Peter F. Clark Jr. — a Shakespeare scholar who taught high school English and became an administrator at several Huntington Town schools before returning to the classroom to finish his career — died May 19.
He was 73. The cause of death, at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, was respiratory failure, according to his son Jim Clark, a lawyer from Northport who is also Huntington Town’s outside counsel.
Peter Clark lived much of his life in Northport, but retired to Hilton Head, South Carolina.
For four decades, Clark regaled young people with William Shakespeare’s work and mentored fellow educators, many of whom continue to teach on Long Island.
“Shakespeare was his thing,” said Nancy Kennedy, chairwoman of the English department at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, as she flipped through a student’s paper, from 2007, on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” that Clark had marked up.
Kennedy said that Clark taught her to be a better teacher: to remember that every class is an adventure, to “do your homework,” to “know what you’re talking about, don’t pretend to know what you don’t know, ’cause kids know when you’re faking.”
According to the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, Clark was hired Sept. 1, 1972, as an English teacher — salary, $13,777 — and went on to head Northport High’s English department. He was also assistant principal at Cold Spring Harbor High, and principal of the Lloyd Harbor and Norwood Avenue elementary schools. He took a teaching leave from the district in 1977 for a yearlong Fulbright Scholarship in Edinburgh, Scotland. He taught at St. Anthony’s from 1999 until 2010, according to Assistant Principal Christina Buehler.
Peter Francis Clark Jr. was born in Queens in June 1944, into an Irish family, the second child and only son of Peter F. Clark Sr., president of Teamsters Local 757, the ice-cream workers union, and the former Sally McPhillips, a homemaker. He grew up in two Queens neighborhoods: Sunnyside and Bayside.
Clark graduated in 1961 from Brooklyn’s Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, then put himself through nearby St. Francis College by working at a Breyers ice cream plant in Long Island City, Queens. After his 1965 graduation from college, he secured a fellowship to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where in 1972 he completed his Ph.D. dissertation on “Romeo and Juliet.”
His paper — “A Reconstruction of John Philip Kemble’s Covent Garden Production of Romeo and Juliet’ with Charles Kemble and Eliza O’Neill, 1815-1819” — examined a London production of the Bard’s romantic tragedy that influenced “untold numbers of later English and American productions of the play.”
“Prior to Kemble’s revival,” Clark wrote of the English actor, “Romeo and Juliet had enjoyed a ‘varied fate’ on the London stage.”
Clark married Barbara Dozier in 1966. She survives him.
After Clark accepted the teaching post in Northport, the couple rented in Hauppauge for a year before moving to the village, settling in a two-story Cape on Chestnut Circle in Northport between 1973 and 2000, and later at homes in Eatons Neck and back in Northport.
Besides his son and wife, Clark is survived by another son, Terry Clark, of Smithtown; daughter Christie D’Amour of Roswell, Georgia; sisters Nancy Rossano of Scottsdale, Arizona, Kathy Comiskey of East Northport, and Patty Clark Jacobson of Sleepy Hollow; and eight grandchildren.
His sister Carol Clark died in 2011.
A wake continues Friday 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Nolan & Taylor-Howe Funeral Home in Northport. A funeral will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Philip Neri Church, the family’s longtime parish, in Northport, followed by cremation.
In lieu of flowers, the family has set up a scholarship fund in Clark’s memory at St. Anthony’s: c/o Development Office, 275 Wolf Hill Rd., South Huntington, NY 11746.