Her adventurous nature defied the physical limitations that growing old can bring.

Velma Williams West Clark was jumping off White’s Bridge in Windham to go swimming, snow tubing at Portland’s Riverside Golf Course with her grandchildren, and roller-skating at Happy Wheels – all when she was in her mid-70s.

Mrs. Clark died Monday at her home in Windham, surrounded by her family. She was 78. Her family described her as an adventurous woman with a passion for living.

“The only thing we couldn’t talk her into doing was sky-diving,” said a daughter, Janice Schmidt of Cumberland.

Mrs. West met her first husband, Leonard C. West, when she was 18. They married when she was 19.

Their marriage lasted 10 years. Her husband drowned when he was 29, after he rescued a boy who was swimming at Otter Pond in Bridgton. “Throughout the years, she would call Leonard the love her life,” Schmidt said.

“At age 29, she was left to raise five kids and she had never worked before,” Schmidt said. “She had a hard time, but it didn’t bring her down.”

Mrs. Clark was a housekeeper for years at the Maine Center for the Blind in Portland. She became lifelong friends with many of the residents while working to support her young family.

“We didn’t feel deprived, or like we had to go without,” her daughter said. “She never complained.”

For her 75th birthday party, her family staged a “Wheel of Fortune” game – her favorite television game show.

About 75 people attended. Of course, Mrs. Clark won the grand prize – a Caribbean cruise.

“She had never been out of the country before,” her daughter said. “She was so proud of that cruise. She kept a scrapbook of the photos we took on that trip for a year.”

During the cruise, she got to swim with dolphins. But the highlight of the cruise was getting to see Schmidt get married, on a beach in Grand Cayman. It came as a complete surprise to Mrs. Clark.

“She was speechless. She was so happy,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Clark’s identical twin sister, Thelma Jipson, died a couple of years ago. Schmidt also has a twin sister, Janet Mowatt of Windham.

Schmidt said one of the most remarkable things about her mother was her willingness to take risks, like jumping off White’s Bridge in Windham with her grandchildren when she was 75.

Mrs. Clark enjoyed roller-skating with a family of African refugee children with whom Schmidt had grown close. “Those kids used to say she is such a good mom,” Schmidt said. “That would make her smile.”


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]