little town” has rallied to show the Clark family love and support. 

“We all know each other so well that I think that’s why it’s been so hard,” she said. “When we see a need, everybody steps up. That’s what I think is wonderful.” 

Recently, Beau’s teacher took a picture of him helping a blind classmate put her shoes on and sent the picture to Beau’s mother. When he got home, Hailey Clark asked him why he did that. 

“Because she couldn’t do it herself,” Beau replied. 

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