ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Tania Ortega-Cowan is a photo-journalist who grew up in Indian River County and spent many summers all along Indian River Drive in Sebastian. She remembers Capt. Hiram’s early beginnings and witnessed its soulful evolution into the resort destination it is today. Tania says, “I have focused my entire career covering positive human-interest stories and community heroes, so when my friend and Capt. Hiram’s marketing director Kimball Stadler asked if I wanted to profile some of the Veterans from the Space Coast Honor Flight’s monthly luncheons held at Capt. Hiram’s, I jumped at the chance!”
Clarence “Korky” Korker was born in New Canaan, Connecticut and grew up on the Long Island Sound in Darien and Westport. He enlisted in the Navy when he was just 17 years old. I ask him why he joined.
“Well I didn’t like the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor for number one,” he says definitively. “I was always a patriotic guy anyway. I was a Boy Scout, and then a Sea Scout. I love the water ‘cause we lived on it most all our life, and so I joined the Navy.”
From his seat at the table, he has a picturesque view of our local water, the Indian River Lagoon.
“I said, boy I am gonna get a chance to get on a big ship, and what did they do? They put me in Brooklyn, New York for the whole war as a public relations photographer! And I never got on a ship and sailed any place!”
He roars with laughter.
Elyice Monahan, an Army nurse who served on the beaches of Normandy, who is sitting across the table from Korker, teases, “I thought you were going to say you were a recruiter because you are so damn good looking.”
He cracks up laughing again and says, “Thanks babe! She’s still got it – I’ll tell you that.”
We will hear from Elyice again in the next story, but for now, back to Korker…
“I joined just before 18th birthday,” he says. “About 80% of our boys in high school left for the service. We lost two that I know of.”
When he first joined, Korker was put on a gun crew, but then got blood poisoning, so they took him off the gun crew and assigned him to wait on the captain while he healed.
“When I heard him say they were going to put a photo lab in the base, I said, I can do that! He said he would give me three days to get it going and if I could do it, then I can have the job. And so I did!”
Korker reminisces about photographing such iconic figures as Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. “Oh, it was a fantastic job!”
Korker served for a total of 8 years, 3 active and 5 in active reserve. He was a 3rd Class Petty Officer for the US Navy.
“It was really a patriotic job to get out there and do what you could do for this country,” he says. “And that is the way I feel today. That’s why I still work at it.”
Currently, Korker leads the US Navy Armed Guard Veterans group in Fellsmere. The group is building a museum there for the US Navy Armed Guard and Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII.
Korker went on the Honor Flight in 2016. When I ask him what the experience meant to him, he drops his fork and pounds his heart with his fist.
“It was unforgettable,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “It was a 24-hour experience, as a matter of fact. We had a 50-motorcycle escort going up to Orlando. When we got into Baltimore Washington Airport, one of the officers on the motorcycles was sensational, redirecting traffic around us with such enthusiasm, hands off the handle bars and everything! It was amazing. A real character.”
Thank you, Clarence “Korky” Korker, for your sacrifice and service!
See you next time for our interview with Elyice Monahan.