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Costa Mesa is home to Merrill Lynch's oldest client

July 26, 2003

Deirdre Newman

Inez Clark may be 106, but she is still the life of the party.

On Friday, employees at Merrill Lynch, where she has had an

account since 1978, celebrated her birthday.

While Michael Maher, first vice president of investments, said he

usually sends his clients flowers on their birthdays, he felt this

occasion warranted something more.

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"[Her nephew] was in town, and we felt like doing something

special this year," Maher said. "This is a big year."

So Maher drove up from his Carlsbad office to the Costa Mesa

office to present Clark with a cake and a few gifts. A handful of

other Merrill Lynch employees also attended the celebration.

Clark was dressed elegantly in a purple silk blouse with a string

of pearls and pearl earrings surrounded by diamonds.

For someone whose life has spanned three centuries, Clark is very

alert and still sharp as a tack. Her wit was on display when her

nephew, Clark Johnson, asked her who her favorite president was.

After pondering it for a while, building up the suspense, her answer

shocked everyone in the room.

"I like Clinton," Clark said nonchalantly.

The room full of conservatives exploded in laughter and disbelief.

Maher gave Clark a copy of the New York Tribune from her real

birthday -- July 28, 1897 -- and a glass bull, the symbol of Merrill

Lynch.

"I think that's wonderful," Clark said about the newspaper. "I'll

probably run across things I never heard of."

After everyone in the room sang "Happy Birthday" to her, she added

"And many more," at the end.

She said it meant a lot to her that so many people were on hand to

celebrate her birthday.

"You're like a rock star," Johnson said to his aunt.

Clark was born on a farm in Kensett, Iowa.

"People around would call [the town] 'Can't See It'," she

reminisced.

She also remembered horses she and her sister had when they were

younger -- twin colts named Flora and Dora.

Her father bought the first car in the area -- an REO, she said.

She worked in Washington, D.C. as a stenographer during World War

I and also worked for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. She retired and

moved to Leisure World in 1963. She now lives in a convalescent home

in Los Alamitos.

She never married, leading Johnson to joke that that's why she

lived so long.

These days, Clark enjoys watching "Oprah" and game shows and also

likes to stay up-to-date with current events by reading the

newspaper, friend Anja Reynolds said.

"Inez is so sharp, and we can talk about current events and all

sorts of things, and she has great comments," Reynolds said.

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