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Lake Placid mourns Reg Clark

August 3, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer (gkelly@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Reg Clark was a lot of things - a funeral home director, a movie theater owner and operator, an ambulance driver, a husband, a father, a Freemason, a Kiwanian and much more - so it's hard to sum up the man's life and his impact on his community.

"How much did he matter?" Reg's wife Barbara posed on Wednesday. "I can't put that into words."

Reg died Monday, July 30, three days after turning 89 years old.

Article Photos

Reg and Barbara Clark and their daughter Cheryl Megliore pose at the 2016 Teddy Bear Picnic hosted by the Lake Placid Kiwanis Club.
(Photo provided)

"You can go to any person in the community that has a little bit of longevity, and they would know Mr. Clark," said Brian Clark, one of Reg and Barbara's sons. "My brother told me recently he was hiking through Europe, and a couple was there from the West Coast. They got talking, and he mentioned that he's from Lake Placid and that his dad owns the movie theater. The couple asked, 'Was he that guy with the white hair, taking tickets?'"

In high school, Reg worked at the Palace Theatre on Main Street, scooping popcorn, tearing tickets and changing the marquee - the "grunt work," Barbara called it. He also studied under his father at the family funeral home, M. B. Clark Inc., on Saranac Avenue. Reg later went on to mortuary school. He had an established career when he returned home, but when the Palace owners wanted to sell, he took out his checkbook. In 1961, a year after Reg and Barbara married, he purchased the theater, which he referred to as a "she." It was a big surprise for Barbara.

"'Happy anniversary, honey. I bought the theater,'" she said he told her. "'By the way, do you have any money stashed away?'"

The theater has been a staple of the community since 1926, showing films both current and classic. It's also the main venue for the Lake Placid Film Festival. Reg insisted on keeping ticket prices affordable - $7 for adults ($6 for matinees) and $5 for children. Even when many other theaters raised their prices and services like Netflix and Redbox appeared, Reg kept the prices low.

Since Reg purchased the theater, the Palace has remained a family-run business with all of his and Barbara's children and grandchildren working the same jobs he worked in his high school days.

Brian was in charge of keeping the theater clean.

"Sometimes I didn't do so well, and my dad would let me know," Brian said. "He'd say, 'Those black-and-white tiles in the foyer look a little dingy,' but sometimes he would comment, and you would know he was really proud of you."

More often than not, though, Reg would give a look - one that even his family can't mimic but they remember well. He can be seen doing it in a photo stuck to Barbara's refrigerator. While Reg had a look of disapproval, he also had a look of gratitude.

Choked up, Brian said, "He didn't have to come out with praise because you knew he was proud of you.

"I think that tells a lot about a person. He had that presence."

The presence stayed with him at the funeral home, where his son Mark works.

"He was the funeral director," Barbara said. "That sums it up, and if there was a category for number 1, he'd be at the top."

Reg's work at the funeral home allowed him to pass on lessons of kindness and empathy to his family.

"He would say, 'Be nice to every person that you meet,'" Barbara said, "'because tomorrow, I might get a phone call that their mother or their father or their relative has died.'"

Before May 1976, Lake Placid didn't have a volunteer ambulance service. Reg and the funeral home actually drove the ambulances.

"He would take people from the hospital that broke their leg while they were skiing and drive them up to Montreal," Barbara said. "He would take people to Virginia for chemotherapy. He would take psychiatric people to Philadelphia."

Reg was a suit-and-tie man, but despite the business attire, he knew how to leave work at work.

"When he was with family," Barbara said, "he was a family man. He didn't 'let his hair down' in so many words or change his personality. He became the dad he longed to be. He would put on a bathing suit go out and swim with the kids, or, you know, he would fish with the kids."

If Reg was ever called on a business trip, he would never go alone and always bring one of his children.

"I wrote so many notes to school," Barbara continued. "'Brian was absent from school because he went to visit Uncle Sam's grave.'"

While stopping at the monument wasn't the focus of the trip, the crematory Reg visited was at the same cemetery where Uncle Sam's grave is, so they always stopped.

"I would keep my dad company," Brian said. "It was special."

Reg was also involved in many organizations and charity groups in the area such as the Adirondack Community Church, the Lake Placid Masonic Lodge, the Saranac Lake Elks Club, the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society, the Lake Placid High School Alumni Association, and the Kiwanis Club, which disbanded in 2017.

Reg was a Kiwanian for more than 50 years. Former President Kelly Conway said Reg loved working with children. One fond memory she has of Reg is when he was the grand marshal of the Teddy Bear Picnic parade.

"He rode around in this antique car and led the parade," Conway said.

Reg didn't wear anything regal in the position of grand marshal. Instead, he wore his usual suit and tie.

"I don't know if I can describe Reg in a couple of sentences, but he was the longest-running member. He was what people emulated and respected," she said.

Reg was inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame in 2009 and delivered the Lake Placid High School commencement speech in 2004. It was one of his proudest moments because that's his alma mater, Class of 1947.

Although he was involved in so many aspects of Lake Placid, Reg was normally described as a humble and reserved person.

"I'm overwhelmed today because we've always been a private family," Barbara said, "and I'm coming to the realization that we didn't own him like we thought. The community owned him."

 
 

 

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