The ex-commissioner had suffered a stroke back in June with little hope of recovery.
Family and friends packed the Leber Funeral Home in Union City on Wednesday night, Nov. 10, to pay their final respects to the man they could only best describe as a gentleman.
"He was the kindest, friendliest man that I think anyone ever knew, just a wonderful guy," said Patrick Clark, 53, his second oldest son. "My father was a very religious man, a loving husband and loving father to his children."
A lifelong resident of Union City, Clark spent 44 years as an educator in the school system. For 22 years, he was a physical education instructor throughout the district. He also ran the St. Michael's Union City Parish Basketball league and belonged to the Wendlands Social Athletic Club.
For his remaining 22 years, he served as the principal of Thomas Edison Elementary School before retiring from education in 1981.
Mayor Brian Stack, who remembers having Clark as his principal, said, "Frank was an outstanding gentleman and educator. He was a man who worked tirelessly for the people, and especially the children of Union City. He will be missed."
The city of Union City is planning to commemorate a day in Clark's memory, which was declared at last week's Board of Commissioners meeting.
Education, politics and health
Clark had served as the commissioner for parks and public works from 1970 until 1974, and worked to support the continuation of the town's athletic leagues as well as recreational events.
"His legacy was, he continued the sports in Union City and made the leagues grow, and helped people whenever he could," said Nick Mastorelli, who at the time was the head of federal programs when Clark was commissioner. "As a commissioner he was able to get more things done, and he did a great job with the recreation."
Mastorelli, who met Clark years ago, remembered his friend as a classy mild-mannered man who was always active and helping people.
"Originally I knew him from athletics, and through the years we became friends," said Mastorelli. "He was a gentleman, a first class man and a family man."
After retiring from his 44-year career in 1981, Clark became a trustee of the Union City Board of Education around 1987, and remained there until 1995.
"He was certainly a role model for all of us," said Stanley Sanger, superintendent of schools in Union City, who at the time was starting off as an early educator. "I think he was one of the character leaders of education. One of his major contributions was, he allowed a big school like Edison to flourish. He was a pioneer."
Before receiving his degree in general education from Seton Hall University and his physical education degree from New York University, Clark served as a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. His responsibility was to prepare the troops physically before they were sent to combat, like a drill instructor. He had been stationed all around the United States from Mississippi to Chicago, Ill. After the war, Clark continued his education, and went on to receive his master's degree from Seton Hall in administration and supervising.
According to Patrick, the world of politics was also something that interested his father, and even before he became a commissioner in Union City, he was involved in one way or another, lending his support to a particular candidate.
"People wanted him to support them," said Patrick. "He had such a strong base of people that really loved him."
Of course, Clark's first contributions to his hometown were still through athletics and events, which he continued to support throughout his life. An advocate of physical health and education, Clark himself had remained active and religiously worked out everyday.
"He was ahead of his time in regards to the whole fitness boom," said Patrick.
As a matter of fact, one of Patrick's earliest memories of his father was waking up at about 6:30 in the morning still blinking his eyes, and through his bedroom door seeing his father doing push-ups as the sun was rising from the window next to him.
"My father was the type of guy who loved all sports, but he was also a fan of leisure activities and he supported that," said Patrick.
The family man
Above sports, however, Clark's highest priority was his children and wife of 62 years, Marjorie.
"They had a beautiful marriage," said Patrick. "[My father's] loves were his family, sports, and politics, in that order."
According to Patrick, Marjorie, who was originally from Iowa, and Clark, actually met on a double date. With a story line at times only found in the movies, Marjorie and her sister were dating Clark and his brother.
"He was in the navy at the time, so I believe they were in Chicago," said Patrick. "He had a saying, 'Marjorie, you are not my wife, you are my life'."
As a father, Patrick could speak nothing but splendors of his dad.
"As a father, he was the best, supportive with a great sense of humor," said Patrick, who remembers fondly his father's Three Stooges type antics. "He was always at our games. I was an athlete as a kid. He loved his family, and he was just a wonderful guy."
Throughout the last few years, Clark continued to relish in his role of loving husband, father, and grandfather. Clark and his wife would continuously travel around the country visiting family, and always went to support their grandkids whether it was a dance recital or an athletic event.
There was also a period where they attended elder hostels, where they would go to a college with other senior citizens and attend courses.
One of their last trips over the summer was to Marjorie's family reunion in Iowa.
"He was so looking forward to this, and I actually heard from one of my cousins, after the stroke - he told me that my dad brought his A game," said Patrick. "And his A game is unparalleled by anything."
At the funeral, the Clark family was embraced by so many old friends and former students who had come to pay their respects, and share their stories about the man they knew. For Patrick Clark, it was the sincerity of the words being spoken about his father that truly touched him.
"The general comment that everyone said to me was, 'Your father was truly a legend in Union City; a really, really great man,' and you could tell that this was from the heart," said Patrick. "He touched many lives in Union City."
Many former teachers that worked for him at Thomas Edison School were also in attendance, and relatives came from as far out as Arizona and Iowa, among other places.
"I'm just so proud of him, and I have had a lot of people come up to me at the wake and say, 'You look so much like him,' " said Patrick. " 'Your demeanor is so much like him.' That was so great to hear because he was such a great man."
Services for Clark were to be held on Thursday, Nov. 11, at St. Lawrence Church in Weehawken at 9:30 a.m. Immediately following the mass, Clark was to be buried at Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City.
"It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful," said Patrick. "It was packed with people at all times, and he even had a police honor guard. It was absolutely magnificent."