New London – Thomas Kelly “Tom” Clark passed into the Eternal July 21, 2022, at his home in New London, surrounded by his wife of 38 years, Judy Benson, their daughter Emily Clark Scace, and his twin sister Susan Clark McKenzie. He was born May 25, 1950, in Amityville, N.Y., the son of Donald Graham Clark Jr. and Anna Maria Kelly Clark.
He grew up in Greenwich, near the Greenwich Audubon Center and spent family vacations with his three sisters and cousins in Cape May, N.J., places that cultivated a lifelong love of nature and boating. As a young man, he became active in protesting the Vietnam War, and attended the first two days of the Woodstock Festival in New York. After receiving an associate’s degree from Boston University in 1970, he saved money working at a marina and as a house framer to finance a trip to Scotland, France, Spain, and Morocco. His experiences on that trip were some of the most significant of his life that he loved to share with others.
After returning to the United States, he moved to northeastern Connecticut, and worked as a butcher at various grocery stores for several years and continued working while he pursued a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Connecticut. There he met his wife, Judy Ann Benson of Dover, N.J., while they were both working at the Connecticut Daily Campus newspaper. They were both hired as newspaper reporters after graduation, and married in Litchfield, in 1984. The couple enjoyed hiking and camping throughout their marriage.
He loved woodworking of all kinds, from furniture to cabinets to boatbuilding. After his daughter began playing the viola in third grade, he decided to learn instrument craft and made her a viola, the first of many instruments he would make, honing his skills at the University of New Hampshire’s Violin Craftsmanship Institute. His writing and woodworking skills led him from journalism into editing positions at woodworking magazines, and then as a woodworking book editor at Taunton Press in Newtown. He left publishing to pursue woodworking full time, first doing custom furniture and cabinetry, and later turning full time to instrument making and repair. His business became Clark Instruments, specializing in making, repairing, selling, and renting violins, violas and cellos. His customers spanned from local schools to professional musicians throughout New England.
In 2017, he built a solar-powered dory called Solar Breeze. His unique boat attracted much attention from other boaters, and he was always eager to tell them about Solar Breeze and promote the idea of solar-powered boating. Before Solar Breeze, he had built a catspaw dingy for rowing and sailing he called Mr. Badger. A third boat in progress has been bequeathed to one of his nephews to finish. He was a member of the John Gardner Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association.
Tom was very grateful that he had found ways to contribute his skills and energies to the betterment of the community. He was one of the founding members of the Homeless Hospitality Center of New London, serving on its board since its founding and volunteering at the shelter. With violinist and teacher Joan Winters, he founded the New London Community Orchestra in 2011, and its companion program, Music City Strings, which continues to offer free string instrument lessons for New London youth. The NLCO’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day concert at The Garde Arts Center Jan. 17, 2022, was one his proudest moments.
He was also active in St. James Episcopal Church, obtaining grant funds to support the purchase of food supplies for the Lord’s Pantry and its expansion into health services for pantry patrons. He was also a member of the board of the United Way Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
Tom is survived by his wife Judy Ann Benson; his daughter Emily Clark Scace and son-in-law Justin Daniel Scace of East Lyme; his sisters, Susan Clark McKenzie and Donna Clark Johnson, both of Camden, S.C.; several nieces and nephews; and was predeceased by his sister Elizabeth Clark McGuidwin.
A memorial service for Tom will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at St. James Episcopal Church, 76 Federal St., New London. Burial in Gardner Cemetery, New London will be private. Memorial donations may be made to the Homeless Hospitality Center of New London, 730 State Pier Road, New London, CT. 06320; or the New London Community Orchestra, 153 Thames St., New London, CT 06320. Byles Memorial Home, 99 Huntington St., New London, CT is assisting with the arrangements. Please visit www.Byles.com for directions, to sign the guestbook or to share a memory.
Published by The Day on Jul. 31, 2022.