In Memoriam – Thomas Rea Clark (staff, 1967-1978)

Rea passed away in London on February 12, 2024. His published obituary begins with the following words: As an athlete, student, teacher, mentor and coach for more than eight decades, Rea Clark had an out-sized impact on the lives of literally thousands of people. His determination in many things was legendary and truly inspiring.

Growing up in Woodstock, Rae’s sport was hockey. At 14, he scored 27 goals in 9 games to help his team win the provincial hockey title. Later, presented with the opportunity to play professionally, he opted instead for a university education and a career in teaching.

Recruited to play hockey for Acadia University in Nova Scotia, he captained the team and was later named to Acadia’s Hockey Hall of Fame.

For more than three decades he was a dedicated teacher, coach and guidance counsellor. 10 of those years were spent at South and many of the students who attended South during those years will no doubt have fond memories of the man they knew as Mr. Clark or “Coach”.

During his time at South, Rea coached a number of sports – hockey, naturally, but also football and golf. Even after retirement, “Hey Coach” still greeted him when he was out and about in London and he could remember incredible details about his former students all his life.

Summers were spent with family and friends on Whitestone Lake in Dunchurch, Ontario. The obituary described the importance of this place in Rea’s life: The cottage was his favorite spot and the Muskoka chair on the dock was his vantage point to oversee wild life – people and animals – particularly the Clark Olympics.  It was on Whitestone that he taught the timetables while out fishing, the art of a proper dive, waterskiing with panache, how to drive a boat, and many of life’s other important lessons.

Survived by his first wife Marcia Barss, predeceased by his second wife Lynda Stevens, Rea is missed by his children Sharon (’91) (Paul) and Andrew Clark (’93) (Kendra), five grandchildren, step-children Jenn (Tim Tindale), Kate (John Croke, ’93) and Kris (Yannick Bigourdan) and six step-grandchildren.

I think it’s safe to say, however, that these are not the only people who will miss him.

Interesting Sidenotes:

  • Rea’s cottage was built by students of the South Industrial Arts course between September and May (1969-70), and assembled by the students and some teachers on the property in Muskoka during the May 24 Weekend. Its success gave rise to more cottages being constructed for teachers during subsequent years.
  • Two former teaching colleagues shared their thoughts on Rea following his death. Joyce Hetherington (Ruddle) (1969-74) was a fellow member of South’s Phys Ed department and described him as “thoughtful, humble, down-to-earth”. Not only did she enjoy working with him, but she fondly remembers playing bridge with him. Math teacher, Ron Reesor (1969-98), was Rea’s regular bridge partner and the two of them became lifelong friends. The obituary acknowledged that Ron had accompanied Rea to many of his medical appointments during his final illness and that the two friends and their wives had shared “many of their adventures in life” since meeting at South in 1969.
  • Former SCAA director, Barbara Hoover (’72) shared the following memory from last May’s Reunion “When I saw him at the reunion, I introduced myself.  He said, “Oh, I remember you!”  And I apologized…  We both had a good laugh.”

Photos below: 1970 Phys Ed Department & Teachers at the 50th Reunion of the Class of 1971