Southbay Strong Episode 4: Kori Clausen, Heart & Soul
With Four Daughters Kitchen in Manhattan Beach, Clint Clausen became a familiar face in the South Bay. A passionate family man with a lust for life, he singlehandedly built the local eatery with a healthy attitude from scratch. In 2014 a sudden heart attack took him way too soon. Now, in her husband’s memory, Kori Clausen advocates for early heart screenings and paves a way for her children’s futures … full of love and resilience.Posted by Our South Bay on Thursday, October 12, 2017
Why Manhattan Beach’s Kori Clausen advocates for heart screenings
In 2014 a sudden heart attack took Clint Clausen – of Four Daughters Kitchen in Manhattan Beach – way too soon. Now, in her husband’s memory, Kori Clausen advocates for early heart screenings and paves a way for her children’s futures.
The Clausen house is busy before each person settles into her spot on the sofa. The walls are filled with family portraits—signs of support, hand-made by neighbors and friends, still hanging in the main living space. Sitting side-by-side, each with beachy blonde hair and sun-kissed skin, Haily, Leila, Sophia and Sloan share memories of their father.
“I can do daddy’s evil laugh,” Sloan says with a shy smile. Sophia recounts his pre-soccer pep talks. After long conversations emphasizing that the most important part of the game was to have fun, Clint would ask, “What’s the #1 rule about soccer? To have fun? No, to win!” The room erupts with laughter. With each story shared, it’s clear to see how much Clint Clausen meant to his family—but also how much his presence remains even after his passing.
When Kori Clausen is asked to talk a little bit about her husband, she smiles and says, “Oh, that’s easy.” Like her four daughters, Kori looks like the quintessential California girl with her wavy, blonde hair and bright smile. As an Ohio native, however, coastal living wasn’t a reality for Kori until she moved to California in the hopes of working as a professional dancer. For five years Kori danced professionally, traveling the world before she decided to head to Vegas. That’s where she met Clint.
“At the time, I was dancing in a show called Jubilee,” Kori says. Clint had just opened a restaurant called Aqua in the Bellagio Hotel. Originally from Tucson, Clint played football at the University of Arizona for a brief period before moving to Vegas where he played basketball for, and graduated from, the University of Las Vegas.
This was during the Jerry Tarkanian years. “They won the national title in 1990,” Kori notes. With a degree in hotel management, Clint was “all about the restaurant business,” Kori says. “And I was like, ‘No way—I want nothing to do with it.’”
The two met in 1997 and were married in 2000 after a very public proposal from Clint. On stage during a pre-show warm-up with her fellow Jubilee dancers, Kori spotted Clint making his way toward her. Kori remembers him saying, “There’s something I have to get off my chest.” With everyone’s full attention, he began listing the number of years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes they’d been together before getting down on one knee and asking her to marry him. “Everyone was clapping and laughing,” Kori says. “That was Clint; he loved a crowd.”
For Kori, it was like a dream come true. “Finding someone like Clint was beyond anything I could have imagined,” she says. “My parents divorced when I was very young, and we moved around a lot. It just wasn’t the normal family childhood that you picture in your mind.”
But life with Clint was different. “You kind of mold yourself to the person you’re with, in a way,” Kori notes. “I was comfortable with ; I could do anything with him.”
Four babies later, and Kori’s desire for beach living crept back up. “Sloan was in diapers” when the family moved from Vegas to Manhattan Beach, Kori shares. “She was only 6 months old.”
Clint took a job as the director of operations for SBE Entertainment to support the family’s move, but after the economy took a dive, he found himself unemployed. “That’s when we were driving up Highland and saw this little brown building with two windows,” Kori notes. The Clausens decided to take everything they had and put it toward building Four Daughters Kitchen.
On January 18, 2010, the restaurant was open for business. Shortly after, Clint was on his way back to Vegas. “They were getting ready to open the Cosmopolitan Hotel, and he was hired to be the director of restaurants,” Kori explains. A family of six needs insurance, and the work Clint was offered in Vegas provided that. It would be a year after the opening of Four Daughters Kitchen before Clint was able to be back with his family full-time in Manhattan Beach.
“Funny” is the word Haily chooses to describe her dad.
“Caring,” Leila adds. “Joyful,” says Sloan. “Bright,” says Sophia.
Kori points to the watch on her wrist. “This is Clint’s watch, and for a while the alarm would go off every day at 3:25. I think it was because he would take a nap and wanted to wake up before volleyball at 4:00,” she says. Clint worked long hours and was sometimes a state away from his family, but by chance the last two months of his life he was home and surrounded by those he loved most. “It was perfect,” Kori says.
Then on August 8, 2014, while on vacation with his family in South Carolina, Clint died of a heart attack at the age of 44. “Looking back to that week, he was getting these pretty bad headaches and moving really, really slow,” Kori says. “He would sit down on the couch and bam, he’d be asleep. We just thought it was the heat or the humidity.”
On the last night of what Kori describes as an incredible week filled with love and family, Clint asked her to stop what she was doing and come sit with him. “I was rushing around packing and getting ready to leave,” she explains. But she took a moment to pause and join her husband. Sitting with Clint, her head resting on his arm, Kori felt him take “the deepest breath, and then it was that quick,” he was gone.
Two of his arteries were blocked 90% and another was blocked 70%. “He had gotten an EKG a year prior,” Kori says, “and his blood work came back fine.” He was also very active. “He played basketball, football, tennis, volleyball—he was good at everything.” The pair even competed together in a triathlon.
But Clint had exercise-induced asthma and an enlarged heart. “Day-to-day you’re fine, but when you start exercising you get winded a lot faster,” Kori explains. “As he was getting older, things were getting more and more difficult. He was running slower and using his inhaler every day.”
Both Kori and Clint planned to get health screenings by the time they turned 40, but as it so often does, “Time passed by, and we never really thought any more about it,” Kori says. “You just always think you have more time.”
After Clint’s passing, the amount of support that came from the community was extraordinary. Emails and letters poured in—some from patrons who had only met him once. Rather than a funeral, Kori opted to honor her husband with a paddle-out.
“A friend of mine said, ‘Let’s see if Kevin Sousa can play.’ He’s this amazing singer/songwriter,” Kori says. “I remember talking to Kevin on the phone, and he said, ‘It’ll all come together, trust me.’ And it did. People were driving up from everywhere with surfboards and paddleboards … we had around 300 people.”
The paddle-out was the first time Kori would have to speak publicly since her husband’s passing. “Not being one who enjoys speaking in front of a crowd, it was like voice spoke through me that day,” she says. “All the girls had a little bottle with a written note, and they all spoke. Sophia read this amazing poem; it blew me away. She was 8 years old.”
Not long after the paddle-out, a friend suggested the family put together a volleyball tournament in honor of Clint and to raise money for the girls’ 529 education funds. “I thought maybe we’d get 30 people to play down on Marine,” Kori says. “You figure we only had about a month and a half to plan.”
But the sign-ups and sponsors started rolling in. Soon there were too many participants to hold the tournament on Marine, and the location was moved to the pier. “We probably had around 30 sponsors and nearly 200 players,” Kori notes.
“Not being one who enjoys speaking in front of a crowd,
it was like voice spoke through me that day.
All the girls had a little bottle with a written note, and they
all spoke. Sophia read this amazing poem; it blew me away.
She was 8 years old.”
Avery Drost, an AVP volleyball player, pulled from his connections—bringing in coaches from UCLA, USC, Olympians and fellow AVP players. “He’s such an amazing man,” says Kori, who also describes Avery as “one of the angels these girls have floating around them.”
Still, with all the support rallied around raising money for the girls’ education, Kori wanted to expand the benefits of the tournament even further. That’s when she was connected with Andrew Werts from Providence Little Company of Mary.
“ suggested I get a heart screening and see how I felt about it. When I did, part of me was angry because I thought, ‘If Clint had done this, he’d probably still be here,’” Kori explains. The screening includes an echocardiogram (heart scan) that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to create images of the heart’s valves and chambers.
“Every year, the Clint Clausen 4DK Fours Volleyball Tournament is funded by Four Daughters Kitchen with the earnings spilt 50/50 between the girls’ 529 educational funds and subsidized heart screenings,” Kori says. By year two it had raised $11,000 toward the education fund and $11,000 toward 44 heart screenings (which was the age Clint was when he died).
This year Kori and the girls are preparing for their fourth tournament. And that’s in addition to a calendar filled with activities. Haily, 15, is a competitive beach volleyball player. Leila, 13, practices aerial arts at Le Petit Cirque. Sophia, 11, plays soccer, and Sloan, 9, plays tennis. Life continues, and the Clausens are living theirs to the fullest.
“He inspired me to be outgoing and to take chances,” Leila says about her father, “and to be unique, not to follow others and to create my own path.”
“I don’t think I ever really knew what being present was until this happened,” Kori notes. “I always tell people not to wait for some tragic event to realize what it means to be present.”
After three long, stressful years, Kori has started to let go, follow her heart and be true to her own passions. “Life is too short not to be happy,” she says. “And most importantly, the girls need their mom back—the one they knew before their father passed.”
“Funny” is the word Haily chooses to describe her dad. “Caring,” Leila adds. “Joyful,” says Sloan. “Bright,” says Sophia. “When he walks into a room, all of this positive energy enters … everyone was drawn to him.”
What an amazing legacy to leave behind: four beautiful daughters influenced so greatly by the positivity of their larger-than-life dad.
Thank you to the South Bay community as a whole for their outpouring of support, including special thanks to Stephanie Daring, Chad Daring, Victoria Peters, Steve Wittsitt, Catherine Belme, Kirssy Magraudy, Brian Magraudy, Kathy Cappellitti, Sasa Milosevic, Bree Gaoldwater, Jason Gaoldwater, Tiffany Friedman, Brad Friedman, Julie Rader, Mark Hutnyan, Noah Arnold, Justin Maxwell, Avery Drost, Kevin Sousa, Michael Collins and Josh Oswald.