MONTPELIER — Gone, but not forgotten.
Vermont lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution honoring the late Rep. Greg Clark, delivering a standing ovation to members of his family while sharing heartfelt reminiscences about the longtime Addison-3 lawmaker and educator who died last Nov. 30 following a traffic accident on Route 7 in Waltham.
“I thought it was absolutely beautiful, touching and moving,” Clark’s widow, Eileen, said after a ceremony in the House chambers attended by, among others, several of Clark’s former Mount Abraham Union High School colleagues.
“It was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.”
That tribute included the presentation of a check totaling $7,166 toward a newly established Greg Clark Scholarship Fund that will benefit graduates of Mount Abe, where Clark taught social studies for 18 years. Mount Abe Principal Andy Kepes — also present on Tuesday — said the fund currently exceeds $10,000. A student committee will help decide how those scholarships will be awarded, according to Kepes.
While Clark has been gone for three months, Kepes said it is still strange not seeing the popular and gregarious Clark walking the halls of Mount Abe, where he was affectionately called “Clarkie.”
“He was such a presence,” Kepes said. “He always had a story.”
And so did his legislative colleagues, who on Tuesday recounted how Clark had touched their lives during a legislative career that spanned a decade. Clark, 65, was a veteran member of the House Education Committee, where his loss is being particularly felt in the Statehouse.
“We feel his loss every day in our committee room,” said Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington. “I will consider him a friend forever.”
Donovan, chairwoman of House Education, joked about how there was nothing he wouldn’t do to put a smile on people’s faces.
“He was a fellow that looked really good with a lampshade on his head,” she said with a smile. “It was truly an honor … to work with a fellow who was so much fun, so friendly and so good-natured.”
Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, helped organize Tuesday’s tribute with Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, a fellow Republican and former student of Clark’s.
Smith said the ceremony was timed to accommodate Clark’s family and its ability to get to Montpelier.
Smith called Clark’s death a “big loss,” and added he continues to miss Clark. The two were the only GOP lawmakers among Addison County’s legislative delegation.
“He and I used to talk to each other at least every other day about issues,” Smith said. “(His loss) has been a big hole, not only for me, but for a variety of people who were associated with him.”
Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, recalled how Clark took her under his wing when she was first elected more than four years ago. She said Clark helped her navigate the halls of the Statehouse and learn about the various legislative protocols.
“He became my teacher when I came to this building,” Lanpher said.
“Today is my graduation day.”
Lanpher is pleased to see a scholarship established in Clark’s name.
“Regardless of party, we all knew how committed Greg was to education,” Lanpher said.
Gov. Peter Shumlin earlier this month named Ferrisburgh Republican Warren Van Wyck to serve out Clark’s term. Van Wyck has been assigned to the House General and Military Affairs Committee.
“I am not intending in any way to replace Greg; he is irreplaceable,” Van Wyck said during a speech describing the process that led to his selection.
“I want to strive to honor Greg’s legacy and loyalty.”
Rep. Tom Koch, R-Barre, said he will miss Clark’s camaraderie and his ability to ease political tensions with a moment of levity. And he recalled a conversation he had with Clark not too long before his death.
“He said, ‘Koch, it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about the kids. We’ve got to make this place better for them than it was for us,’” Koch recalled.
“He did his share, and more,” Koch said, struggling to hold back tears. “We love him and we miss him.”