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Loss of a favourite son

Article Date: 5 March 2014

The Willowbank community is mourning the passing of one of its favourite sons, former management committee member, racer and volunteer official John Clark.

John, who was 60, passed away on Tuesday, March 4. In recent years, John had returned to work as a volunteer official at Willowbank, alongside his wife Wendy, daughter Kirsty Collis and son-in-law Craig Collis.

John worked tirelessly in the construction phase of Willowbank, going out to the track every weekend and, as an Ipswich local, often driving to the facility during the week to attend to various matters that needed attention.

Former Willowbank president John Winterburn and former board member Sue Syrmis said those who helped build the track in the mid 1980s will never forget the barbecues at the Clark residence following a hard day’s work. Brisbane volunteer workers frequently stayed at the Clark house on Saturday nights, so that they didn’t waste time going back to Brisbane and could get up early on the Sunday to do a full day’s work at Willowbank. “Everyone from those times will have a story about John and Wendy,’’ Ms Syrmis said. “John was a perfectionist with everything he did, and this included the barbecue. He even mowed the grass once before he started cooking, which led to some interesting comments from the hungry workers.’’

“John was just always there when you needed him,’’ Mr Winterburn said. “His skills as an electrician were invaluable but he was able to do anything and you simply can’t build a place like that without people like John. I really can’t think of anyone who worked harder for Willowbank than John Clark. ’’

John Clark joined the management committee in 1984 and he was one of seven directors who in 1985 signed personal guarantees to satisfy bank requirements for the $250,000 loan needed to complete the racing surface.

He got to benefit from his hard work in the building phase by racing at the track over a number of years, culminating in the greatest season of his career in 1991 when he and partner Robbie Baxter’s Escort won the Nationals at Willowbank in April, took out the Super Sedan Track Championship and the Racers Choice Trophy in July and scored a racing double with a Super Sedan Australian Championship in November.

In 2010 Wendy Clark, who began her service to the sport as an official at Surfers Raceway, was honoured with an award for 25 years of service as a volunteer official at Willowbank.

The board, staff and volunteer officials of Willowbank Raceway offer condolences to John’s family in their great loss.

John's funeral will be held at 11.00am on Wednesday March 12, at St Paul’s Anglican Church, 124 Brisbane Street, Ipswich


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