Tributes paid to great-grandfather who travelled the world

Rod Clark, at the Norfolk and Suffolk Air Museum at Flixton, in front of a type of plane he worked o

Rod Clark, at the Norfolk and Suffolk Air Museum at Flixton, in front of a type of plane he worked on back in the 1950s. Picture: The Clark family - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a man who contributed much to the community after making the Waveney Valley his home for 45 years.

Rod Clark, with HMS Gamecock in the 1950s. Picture: The Clark family

Rod Clark, with HMS Gamecock in the 1950s. Picture: The Clark family - Credit: Archant

Rod Clark – a much loved friend, fundraiser, family man and funny guy – has died aged 85.

Rod Clark, pictured doing engineering work. Picture: The Clark family

Rod Clark, pictured doing engineering work. Picture: The Clark family - Credit: Archant

Born on February 14, 1935 Rodney Clark was one of seven brothers and sisters brought up by their mother after his father walked out of their home.

During the Second World War he was evacuated from Chessington in Surrey to Great Torrington in Devon.

Tributes have been paid to Rod Clark. Picture: The Clark family

Tributes have been paid to Rod Clark. Picture: The Clark family - Credit: Archant

Back in Surrey, he performed in school assemblies with another, unrelated, Clark – Petula. The singer sent him greetings on his 80th birthday in 2015.

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In December 1952, aged 17, he joined the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, mastering his engineering skills on Rolls Royce Merlin engines from Spitfires and rising to Leading Air Mechanic on aircraft carriers including HMS Illustrious and HMS Centaur.

When best pal Charlie Brown invited him for a weekend in Manchester in March 1956 he agreed. There, on a blind date, he met his future wife Beatrice Ann Sharp. They would be together for 64 years.

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In 1959 they married at St Ann’s Church in Manchester city centre and their wedding reception was the first to take place at the Free Trade Hall.

Rod bought himself out of the services and set up a business repairing washing machines while Ann opened a hair salon in West Gorton.

By 1966 they had four young children.

When the business ended in the early 1970s, he worked night shifts wiring computers, managed a clothing factory, set up a tropical fish business and, with time in the countryside hard to come by, applied to train as a shepherd.

Instead, in 1975, when the city council served a compulsory purchase order for the row of shops they lived above to widen the road, they took the chance and moved to Bungay where they had enjoyed family holidays with relatives who had already made the move.

Rod found a job at Lotus Engineering in Hethel, but the daily commute was too costly and instead he began work at nearby Buxted Poultry in Flixton, where he built and maintained machinery, often working seven days a week and night shifts for overtime.

In 1985 he and Ann began a new joint career.

They built a home for the elderly in the garden of their home in Ditchingham, called Lynfield, and ran it for almost 20 years.

With their four children now older – and with loyal staff who became firm friends to depend on – the couple were able to travel.

Over the years they made friends across the world – from Malaysia to New Zealand; Africa to Singapore.

They also finally caught up with some of Rod’s surviving siblings who had emigrated with his mother to Australia decades earlier.

In 1990, Rod bought a beautiful 1934 Woodbridge-built wooden yacht Sylna and earned his Royal Yacht Association qualifications.

The boat was moored at Oulton Broad but eventually became a local landmark outside their Ringsfield home until, no longer able to give it the TLC it needed, he gave it away to be restored.

In Bungay and Beccles, the couple were involved in many societies and groups and raised large sums over the years for Kings Road Rangers FC, USA ’80 – their two sons were part of a school soccer trip to America – The Big C appeal, heart charities and international appeals.

Rod joined Rotary International and was a freemason for 60 years, forging friendships with fellow members across the world and often hosting foreign students.

Their visits – and family gatherings – were always lit up by his witty sayings, his ability to make a joke out of any situation and his self-taught harmonica, piano and accordion skills.

With family everything to the Clark’s, grandchildren and great-grandchildren loved their visits for fun-packed trips, seaside picnics, sing-songs and fish and chips.

The couple’s 80th birthday parties – and 60th anniversary celebrations in Manchester and Suffolk last June – saw people travel huge distances to be there.

In his late 70s, Rod’s always robust health suddenly deteriorated.

Tests revealed asbestosis and often short of breath, his condition was made worse by a faulty heart valve, later repaired brilliantly by surgeons at Papworth Hospital in 2017.

But Rod’s attempts to get fit again were often frustrated by his scarred lungs.

Earlier this month he caught pneumonia, which he could not shake off.

He died on Tuesday, May 12 at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Rod is survived by his wife, their four children – Joanne, a prison chaplain in Manchester; Janice, head of pastoral support at Notre Dame High School, Norwich; David, a vehicle design engineer for Ford in Melbourne, Australia; and Matthew, a journalist in London – nine grandchildren and an ever-growing number of great-grandchildren.

In 1997, asked to sum up his life thus far, he described it as “a kaleidoscope coloured by everything – friendships, places, family and achievements.

“There have been problems and sadness to overcome, like all families.

“On the whole I would say it’s been pretty good. May I have more, please?”

A private funeral – due to Covid-19 restrictions – will be held on Wednesday, June 3 at GreenAcres Colney.

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