By WES FERGUSON
Sunday, June 07, 2009
The search for a brother he never knew brought a North Texas man to AlleyFest this weekend. As he watched a local band warm up on an AlleyFest stage on Saturday, Michael Clark, 43, said he had come to town after hunting for his father and half-brother for 12 years. It's been a quest of twists, turns and dead-ends, he said. "The last time my father saw me I was 18 months old," Clark said. His dad, Ray Pendleton, left his young family for a job in West Texas and never returned, Clark explained. "My mom thought we had been left, so she went on with her life," he said. "It was the mid-'60s, and neither of them were probably living the life they should have been. She changed her name and married another guy. It was just like she wanted to forget the whole situation." His mother switched her name from Laurie to Sammie, for reasons that are still unclear to Clark, and Clark took the surname of his stepfather. The marriage did not last. When Clark was still a boy, the stepfather told Clark's mother that he didn't wish to see him anymore. "That's when she broke down and told me he was not my real dad," he said. Twelve years ago, Clark began his search. His birth certificate showed that his name had been Michael Ray Pendleton, and his father's name was Ray Pendleton. He asked his mother for details, and she told him his father had family in Odessa. He spent a day calling every Pendleton in the Odessa phone book, finally reaching his father's stepmother. She told him he had a brother — Donnie Pendleton. She died soon after the conversation, so presumably she did not share the information with Clark's other family members. Clark continued his search. He pored over Internet sites such as MySpace and Facebook and in phone number databases, finally finding a record of his lost family members, including his nieces and nephews, on ancestry.com. It said Donnie Pendleton was living in Longview. A phone number listing had been disconnected, but Clark found Donnie Pendleton's 18-year-old daughter, Cara, on MySpace and sent her a message. "She replied, and (Donnie) called that night," Clark said. Three days later, in April, Clark's father flew him to Nebraska, where he works as a welder for an oil-field company. "We talked for about four days nonstop. There wasn't any negative," he said. "The only negative was when he talked about how hot my mom was, and I was like, 'That's kind of uncomfortable, sir.' "At first I wondered why didn't he try to find me. But he was searching for Michael Pendleton" — not Michael Clark. This weekend, Clark, his wife Shelly and their three sons drove to Longview to meet Donnie Pendleton and his family for the first time. Donnie is a guitarist for the Alan Fox Band, a local group that opened for Foghat on Saturday at AlleyFest.
Clark is also a lead guitarist in a Wichita Falls band, called Miyagi, and the similarities don't end there. Both have musical styles heavily influenced by '80s rock, and they claim to have very similar world views. Donnie Pendleton, who is four years older than Clark, said he learned from his grandmother that he had a half-brother. "I didn't know where he was and there was no way to find out, but I tell you what — this is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me," he said. "And there's been a lot of cool things happen to me in my life." He said the relationship between his mother and father also didn't work out. "I grew up with a lot of stepparents, and I didn't get to know him till I was 10," he said. "He had to be gone to make a living, like a lot of people did. I guess it wasn't the best for relationships." Clark said many questions remain, some that he'll likely never answer. His mother died from cancer three years ago. More happily, his brother informed him they share a grandmother who lives in Fort Worth, along with aunts, uncles and other relatives in Texas. "It's amazing," Clark said. "I've got a whole 'nother family that has opened their arms to me, and it's filled a void that's been in my life for a long time. "Getting here was really rough and kind of sad, but everything happened the way it was supposed to happen."