Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment. -Anthony Robbins
It’s clear that Drs. John and Lillian Clark both enjoyed true fulfillment, Niagara and Canada are better off for their commitment.
Their backgrounds, both personally and professionally, allowed John and Lillian to touch and shape many lives. Combined, they shared nearly 90 years of medical practice. John was a highly regarded surgeon, and Lillian was a loved and respected paediatrician.
Lillian, a Niagara Falls native, had attended Stamford Collegiate and then graduated with an M.D. from the University of Toronto in 1941. Following an internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital, she specialized in paediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Later, she obtained her fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada.
Former Niagara chief medical officer of health and friend, Dr. Robin Williams, described Lillian as “a pioneer.” She trained as a physician at a time when there were very few women pursuing this male dominated profession.
Born on a farm in Ballyduff, Ontario, a community located within the City of Kawartha Lakes, John Clark attended Lindsay High School. In 1941, at the youthful age of 22, he was deemed as the youngest person to graduate from Queen’s University Medical School in Kingston, Ontario. After an internship at Ottawa Civic Hospital, he joined the Canadian Navy in 1942 and emerged as a Canadian Naval Physician. From 1943-1945, Dr. Clark, was on loan to the British Navy as Medical Officer for the Minesweeping Flotilla. He experienced what was referred to as “the longest and most exciting day of his life,” which was D-Day, June 6, 1944. Dr. Clark was on the mine sweeper that cleared the path to Omaha Beach for the American Forces. History was being made and lives were changed forever.
The doctors’ lives interwove in 1944, when coincidentally they mutually decided to reside on Canada’s East Coast. Lillian had joined the Royal Canadian Navy and was posted to Halifax. John also returned to the area, following being discharged from the Navy as Surgeon Lt. Commander. They were married in 1946 and had two children, James Richard and Deborah Jane.
What was thought of as a “temporary” return to Niagara Falls for the family, in 1950, resulted in making it their permanent home. The doctors opened parallel practices and raised their family. Despite their incredibly active lives and demanding careers, John and Lillian managed to make time for their children. Daughter, Deborah, recalls that her parents would “somehow always be there for us.”
The Clark family expanded with the addition of two granddaughters, Kristen and Kerry. Working on a school project, Kristen asked her grandpa, John, about what his philosophy of life was. He responded, “A belief in the resiliency of the human spirit.” That belief carried him through many a crisis, both professionally and personally.
For 43 years Lillian practiced paediatrics in Niagara Falls. Her lengthy tenure allowed her to occasionally care for the children and even the grandchildren of former patients. Lillian made countless trips, for thousands of patients, to the hospital emergency room, the nursery, and the paediatric ward. Through this, she was regarded as always uncomplaining, steady and reliable.
Upon retirement, Lillian decided to visit Moose Factory, an isolated medical outpost. She consulted Dr. Williams to assist her with brushing up on her neonatal and resuscitation skills. Dr. Williams commented, “Going to an under serviced area, especially in the service of children is an incredible responsibility…I was full of admiration for her decision to do so.”
Throughout his life, Dr. John Clark was known for “working hard and playing hard.” He practiced medicine for 43 years and was the former President of the Medical Staff, Chief of Surgery and Chief of Staff. John enjoyed several hobbies including bridge, golf, skiing, fishing, curling and tennis. His numerous fishing adventures allowed him to see Canada, from coast to coast.
Drs. John and Lillian Clark not only shared the receipt of the Glenn Sawyer Award for contributions to medicine and to the community, in 1989, but they also shared a cooperative empathy for Heart Niagara.
As a veteran paediatrician, Lillian echoed Heart Niagara’s concept of Primary Prevention of Metabolic and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), through early year’s intervention in schools. The concept behind the Healthy Heart Schools’ Programme was first proposed in 1985 by Dr. Stafford Dobbin with assistance from Hazel Ann Blew from Regional Niagara Public Health and Bobby Irwin representing the physical education teachers in four school boards in Niagara.
John and Lillian’s contribution to Heart Niagara and the methods used to implement an intervention in Niagara School Boards continues to benefit families at risk for future cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The close of Lillian Clark’s book titled “My Life In Medicine” reads, “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.” The world and those within in it are a better place for having you both pass through.