It’s noteworthy that of the many remembrances friends, neighbors and colleagues had of the late state Rep. Greg Clark, his sense of humor, his broad smile and his ability to make people laugh and feel good were among the first mentioned. What better tribute than to know the days of other people’s lives were brightened by your presence.
That Rep. Clark was also a consensus builder in the Legislature, that he listened whole-heartily to his constituents and tried to carry out their wishes to the best of his ability, and that he sifted through volumes of information before making thoughtful decisions added to his stature in Montpelier and earned him the reputation as a fair-minded Republican who could articulate his positions always with the good of the state in mind.
That Clark was killed this past Friday after being hit by a car on Route 7 just south of Vergennes will create a loss in the House for everyone, but particularly among Republicans, among whom his steady council — while not flamboyant or in the limelight — was, as one former state representative said, solid as a rock.
He also received high praise from Democrats.
“With Greg, the first thing that comes to mind was that quick smile; he was great to be around,” said Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith. “He was friendly, caring and someone who had dedicated his life to kids and getting them to be successful.”
At Mount Abraham Union High School, where he taught for the past 18 years, he taught primarily seniors in a class called the “Age of Legality.” Think of it as a higher-level course in what used to be called civics, but updated over the past 40 years to include many of the complicated social issues of the day. This newspaper’s small interaction with that class was his annual assignment to students to write a letter to the editor about a topic of current interest. He was teaching students to think and express their opinions — to take an active part in our democracy. It was the type of practical education that makes a difference in a student’s life.
That he had a good relationship with the students is, by all reports, an understatement. Fondly called “Clarkie” by the students, former Gov. James Douglas, an occasional guest lecturer, noted that Mr. Clark was a “very popular teacher, had a buoyant personality… He enlivened the classroom and made it fun to learn. We will miss him.”
A family man, a beloved teacher, a respected statesman and a friend to many, Mr. Clark epitomizes — in his largely unassuming way — the active citizen, and his loss is the communities’ loss.
But perhaps no greater tribute can be made than that of his Democrat colleague, Rep. Diane Lanpher, who expressed the county’s shock, yet universal reaction last Friday, when she remarked, “Oh my God, he was such a nice man.”
Angelo S. Lynn