Bob Clark has spent his entire adult life in public service of one kind or another. Clark always wanted to be a soldier. At 17, scared the war in Korea would be over before he got there, he left high school in 1951 and joined the army.
His grandfather and uncle were both in the Royal Canadian Regiment and that’s where Clark wanted to be as well.
He served in Korea and pursued his military career for the next 37 1/2 years, posted to such diverse places as Korea, NATO (four times), Germany (four tours), Cyprus, the Northwest Territories and other Canadian provinces.
In the NWT he was involved in the Ranger program where the military issued the populace rifles for hunting and asked them to report things they saw out in the wilds. He also took command of 1,500 people (including 1,100 cadets) at the Vernon army compound.
When the NATO operations began shutting down in Germany Clark came to work for the admiral at Esquimalt in 1980 and was responsible for all of the cadets. He moved to Sooke and attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
At each of his military postings his family came along — his wife Edelgard, their daughters Brenda and Tracy and son Jimmy.
Of his military career, Clark said, “I’d do it all again. I enjoyed it all — I enjoy soldiering.”
Clark was decorated twice for service to Canada receiving the Order of Military Merit. He was made a member of OMM and promoted as an officer of the order.
He retired in 1988 and shortly thereafter was elected to the Capital Regional District as a regional director. He served two terms. He even tried his hand at provincial politics under Bill Vander Zalm but never made it.
He recounted some of his first impressions of Sooke.
“When I came here I couldn’t believe a town this size didn’t have street lights — the kids were walking around in the dark,” he said.
The first order of business as a regional director was to take care of the kids and their safety. He went to Maywell Wickheim, who had the legislative authority as chairman of the Fire Protection District, and worked with him to get a grant for street lighting.
“We worked together a long time,” said Clark. “We built city hall in my second term.”
In his time at the CRD table he put together a mandate for all of the directors to work together. They developed emergency programs, like the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP). The federal government came along and made such things as generators, rations and blankets available. They even purchased oil spill clean up equipment from Washington just after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
“My recommendation was to get a boom for the harbour,” said Clark. And that is just what Wickheim and he did. They put it at the entrance to Sooke Harbour close to the lighthouse on Whiffin Spit. They even purchased pads to soak up oil.
“Now we had the harbour protected from an inside or an outside spill.”
They got sea containers and filled them with PEP supplies, the municipal hall got a generator thereby allowing the community to survive. an emergency.
The otters got into the boom and the oil pads were ruined and the sea container hasn’t been looked at since.
“We had everything put together to protect the community. We had a chance to do that, so we did it,” said Clark.
He’s also proud that under his “command” the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area taxes never exceeded the inflation rate.
Clark was also responsible for the no smoking bylaws brought about in 1996. He feels strongly about the negative affects of tobacco smoke.
For neighbouring Port Renfrew Clark ensured that the “company town” was supplied with necessary services after the lumber company left. He negotiated with the company for water, sewers, a fire department and the community hall. At the time, a town could not be left without necessary services if the company that owned the town walked away.
The Blue Box program and 9-1-1 were all initiated under Clark’s tenure on the CRD.
He laughed as he said that people thought the 9-1-1- service would result in amalgamation.
What’s the biggest change Clark has seen?
“The arrival of the new population,” whom he said take less interest in community affairs than the previous generation.
After a life time of service to Canada and his community, Bob Clark is proud of his accomplishments and still pays attention to what is going on, but prefers not to make comments or interfere.