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Long time QE teacher remembered for love of students, and life

By Mark Squibb/February 24, 2022

Long time educator Ronald Clarke, who was among the first to teach at Queen Elizabeth Regional School when it opened its doors in the 1950’s, has died at the age of 92.

Clarke passed on January 1 after a brief illness.

“Dad was, first and foremost, an educator, and very much a good Christian,” said his daughter Melanie. “The church was very important to him. He was very much a people-person. And he was fond of saying that you could never go wrong if you led with kindness.”

Clarke’s family say he was a jovial man, who could spin yarns for days. He was a man who would never forget your face, but never remember your name, although his wife Vera said he would always manage to find out your name without asking outright. He was a man who went out of his way to make people feel important.

He began his teaching career in 1947 in Ireland’s Eye at the age of 17.

As the teacher, he also had to lead church services at the local Anglican church.

“It was an expectation at that time, because if you were the teacher, you were the most educated person in the community, and so you held the services on Sunday,” said Melanie. “He used to tell us how the very first service he had to wear a cassock and all of this kind of stuff, and he was so nervous, that he literally sweated through all of these layers and he was soaking wet when he finished, because he had never done that before, and he was only 17.”

That first year, he made $800 teaching, $600 of which went to his room and board.

Over the years, Clarke would teach in Shearstown, Bell Island, Conception Bay South, St. John’s, and Mount Pearl.

“When Queen Elizabeth Regional High School opened, dad was one of the original six teachers in that regional school, and he stayed there until we moved to town in 1972,” said Melanie.

That first Queen Elizabeth school opened in the fall of 1954. The graduating class of 1955 had 12 students. The school was built across from All Saints Anglican Church in Foxtrap. The second Queen Elizabeth Regional High School was built on the Foxtrap Access Road. It is now Frank Roberts Junior High and another school built behind that one serves as Queen Elizabeth today.  

Family members remember Clarke going above and beyond to accommodate students, even going as far as taking them into his home when necessary.

“He took in young fellows from Chance Cove in Trinity Bay, because it was a long way to get to a good high school and they had career goals in mind,” said Melanie. “So, they came up to live with us in Kelligrews, and he would take them to this big new school that had all the latest things so that they could graduate and have a better chance to do whatever it was that they wanted to do. We got a card last week from one of them because he had discovered that dad had died.”

Another student came to live with them while her parents were getting a divorce. Still another student, Beulah, sent Clarke a birthday card every year.

“He had a very good sense of humour,” said Melanie. “One thing that most of his students would know about him is that when he was teaching, he loved to take off his shoes, hoping that his feet would smell, that kind of thing. He always had his hands in his pocket, and he always had coins, or a nail clipper, and so he was always jingling those while he was teaching. So, that was something else he was known for. The kids would play pranks on him because he had such a good sense of humour. And he enjoyed that kind of thing. He was just very loving and kind to most everyone he came across.”

Clarke appears to have passed on the teaching gene — three of his four children became teachers – and all four are involved in the community.

He retired in 1984, and then began teaching communication classes at MUN until he turned 65.

“He always said that if the government allowed him, he would teach for free,” said Melanie. “That’s how much he enjoyed it.”

He was a vice-principal for a short time at Queen Elizabeth, but his wife and daughter say he hated the position because he had to discipline students, which in those days meant a strapping.

“He hated using the strap, and he very rarely used it, but there were occasions where you had to, apparently, and he was told what to do,” said Melanie. “He had to because it was his job.”

Clarke was an active member of the Kiwanis Club in CBS, and was also involved in the CBS Lions Club, and along with Heber Best established the Lions Club Speak Off, which was an annual event up until the pandemic. He was a Sunday school teacher, a Lay Reader, a friendly visitor to hospitals and long-term care homes, a member of the Cemetery Committee, and a frequent giver to charity.

Clarke also ran as for the Liberal Party in CBS in the 1985 election, but lost to prominent PC candidate John Butt, which his wife Vera said was for the best.

“That’s the best thing that ever happened to him,” joked Vera. “He was too honest (for politics).”

Melanie said her father was the kind of man who loved flowers, but he didn’t want to have flowers at his own funeral because they were simply too expensive.

“He had his casket picked out but there were no flowers, and I know why when I saw the prices of them,” said Melanie. “Dad loved flowers. I gave him every year, for his birthday and for Father’s Day, a potted plant… dad dearly loved flowers, but to pay a thousand dollars for a spray to go on top of the casket, dad wouldn’t do it. But we did put some there, because it looks awful plain without it. That shows the kind of man he was. He would have rather given that money to a charity, to someone who needs it, rather than spend that kind of money when it was, in his opinion, wasted.”

Clarke was also a faithful contributor to the Anglican Life monthly journal, formerly The Churchman, submitting an article monthly beginning in 1977 right up until his death.

An article celebrating Ron’s life and legacy was published on the front page of the February 2022 edition of the magazine.

Clarke loved playing cards, especially 120’s and in his later years, Queens, and watching the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had an appetite for news, and kept up on global events.

Due to COVID restrictions, the funeral was by invitation only, and because of the recent Omicron outbreak, many of the invitees were unable to attend due to quarantine protocols. The family hopes to hold a memorial service in the near future when restrictions relax.

“He loved young people,” said Vera of his teaching career and life in general. “He loved all people.”

One thought on “Long time QE teacher remembered for love of students, and life

  • Randy Laychuk

    I had Mr. Clarke at the original School , graduating in 1969.
    He is beyond a doubt one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He obviously had his class presentation well prepared in advance. In that year, we were the largest graduating grade 11 class in the schools history. We were segregated into four separate classes. All the students that had him before the others knew his presentation down to heart. His lectures were as riveting as any movie or TV show. He was truly a master at capturing his students attention.
    I am so blessed to have known this man.


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