Roberta Clark passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, at Clark-Lindsey Village in Urbana.
She was the fourth child born to John H. and Martha (Swift) Wheelan on May 19, 1923, at their home on a farm 3 miles southeast of Washington, IA. She was the last surviving member of her generation of 49 grandchildren of John Connell Swift and Mary Cecily Rimmer and 21 grandchildren of Thomas Albert Wheelan and Susan Elizabeth Duffy.
She attended country school at Washington No. 4 School and graduated from Washington High School in 1941. She completed an associate degree at Washington Junior College in 1943 and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1944 with a degree in journalism. She was a member of the editorial staff of the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Iowan, at a time when all the top posts were held by women. The paper was the first in the Iowa City region to break the news of the D-Day landings.
She married the late Robert D. Clark of Arenzville at the Quonset Point (RI) Naval Air Station on Dec. 29, 1944, where he was completing training as a carrier-based fighter pilot. After he returned from active duty in the Pacific during World War II, they lived near Arenzville and raised a family of eight children. Robert was engaged in farming and worked for many years at the First National Bank of Arenzville. He died on March 20, 1989.
While her children were still in grade school and college, Roberta completed course requirements for teacher certification at MacMurray College and Illinois College and began her career as an English teacher. She taught at Beardstown High School in 1965-1966 and Triopia Jr.-Sr. High School from 1966 to 1980, where the National Honor Society was designated the Roberta Clark Chapter in recognition of her years of dedication. When she retired, she continued to teach as a volunteer with the Lincolnland Community College program for learning English as a second language, a role she found joyful and rewarding.
She was a faithful member of St. Fidelis Catholic Church in Arenzville where she participated in the Altar Society, parish council and Confraternity for more than 50 years. Since moving to Urbana in 2004 she has been a faithful member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. She was a member of Illinois Retired Teachers Association and the Alpha Phi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, a professional society for women educators, for more than 40 years. She was also a published author of several poems and a book of letters.
Roberta’s students remember her as a teacher who made learning fun and treated everyone fairly and with kindness. She had a lifelong passion for words and reading. While still a teenager, she read Gone with the Wind in a single day, based on a challenge from her brother Don and the agreement that he would do her chores while she read.
She cherished her Irish heritage and made three trips to her ancestral home, most recently in 2016 when she traveled to County Galway with her daughters and celebrated her 93rd birthday on the site of her grandfather’s birthplace at Ballylee. She recently applied for Irish citizenship based on her grandfather’s birth there.
She is survived by her sister-in-law Maxine Wheelan of Midwest City, OK, and also by her eight children: John C. Clark and wife Nancy of Nacogdoches, TX, Drew Clark and wife Lainie of Boulder, CO, Sara Burrus and husband Roger of Urbana, Annis Householder and partner Don Pilcher of Urbana, Tony Clark and wife Amy of Jacksonville, Jeff Clark and wife Susan of Bloomington, Martha Clark and partner Rich Castelli of Utica, and Molly Daniel and husband Steve of Charleston.
Her surviving grandchildren and step-grandchildren are Susan (Jim) David, Patti (Mark) Pecot, Michael (Nicole) Clark, Daniel Clark, Tami Jones, Heidi Lemberger, Monica (Saul) Delage, Michael (Lucienne) Burrus, Ben (Nicole) Burrus, Patrick (Jill) Householder, Shawn Householder, Samantha (Matt) Walker, Jennifer Clark, Lauren Clark, Sara Clark, Robert (Kristie) Clark, Adam (Jennifer) Berndt, Sarah (Tom) Anderson, James (Erin) Clark, Rachel (Eric) Anderson, Christine (Travis) Stannard. Also surviving are 24 great-grandchildren, 6 step-great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband, parents, her sister Esther Blaine and husband Bernard, brother Don Wheelan, brother P. R. (Mike) Wheelan and wife Donna, an older infant brother, son-in-law John Householder, and daughter-in-law Blanca Clark.
Memorials are suggested to the Alpha Phi Chapter – Raise a Reader (c/o Jean Harlow-Truesdell, Treasurer, Alpha Phi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, 202 Westwinds Drive, Jacksonville, IL 62650).
A private family service will be held. A celebration of Roberta’s life will be scheduled at a later date for extended family and friends. Burial will be at Arenzville North Cemetery.
The Williamson Funeral Home, Jacksonville, is in charge of arrangements. To leave condolences for the family or to find information about livestreaming of the services, see www.airsman-hires.com.