Patricia Clark, 81, of Yarmouth Port, in the middle of the night, September 28th, Pat Clark’s family gathered around her at Cape Cod Hospital to say goodbye: her kids Sean and Meagan Cole, her grandson Doug Cole, son-in-law Jim Scally, sister Liz Dunning, brother-in-law Mike Dunning, and the man she referred to as her “spousal equivalent,” Ed Hacker. They kissed her face and held her hand. She loved them all to a degree that was almost embarrassing at times. She aggressively would not have wanted them to see her so compromised.
Whenever people learned Pat’s age, they were shocked. She had fewer gray hairs than either of her children – besides which she was always jaunting off on nature photography excursions to foreign places, bringing back images that would not look out of place in the finest art galleries. She hated the word “spry.” “Spry is a word they use for old people,” she said. She read constantly, mostly current releases on politics, history, and the environment. She campaigned for Obama both times, seemingly as proud of him as she was of her children. She defied the golfers at the The Golf Club at Yarmouthport (on which she lived) by going for long strolls along the cart-way. She did not golf.
Pat was born in 1934 in Portland, Oregon. Her father was in the Air Force so she moved around a lot early on, including a long stint in Jim Crow-era Alabama. She frequently told a story about sitting on a bus in Montgomery and the shame she felt when the bus driver forced an African American military officer to sit in the back. She attended undergrad at the University of Colorado and got her PhD in social ethics from Boston University, thinking she’d ultimately become a Unitarian minister. The dean of her department told her she’d be great, but that there were not many leadership roles for women in the church. So she taught philosophy, first at BU, then at Northeastern University. That’s where she met Ed, who was in charge of the night school. It was 1977. Pat had already been divorced from her first husband for a year. In a recent letter to the BU alumni association, she wrote that Edward Hacker was “the love of my life.” She also wrote, “My slogan to all is keep on keeping on.”
After teaching for several years, Pat began work as a technical writer during the early days of personal computing. She worked for many different companies over the course of three decades, often being promoted to manager of her department. In her off hours (read: 5:00 to 8:00 AM) she took figure skating lessons at a local ice rink. Pat began skating when she was 40, at the same time her children did. Unlike her children, she excelled at it. She competed in a synchronized ice dance troupe called Esprit de Corps. She was such an avid skater that friends and family filled her house with ice-skating-themed tchotchkes. When she finally gave up skating, she started taking pictures. Framed photos now hang on nearly every wall in her home – the poetic spoils from more than a dozen countries all over South America, Europe and Africa, not to mention a lot of gorgeous places in the U.S.
In retirement, Pat became reacquainted with the Unitarian Church. She attended Sunday services and tutored pupils in ESL through the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry in Boston. As she got older, Pat simply became more and more adorable. Her social filter wore almost clean through. She was matter-of-fact with strangers whom she felt had parked too closely to her car. (They hadn’t.) She referred to potato chips as “vegetables” in order to feel less guilty about eating them. Mere weeks before her death she was dancing to “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles at a family wedding reception. 10 days before her death she attended a clambake on a stone beach in Woods Hole, MA, sipping white wine, eating freshly cooked bluefish, and generally smiling at anyone who cast an eye in her direction.
Pat did not suffer. She died hours after losing consciousness due to a massive stroke. As deaths go, it was of a sort she would have generally found acceptable. She is also survived by her step-brother Bill McNichols if Lynnfield, MA, and his wife Janice, three granddaughters, a great-grandson, and numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, 3330 Main Street, Barnstable, MA on Friday, October 2nd at 11:00 AM. Her cremains will be dispersed in private. In lieu of flowers, those who wish to may send a donation to YMCA Cape Cod, 2245 Iyannough Road, West Barnstable, MA 02668.