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Tribute to Derek Clark

by Christina Jeffery – 7th April 2021
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A private family funeral was held last month for Derek Clark, who died on 18th February, just weeks before his 90th birthday. But the Haddenham u3a Cycling group, dressed in reflective jackets and cycling clothes, were standing with their bicycles and touchingly formed a Guard of Honour along the cobbled path to the St Mary's Church lychgate for the cortège to pass through.

Daughter Jane Newton gave the eulogy and told how Derek had met Wendy at a roller skating dance evening, when he was 18 and she was 15. Derek underwent his National Service from 1952-1954 – training as a navy engineer and boiler refitter. He and Wendy got married in 1954 and enjoyed 63 years of happy marriage until Wendy died in 2017. Jane was born in 1958 and Tim in 1960.

In 1967, Derek took a job as R&D design engineer at Austin Rover in Cowley, and the family moved to Haddenham, where Derek became a dedicated volunteer. As a Venture Scout leader he was involved in the building of the first Scout hut. He trained as a mountain leader, and as a senior instructor for the British Canoe Association.

He was a Duke of Edinburgh scheme instructor, also an assessor and committee member, trained as a part-time youth leader, and for a while was chair of the Bucks Scout Water Activities committee. He held a Red Cross Industrial First Aid certificate and a Royal Life Saving Society bronze medallion.

Derek enjoyed walking, cycling, camping and canoeing, and took groups camping in various parts of Britain. A lifelong cyclist he took part in a number of 24 hour events – cycling between 250 and 400 miles in 24 hours. He enjoyed cycling holidays abroad, some with his son-in-law Roger Newton, and, at the age of 87 took his bike on Eurostar for the third time and cycled to Talbot House (aka Toc H) in Poperinge, in Flanders which had been founded as a place where soldiers could meet during the First World War and after.

In 1981 he took part in 'Now Get Out of That' a BBC2 series about two competing teams from Oxford (Derek's) and Cambridge; an early example of Reality TV. It was a cross between It's A Knockout and Mastermind'. You can see Derek in action in a nine minute clip on Youtube.

In recent years he was actively involved in helping locals to cycle – by supporting Sustrans and the development of the Phoenix Trail, and helping to train adults and children via the Haddenham Cycle Training scheme. He also planned and led cycle rides for the u3a cycling group.

Other voluntary activities included stewarding at Haddenham Museum, washing up at the Christian Aid hunger lunches, and mending people's bike punctures.

Jane described him as a kind and compassionate man, who was always ready to help anyone, also patient and willing to listen.

Jane, Tim and family say: "Thank you so much for your touching cards, messages and emails which have been so comforting and supportive. It is apparent that Derek was loved and well respected, and will be sorely missed. Thanks also to Stoke Mandeville Hospital's Ward 5 medical team."

"And finally, our thanks for donations made to Derek's chosen charities: Mind, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity, Marie Curie, The Smile Train, British Heart Foundation, Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, and S.O.S. Dogs (Save Oroklini's Stray Dogs)."

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