STUART, Fla. – Joseph Clark, a decorated Army veteran and former longtime progressman at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, who devoted his life to family, died Sunday at a hospice center in Stuart. He was 81.

Mr. Clark, a Biddeford native, graduated from St. Louis High School and joined the Army in 1952. He served for three years and racked up numerous medals including: the Korean Service Medal, Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the National Defense Service Medal.

In 1956, Mr. Clark joined the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. As a progressman, his job was to ensure that materials and resources were available to complete a job. He also managed the funding allocated for production-related jobs. He worked there for 30 years before retiring in 1986.

His son, Donald Clark, of Stuart, Fla., said Wednesday that his father took pride in his work.

“He loved it,” his son said. “He loved the camaraderie with the employees. He felt that he was doing good for the country.”

He was a loving husband of Madelyn Clark, his wife for 57 years. The couple lived in Biddeford and raised two children.

The Clarks met in New York City while he was on leave from the Army. One month later, he proposed and she accepted.

“He was a very good husband and a good father,” his wife said on Wednesday. “He provided for us his whole life. He was devoted to his family and to me.”

Donald Clark thought back to the years his father coached his West Biddeford Little League team. At the time, the league was struggling and its ballfields needed major upgrades.

Mr. Clark coached for a few years, then became president of the league. During his tenure, he raised money for a new scoreboard, repairs to the field and new fencing. He also served a stint as president of the Biddeford Senior Little League division.

“A lot of people had ideas, but he made sure it got done,” his son said. “He stepped up when no one else would.”

Mr. Clark had a passion for his community and family.

The Clarks have wintered in Stuart, Fla., since 1986. A few years ago, they moved there.

They enjoyed vacationing in Bermuda, and taking cruises and bus trips throughout New England.

“They had a wonderful life,” his son said. “They didn’t get cheated. They did a lot.”

Mr. Clark had a close relationship with his children and grandchildren.

In recent years, he and his son attended the Martin County High School boys’ basketball games.

“It got him out of the house. It was my dad time,” his son said.

Mr. Clark’s granddaughter, Shylah Clark of Scarborough, shared memories of visiting him in Florida and going fishing. She said Wednesday that they had a very close relationship.

“I’ll miss seeing his happy face when I arrived to visit,” she said. “He made you happy because he was so happy. He made you feel like it was all about you. When I had to leave, he would always tear up and say “I love you, kid.”

Mr. Clark had a major stroke in the fall of 2011. In recent months, his health had steadily declined. His son said the family is relieved he is not suffering anymore.

“It’s really a blessing that he is out of pain right now,” he said.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better father. I was very lucky and fortunate to have had him.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com