Hodge: Elise Clark–A genuine advocate for community

No matter what the structure of the building, health of the person, power of nature or caring craftsmanship of the art work—given enough time it will eventually fade, crumble or die.

Time has claimed another icon of our city. The residents, and indeed the entity of the City of Kelowna are much better off today, because of her.

Elise Clark gave her heart and soul to this town —and I thank her for it.

When I dig into the memory bank it feels like I knew Elise all my life. In reality, it was only most of my life.

Few long-time residents of our town are not familiar with the diminutive lady who, despite her stature, never stepped aside from a challenge.

With Elise Clark you pretty much knew where you stood, what she thought, and how to change the situation if it needed changing. If you were unsure—Elise would tell you.

I first met her when she was good friends with my father, another person of strong conviction and no slouch when it came to standing up for what was right.

Even back then, both of them were heavily involved in the community.

My dad was on city council in Kelowna from 1970 to ’73 and, ironically, Elise was elected to council soon after dad was forced to leave due to health conditions.

She was first elected to council in 1974 and served there until 1993.

While Elise and my dad did not always see eye to eye, they had no problem looking each other in the eye and then agree to disagree in a respectful and productive way.

They shared a tremendous respect for each other and it showed in the work they accomplished together and individually for Kelowna.

Elise was around our home a lot when I was a teenager. We were also in contact often when I was working in newspapers and on environmental issues. She always took the time to listen to my thoughts or concerns.

During the past six years we kept in touch a fair bit, especially when I sat on city council. (I believe dad and I are the only father/son councillors in Kelowna’s history).

She would then bend my ear on many issues and I remember thinking how time can often reverse roles in people’s lives.

I have several fond memories of the chats we had, and her insistence that I remain true to my beliefs and not “knuckle under” to pressure.

It is safe to say that very few people ever had the impact on Kelowna Elise Clark did.

A chronology of some of her life, provided by family members, provides testimony to that comment.  Consider her track record:

1969-74—Director, Educational Convener, President for the Kelowna & District Society for Retarded Children

1969-98—Charter Member, Director, John Howard Society

1970-72—Researcher and author of a report advocating the establishment of a level of health care, called Intermediate Care, in B.C.

1975—Proposed successfully to City they add a ‘Woman of the Year’ Award to the Civic Awards, in recognition of the United Nations’ International Woman’s Year

1975-79—Council Appointee to the Planning Council, which established: Kelowna Women’s Emergency Shelter, S.H.A.R.E., Crisis Line, and Advice Services Kelowna

1976—Chaired the first Bicycle Committee of Council, which resulted in a comprehensive Bike System Plan and Bicycle Lanes.

1977 - Co-Founded first non-profit Children’s Day-Care Society in Kelowna

1977-78—Central Okanagan Regional District Director

1977-82—Director, Vice-President, Past President, B.C. Association for the Mentally Handicapped

1978-79—Member of the National Parole Board

1980-81—Director of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded

1981—Chaired the City’s Accessibility Committee, International Year of the Handicapped

1981-98—Co-founder, President of the Howard Fry Housing Society

1985—Chaired the Kelowna Crime prevention Committee, which led to establishment of Crime Stoppers

1988-98—Broke gender barrier in Kelowna by becoming member of Kiwanis Club of Kelowna. Served as president in  1997

1988-2001—Parliamentarian for National Parole Board

1991—Chaired the B.C. Games for the Physically Disabled

1993—President of Kelowna & District Safety Council and Director of B.C. Safety Council, Consultant Kelowna Community Kitchens Society

1993-97—Director of the Kiwanis Towers.

1994-97 - Founder, first President, of the KLO Neighbourhood Association

1995—Chair of the Central Okanagan United Way Campaign

1996-98—President of the Mid-Valley Bingo Association

1997-98—Director of the Kiwanis Music Festival Society

Kelowna resident Martin Gruenwald wisely suggested recently that Kelowna rename Waterfront Park to Elise Clark Park and I concur.

“We have Kerry Park, Stuart Park, Knox Mountain Park, Ben Lee Park, Bill Knowles Park—to honour in perpetuity those who have helped define this city,” Gruenwald aptly points out.

You get my vote Martin, though Elise would probably admonish you for such an idea.

May you rest in peace Elise. You deserve it.


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