Cover photo for Walter Jay "Walt" Clark's Obituary
Walter Jay "Walt" Clark Profile Photo
1941 Walter 2021

Walter Jay "Walt" Clark

October 23, 1941 — January 20, 2021

Walt Clark, aged 79, passed away peacefully, at his home, on January 20, 2021.

He was born in Missoula, Montana in 1941 to Robert (Bob) and Ann Clark. He attended both parochial and public school, graduating from Missoula County High School in 1959. Walt enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving for four years, where he made lifelong friendships.

Upon his return, he met and fell in love with Cathy of Whitefish, Montana. They were married in 1966. Walt attended University of Montana and Northern Montana College earning both a bachelor’s degree in Vo-Tech education and a master’s degree in education administration.

Walt dedicated his life to enriching the lives of students in Hardin, MT as a teacher of auto mechanics, wood working and welding and then as a principal in Thompson Falls, MT; Metlakatla, AK; Sitka, Ak and Polson, MT. As an educator, he earned numerous awards on both the state and national level for the programs he implemented at his schools. These include but are not limited to the Milken Educator’s Award for the state of Alaska and the School Administrator Award issued by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Walt was always up for a challenge, whether in the role of teacher, administrator, dad or grandfather. It could be building or fixing things, helping his children or grandchildren with a school project or any other grand plan that he or they concocted. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and working in the garage. Mostly, he enjoyed time with his family and he adored all of his grandchildren. Walt made a difference; he made this world a better place. He is the best man we have ever known. We will miss his quick wit and mischievous smile. He was our rock. He is in our hearts and he will forever be our hero.

Walt is preceded in death by his parents and sister Barbara Irlbeck of Wake Forest NC, who passed fall of 2020, and by his loyal dog, Tucker.

Survivors include his wife Cathy, Missoula; daughters Peggy Reely, Missoula and Judy and her husband Michael Swiger Portland, OR; grandchildren Evan and Anna Reely and Trystan and Kailey Swiger; sister Janet and her husband Art Davison, Missoula; brother-in-law Bill Irlbeck, Wake Forest NC; including many nieces, nephews and cousins.

He will be laid to rest at the Western Montana State Veterans Cemetery. A celebration of life will be held this summer; details will be forthcoming. Anyone wishing to attend, please reach out to family members with your contact information so we can add you to our contact list. There will be more family memories posted on Garden City Funeral Home’s website.

Walt Clark, former Principal of Blatchley Middle School, passed away very recently.
Mr. Clark was an administrator who thought of ‘KIDS FIRST.’ He never forgot his primary mission, teaching the students. In many ways he reminded teachers staff of that primary mission.

Not a desk-bound administrator, he roamed the halls, stopping by classrooms as he came by. A glance, a quick stop, occasionally helping with a lesson, he was a participant in teaching students. Yes, and the paperwork piled up, waiting for Walt’s Saturday appearance in his office.

Although he had a rather serious demeanor, Walt had a wicked sense of humor. Telling a joke, listening to humorous escapades and sometimes being the brunt of brash humor was part and parcel for Walt.
He helped lead Blatchley into a theme week (first one was Renaissance week). \/\/alt found a giant parachute to symbolize a roof for a castle in the gym. He needed a long cord. So, Walt decided to borrow the cord from the flagpole. Removing the cord was a challenge so Walt hooked up the cord to his PU. Whoops! The flag pole was bent at an acute angle. Never to miss a step - knowing Walt could handle a joke - next day T-shirts appeared on faculty members showing a bent flagpole — in honor of Walt Clark. Walt laughed with us. Remarkable! A sweet man with a humble demeanor - but, along with that a determined educator clearly wanting things to improve.

Walt was smart and worked hard to improve things. He lead more than one staz meeting around “How can we do this better?” Never one to love staff meetings, never the less, it was clear Walt had improvement in mind - we needed to do things better.

Walt was a good writer. He could articulate thoughts clearly on paper. He was in favor of advanced technology - computers appeared in Alaska and in Sitka long before the rest of the USA. Blatchley had computers, a computer lab and workshops on how to incorporate new technology into the curriculum.

In Montana, his birthplace and later his retirement home, Walt worked as an educator. Sandwiched in the middle of his career he worked as an educator in Alaska.

He will be missed by his family. He will also be missed by educators in Montana and Alaska. His quiet, dignified, smart approach to teaching kids was a tribute to all good educators. Thank you Walt for your dedication to students and educators in Montana and Alaska.

Harvey Brandt
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