Obituary: Dr. Thomas H. Clark, 1944-2024 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Dr. Thomas H. Clark, 1944-2024

Area optometrist for 54 years was an avid fly-fisherman and lifelong learner with an endless supply of jokes

Published June 24, 2024 at 6:00 a.m.
Updated June 24, 2024 at 12:37 p.m.


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Dr. Thomas Clark - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Dr. Thomas Clark

Dr. Thomas H. Clark, age 80, of Colchester, Vt., passed away on June 18, 2024, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after a monthlong struggle to overcome complications from infections after open-heart surgery. His wife, Anni Kristensen, was by his side every day through the month and held him in her arms as he took his last breath. He also was attended by his sister Virginia “Gini” Dutcher and nephew, Mickey Dutcher. During his long stay, several beloved family members came to visit.

Tom, born in Glens Falls, N.Y., on July 16, 1944, was the son of the late Harold K. and Margaret (de Ste. Guay) Clark, also of Glens Falls. He was the youngest of four siblings and the only boy. In addition to his sister Gini, his other siblings were the late Barbara Carter of South Burlington, Vt., and the late Elizabeth “Liz” Healy of Glens Falls.

When he was a Little League player, it was discovered that Tom had a congenital heart defect, and at age 14, in 1958, he underwent his first and, at that time, experimental open-heart surgery at Albany Medical Center in New York.

Tom graduated from Glens Falls High School in 1962. After a year at Adirondack Community College, he went on to get his doctor of optometry degree, graduating as then the youngest person in his class, at the age of 24, from New England College of Optometry in Boston. After getting his degree in 1968, he was drafted into the U.S. Army as a captain. While in the Army, he was stationed at Fort Sam Houston Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

After finishing his Army service, he returned to Burlington, Vt., and opened his first optometry office, on Pearl Street. His office moved a couple of times to South Burlington and Burlington, but Tom was at his optometry office in Blair Park in Williston for more than 25 years. Many of his patients followed him throughout his 54-year-long career. He enjoyed seeing his patients year after year and continuing the conversation they had started on day one of meeting them. The feeling was mutual, and many personal stories and anecdotes and jokes were shared along with a thorough eye exam.

Not only was Tom a gifted optometrist, he was also a consummate lifelong learner. Among the highlights of his career was providing innovative visual training to race car drivers, including Michael Andretti. He also worked with minor league players of the Burlington Lake Monsters, then an affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

He developed and received patents for two progressive lens-measuring tools. This required learning how to create devices electronically and printing them on his 3D printer. In his early ’70s, he decided to learn how to play violin when one made by his great-great-uncle was gifted to him. At 78, Tom decided that he would learn how to repair pocket watches. Throughout his life he was an avid fly-fisherman and especially loved to take friends fishing for steelhead trout on the Salmon River in Pulaski, N.Y., or go fly-fishing for tarpon in Florida with his “boys” from Denmark. During his first trip to Denmark in 1992, Anni took him to a fishing store known as the best in Denmark. Tom quickly became friends with the manager, which led to Tom meeting three other avid fly-fishermen who traveled to the U.S. several times to go fishing with Tom.

Dr. Thomas Clark - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Dr. Thomas Clark

When he wasn’t fishing, he most likely was building something — bamboo fly rods, classic wooden canoes with hand-carved paddles to match, a rowboat for his sister Gini, a secret liquor cabinet for his Danish mother-in-law's senior apartment.

Tom talked to people and made friends everywhere he went. When the pandemic sent us all home for a couple of months, Tom suggested to six of his high school buddies from Glens Falls, who lived elsewhere in New York State, New Hampshire, Virginia and South Carolina, that they meet via Zoom. They all agreed, and on a Wednesday at 2 p.m. in late March 2020, they gathered in front of their computers. This tradition has continued every Wednesday for the four years since.

Tom had an endless supply of jokes and always was sharing them with anybody close enough to hear. His sense of humor and fun were what drew people to him. Everybody who knew him has a funny story to tell about how he joked with them and made them laugh.

He was a compassionate and kind person who will be sorely missed by all the people who loved him. Though his energy diminished over the years, his enthusiasm for life never did. Even as he lay struggling in the ICU, he endeared himself to the nurses when he smiled at them or reached for their hand or rolled his eyes.

Tom is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Anni Kristensen; sister Virginia Dutcher and brother-in-law William Dutcher; and numerous nieces, nephews, and dear friends near and far. A memorial service will take place on Saturday June 29, 2 p.m., at Mountain View Chapel, 68 Pinecrest Dr., Essex Junction, VT. A special thank-you goes out to Dr. Antonia Kreso, the staff and all the nurses at Blake 8 ICU for their professional, respectful, kind and compassionate care.

Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Ready Funeral & Creation Service, Mountain View Chapel, 68 Pinecrest Dr., Essex Junction, VT. To send online condolences to the family, please visit readyfuneral.com.

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