Obituary of Florence Joan Clark
October 12, 1934 – Liverpool, Nova Scotia
April 11, 2023 - Calgary, Alberta
Florence Joan Clark (nee MacDonald) known fondly as Joan, was born October 12, 1934 in Liverpool, NS. Joan lived life passionately, immersed in literature, learning, travel, lifelong friendships, and her family.
Joan graduated from Acadia University in 1957 with a BA in English and received an honorary Doctor of Letters from her alma mater in 1997 and an honorary Doctorate in 1998 from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Having decided to set aside her dream of joining the Norwegian navy and having spent some time traveling through Europe with World University Service of Canada (WUSC), Joan began her career as a schoolteacher in Sussex, NB. Her marriage to Jack Clark in 1958 put a slight pause on this, as she decided to move into the garden shed beside the priest’s house in Winisk, along the shores of Hudson Bay, where Jack was stationed. Over the next five decades, they moved many times, expanding their circle of friends in Edmonton, Ottawa, Dartmouth, Halifax, Calgary, Bragg Creek, and St. John’s.
Joan began writing at the kitchen table during her children’s nap times. She published her first novel in 1968. Throughout her vast and vibrant writing career she wrote poetry, short stories, children’s books, young adult novels, adult novels, and a screenplay. Her work has been translated into many languages around the world and her novel Audience of Chairs was made into a movie. Joan was an integral member of the expansive arts communities in Alberta and Newfoundland as an advocate and mentor. She was a founding member of Writer’s Guild of Alberta, as well as a founding member of the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador. She co-founded the literary journal Dandelion (Alberta) and won numerous awards for her writing. She was passionate about mentoring writers across the country and served as Writer in Residence in Edinburgh, Banff Center of the Arts and University of New Brunswick, where she completed her last novel in 2015 at the age of 80. Joan was honoured to receive both the Marian Engle Award (for adult body of fiction) and the Vicky Metcalf Award for children’s literature (for a body of work). In 2010, Joan received the Order of Canada for her contribution to the literary arts communities in Alberta and Newfoundland.
Joan exuded creativity and delighted in planning adventures for her children, Tim, Tony, and Sara, including trips to the local fish hatchery and Oak Island to learn about buried treasure. She created a stage in the family garage for her children to put on plays with other neighbourhood children, creating gold painted treasure chests with chocolate doubloons hidden in Edworthy park with treasure maps, and engaged them in mask and puppet making.
Joan loved to travel, for pleasure and as a writer. She cherished her experiences across the planet including Spain, Scotland, Japan, China, Iceland, and Thailand and made lasting friendships in each place she visited. Some of her travel was to ensure accuracy in her writing, including a trip to Norway to speak with secret guild boat builders about the type of boat Freydis Eriiksdaughter would have used to travel from Greenland to Vineland (Newfoundland). One of her favorite places to call home was Lake Lillian, B.C, where she spent summers with her family at the cabin she and Jack built.
Joan is loved and remembered by her children, Tim (Laurie), Tony (Pam), and Sara; and her grandchildren, Anthony (Emily), Emma (Jeremy), Sam, Hanna, Emily. Joan is also survived by her beloved sister Gail (Gerry); her nieces, Jane and Barb (Chip); her nephews Andrew (Stephanie) and Bill (Chris); grandnephews, Kieran and Rowan; and many cherished friends. She is predeceased by her husband of 52 years Dr. J.I. (Jack) Clark O.C. in 2010.
The Clark family will be hosting a Celebration of Life, details of which will follow. Condolences, memories, and photos can also be shared and viewed here.
We are grateful to the wonderful caring staff at Age Care Glenmore and Alex Simms of O’Hana Care for his compassionate companionship for Joan.
In lieu of flowers please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, https://alzheimer.ca/en/take-action/make-your-donation-today or to one of Joan’s passions; PEN Canada, https://pencanada.ca/act/donations/ , Writer’s Guild of Alberta, https://writersguild.ca/support-us/ or Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, https://wanl.ca/membership/the-write-gift/ or supporting your local independent bookstore.
In living memory of Joan Clark, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes.