Barney B. Clark, the 62-year-old retired dentist and golfer who became a center of world attention, was buried near his suburban home today, described by a Mormon church leader as "a genuine American hero" who lived for the last 112 days of his life with an artificial heart.
The plastic and aluminum device, the first ever permanently implanted in a human being, was removed after Clark's death Wednesday and remains at the University of Utah medical center for study. The 1,500 people at Clark's funeral today celebrated its recipient.
Dr. Willem Kolff, the Dutch-born inventor of the artificial kidney who led the effort to develop an artificial heart, said that 50,000 Americans a year would one day be saved by artificial hearts.
"The days and weeks and years gained are a precious gift, which they will owe to Barney Clark and Una Loy," his widow, Kolff said in a service broadcast on national cable television.
Gathered at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake (district) center in suburban Federal Way, south of Seattle, were Clark's widow, his children, Gary, Stephen and Karen, grandchildren, relatives, friends, 11 members of the Salt Lake City medical team that performed the heart operation and worked with Clark afterward and several leaders of the Mormon church.
The newly nominated director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, William D. Ruckelshaus, a senior executive of the Weyerhaeuser Corp. nearby, represented President Reagan and his wife.
In developing an artificial heart, said Kolff, "It is not so much life that we want to prolong but happiness that we want to create . . . . We had hoped that we could give Dr. Barney Clark a higher quality of life. That would be reserved for his successors."
Although the artificial heart performed almost flawlessly, with only one quickly corrected breakdown, kidney and lung disease and colon infection weakened Clark's body. Crises and hopeful periods alternated after the Dec. 2 operation to replace his impaired heart, until Clark died of circulatory collapse accompanied by the failure of major organs.
Doctors said they planned to implant the device in more patients soon.
Clark's body, in a closed brown wooden coffin covered with flowers, was wheeled into the stake center sanctuary. The hour-long funeral service included hymns sung by Lela Wade, a family neighbor, and Robert McGrath, who often has sung the national anthem at University of Washington basketball and football games, favorite Clark sports superceded only by his devotion to golf.
Clark's friend and dental partner, Theodore Lund, and several Mormon church leaders spoke at the funeral, including elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles--one of the two chief governing bodies of the church.
Several dozen cars later followed the hearse to the Washington Memorial Park, near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Clark was buried during a brief ceremony.
"I took the bus down here from Seattle, 15 cents to come," said Nellie S. Chase, 79, a retired housekeeper who said Clark once pulled two of her teeth. "I told him I didn't have much money, but he said, 'That's all right. Don't worry about it. Just pay what you can.' "
One speaker quoted Una Loy Clark as saying that her husband "never professed to be anything but what he was, an honest, warm and loving guy."
At the funeral, Maxwell said, "The happy portions of human history are so often created by seemingly ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things to benefit others."