Clyde Sholar had an appreciation for people and a desire to care for them at an early age. His passion grew into numerous professions doing the same.
Most residents in Henry County know Sholar as co-owner of the funeral home in Pleasureville, but last year he retired from the National Guard and United States Geological Survey as an emeritus scientist with honors commemorating his work as a pioneer in safety protocol.
Sholar grew up in Cadiz, Trigg County in western Kentucky on a farm with 200 acres of corn; the family also raised dark fired tobacco. His family’s land resembles the same rolling hill landscape typical of the eastern part of the county. With a one, two- plow,1953 Ford Golden Jubilee tractor, his father, Sholar and his siblings worked the land. The family’s modest lifestyle and rural upbringing shaped Sholar.
“We didn’t have a stripping room so we would strip it in the kitchen when it would get cold outside,” Sholar said. “It would make the house smell almost like country ham. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we never went hungry. My mother worked just as hard as daddy did and she somehow raised us kids.”
Sholar is the sixth child of seven and the second in his family to go to college and get a college degree. In his high school years, Sholar wanted to pursue a career in agriculture.
“I was active in FFA and I was vice president. It was helpful for me I was voted most bashful and I had a hard time getting in front of people,” Sholar said. “I won the dark fired tobacco competition for the state. I got an agriculture scholarship to Western Kentucky University and planned on being a teacher.”
Military and Mortuary
During his high school years, Sholar enlisted for service during the Vietnam War. His older brother was a colonel and company commander in the army.
“I was so gung-ho about joining the army and he told me I should join the National Guard instead,” Sholar said. “I got on the waiting list when I was 15. I was 18 whenI went into the National Guard. I received my draft notice on the same day.”
Sholar ended up at Fort Knox and worked part-time in a parking garage. He wasn’t drafted since he had enlisted with the National Guard. The National Guard started as one weekend a month and took more of Sholar’s time the longer he stayed in it. While excelling in the National Guard in the 100th division from field artillery officer training and later as an aide to a two-star general, he decided he wanted to pursue a degree in mortuary science.
“I think it goes back to my respect and appreciation for the funeral directors we had in Trigg County,” Sholar said. “Sure they had nice clothes and drove Cadillacs, but I applaud them for how they took care of people.”
Sholar worked as an intern at a funeral home in Jefferson County and collectively worked 80 hours a week. Sholar met his wife during this time.
“She was managing a funeral home in Jefferson County,” Sholar said. “She was my boss and I didn’t like her at first she was so picky and detailed about how things were done. Brenda was one of the first female licensed embalmers in Kentucky. Obviously our relationship changed.”
Sholar continued making headway in the National Guard. In 1980, a colleague in the military told him there was a vacancy at the United States Geological Survey in Louisville.
“I applied in 1980 for the position and was hired as a scientist, a hydrologist,” Sholar said. “I studied sediment. I went through Kentucky and collected samples. One of my first trips involved going to Lockport and going out on the dam and measuring the water during the low flows.”
Sholar became concerned with safety during this time, and later as a safety officer with the USGS he would make safety protocol standards that ended such hazardous measuring practices at places like dams.
“We would walk out on the dam where there is algae and it’s slick,” Sholar said. “The water flow could create a vertigo issue.
Sholar started applying his affections for science and detail. He wrote the first quality assurance fluvial sediment, the sediment in water, plans for measuring sediment and he along with his supervisor started the first sediment laboratory in Kentucky. In the past, the USGS sent samples to labs in other states for examination. The lab still exists and processes samples from other states.
“I also was assigned to do a computer model of the Kentucky River,” Sholar said. “I bought the first portable computer in the Kentucky USGS office. It was as large as a sewing machine case and weighed about 35 pounds.”
One of Sholar’s most memorable moments in those early years involved sediment training near Mt. St. Helens a few months after it erupted.
“We lost a scientist there and the place looked like it had sustained a nuclear blast,” Sholar said. “The trees were all bent in one direction like the damage you’d see from straight winds. The rivers were full of debris, displaced lava and gray mud. I had never seen anything like it.”
Sholar continued to progress from sediment work as a hydrologist scientist to studying water usage and eventually as a safety officer to the Midwest Area Safety Manager in the USGS. Sholar inspected research laboratories and wildlife health centers where safety was paramount.
“I went in to places and inspected them to make sure they were following safety protocols,” Sholar said. “I went to places where they would research things like chronic waste disease. They had huge double doors you had to walk in with a HAZMAT suit—places I wouldn’t want to work.”
Sholar retired from the National Guard last year and the USGS to help his wife with the funeral home they purchased in 1990.
Life has all come full circle.
“Everybody knows that Brenda runs this place and I would be gone 50 out of 52 weekends a year,” Sholar said. “She is really passionate about what she does here and I wanted to return to my passion too.”
Sholar said as funeral directors of their own business they break every rule in the book. The Sholars dreamed of having their own funeral home where they could offer their services at a high quality and not just quantity.
“We probably get closer to people than most places do,” Sholar said. “When someone entrusts you with a loved one they don’t know what that means to us.”
Sholar said he would continue working with his wife until he is literally wheeled down their funeral home’s ramp. He wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
“I think it’s just as a funeral director you get intimate with people in ways you don’t in other professions,” Sholar said. “They share things with you during a vulnerable time that they wouldn’t with someone else. You get close to people and we try to do as much for them as we can and a lot of times you wish you could do more.”