“The World’s Going to Miss Out,” Remembering Theodore Ray Clarkson III

The family of a WSU student remembers his life and contributions to others

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of topics related to mental health which may be triggering for some readers. At TC’s family’s request, for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, help is available at 988.

It has been over a month now since the passing of a student at WSU. His name was Theodore Ray Clarkson III. To his family, he was known as Teddy. To those at WSU, he was TC.

Kathleen Paullus, TC’s mother, said he was born on September 25, 2003. TC was raised in Medical Lake, Washington up until third grade and later on spent time in Nine Mile Falls and Deer Park.

“Teddy defied all the odds against him,” Paullus said. “He was a short, chubby, redheaded boy who wore very thick glasses who had the name of Theodore Ray Clarkson III, who should have been an outcast child in a sense, but he put himself front and center of everything.”

Andrew Wilt, TC’s half-brother lived with TC for some of his early years growing up. He and TC had a good relationship, despite an age gap of 11 years between the two of them.

“Teddy was a hard child at first. He had colic for his first year so our mother had a pretty rough time with him,” Wilt said. “Obviously there was a huge age gap but I vaguely remember him always trying to come into my room to say what was going on and what I was doing.”

TC’s sister, junior nursing major Sydney Hester, was born two years before him. Hester said she would describe TC as charismatic, friendly and funny. He was someone who loved to make people laugh and they bonded over a similar sense of humor.

Growing up, she and him were treated like twins, Hester said. However, as their parents got divorced, they started to drift apart.

“I know most siblings have their fights but I think that really took a toll on our bond,” Hester said. “But in my late high school years, we started getting along more as we grew up. We became pretty close friends I’d say.”

In middle and high school, some of TC’s greatest interests were Dungeons and Dragons, cooking and music. During his youth, TC had a group of friends since elementary school who he played Dungeons and Dragons with, Hester said.

“He was in an engineering club in high school. He loved playing music. He taught himself all sorts of instruments,” Hester said. “He had a bass and he was teaching himself to play guitar. He learned keyboard and he played saxophone.”

TC’s father Ted Clarkson said he remembers TC had an interest in sports, including fishing, football and soccer, to name a few. He was also involved with a number of clubs in high school.

“He started a Dungeons and Dragons club for the people who liked that in high school,” Clarkson said. “He really enjoyed his friends … They were high achievers. If they weren’t studying they were playing games or going out and doing different events in the community, just having fun, being kids.”

Paullus said TC was very smart and had A’s in every class at WSU. The two of them bonded particularly through cooking, which was a common interest they shared.

“That kid was such an incredible cook. I bought him one year a Dungeons and Dragons cookbook,” she said. “Me and him would make recipes from that Dungeons and Dragons cookbook.”

Clarkson said he had a close relationship with TC and they shared a common interest in cars, especially classic muscle cars. Going to car shows was another activity he and TC bonded over.

Outside of his hobbies, TC was especially devoted to his family, Hester said. Once she became pregnant with her first child, her relationship with TC really grew. He was one of the first people to check in and help her once she gave birth to her son, she said.

“He wanted to help out any way he could. He really went out of his way to be a part of his nephew’s life,” she said. “He was a really good uncle, he loved his nephews and his niece. I know for kids that age, their first priority isn’t being there around their nephews and nieces … But Teddy’s priority was always with his family.”

Hester said TC had an especially close relationship with her son, which she attributes to their close relationship growing up. A particularly poignant memory is when she and her son went to see TC at WSU and they went attended a football game together.

“They just bonded and cuddled and Greyson ended up falling asleep at the game,” she said. “I remember Teddy taking his sweatshirt off and wrapping it around Greyson’s head and cocooning his ears in it almost, that way Greyson didn’t jump at the loud noises. I thought that was really sweet.”

Alongside his nephews and niece, Wilt said since he was already an adult during the majority of TC’s childhood, they were not able to hang out all the time as some siblings get to, but they still had a good relationship.

“He was my little brother and never anything less. He told me he looked up to me as a kid and thought I was super cool because I skateboarded, which is something he always wanted to do,” Wilt said. “He wasn’t able to hang out with me necessarily but I always seemed neat to him.”

While he has many with him, one of the memories he will always treasure with TC is a meeting they had over last winter break, Wilt said.

“He came over and we talked for hours, and I think that’s my most memorable memory with him, because it was just about everything we haven’t discussed that we should have years ago,” Wilt said. “It was very smooth flowing and he was very quiet. I feel like I was always the one who approached him to chat to see how things were going but he was very receptive to it.”

At WSU, TC majored in bioengineering and minored in neuroscience. Hester said she believes his poor vision was a main catalyst to his interest in the field.

“He was super blind and his glasses had super, super thick lenses,” she said. “He always said his plan was he was going to build his own eyes one day so he could see because he knew his vision was just going to keep deteriorating eventually.”

After finishing at WSU, TC had hoped to possibly work with a big company or possibly Elon Musk, Clarkson said. He had dreams of going into bioengineering in part to help those struggling with poor eyesight.

“It’s just so sad because the world’s going to miss out,” Paullus said. “People always say ‘the world’s going to be a little darker now,’ but the world truly is going to miss out on something he would have made a difference in.”

Hester said he was a loving person who put everyone before himself. In hindsight, she believes this may have ultimately had an effect on his mental health.

“He was always the one smiling and laughing and picking up everyone else and I think everyone didn’t realize that he needed that too,” she said. “I think it just shows that he was just truly so caring. He had the biggest heart.”

Clarkson said over the years, he learned that one of TC’s most outstanding qualities was his effort to help other people. He hopes other people can try to do the same.

“There wasn’t anybody he wouldn’t do anything for or help or go that extra mile for,” he said. “I think it’s extremely important people understand that. No matter what the situation is, no matter where they think they are at this time, reach out, help. Help the next guy. Be that person who has the big heart.”