2013 First Family of Sports Award
The Clark Family – Bob, Pat, Jackie, Denise, Robyn, Lori and Michele
The Clark Family, the 2013 First Family of Sports Honorees, reveal the power of athletics in bringing a family together. Starting with parents Bob and Pat, a passion for physical activity of virtually any sort passed on to their five daughters and continues today in a generation of grandchildren.
Bob and Pat raised their kids with the mantra that they had to try everything at least once, “then if they didn’t like it that was okay, because at least they tried,” Bob said. Sure enough, that belief led to a generation of young women who participated in seemingly every athletic opportunity and left its mark on the Clover Park High School and the South Puget Sound region.
While most of the family continues to live in the Puget Sound area today, it took many years and numerous moves both around the country and overseas before the Clarks settled in their adopted home. Born June 11, 1934, in Pollock, South Dakota, Robert Clark was the oldest of six boys, a trend that would reverse in his own family when he and his wife Pat would have five girls. After a short time living on a cattle ranch in Butte, Mont., the Clark family crossed the Rocky Mountains and settled in the Portland area.
Bob was a three-sport athlete at Benson High School in the early 1950s, lettering in baseball, basketball and football. Growing up Bob and his brothers had their own basketball team, helping prepare him for his prep career, where he earned All-City recognition. On the gridiron, Bob played both offense and defense and was selected to the Shrine All-Star football game prior to his senior year. His play earned a scholarship to Oregon State, where he was converted to a fullback on offense and a linebacker on defense.
While at Oregon State, Bob majored in education and was involved in the Air Force ROTC program. He worked various jobs to help make ends meet while studying full-time, playing football and participating in ROTC. In 1957 his Beaver football squad won the Pacific Coast Conference and advanced to the Rose Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
After graduation, Bob enlisted in the Air Force and spent 28 years in the military before retiring with the rank of Colonel. The year 1957 proved pivotal for Bob, as he played in the Rose Bowl in January, graduated in the spring and married fellow Oregon State student Pat Newland on Sept. 8 in Pat’s hometown of Medford, Ore.
The newlyweds soon moved to Waco, Texas, where their family soon grew to include three daughters over the next four years. Jackie was born first, on Sept. 26, 1958, and Denise followed almost exactly one year later on Sept. 30, 1959. Robyn was born Aug. 18, 1961, and soon after the Air Force sent the budding family abroad to Weisbaden, Germany.
While in Germany, the young father returned to sports as a coach in the USAFE Football League, guiding the 1962 team to a league championship. Weisbaden also served as the birthplace of the Clark’s final two daughters. Lori Clark was born on March 17, 1963, and Michele joined the family on July 1, 1964.
With parents who were both active sports enthusiasts, the quintet of young girls grew up in a home that was very encouraging of athletic participation. Pat had been a natural athlete as a child, although she did not have many opportunities to take part in organized sports as a young girl in the 1940s. She spent summers at Lake of the Woods, Ore., developing a lifelong love for outdoor sports including water skiing, swimming, fishing and canoeing. This shared passion between Pat and her husband set the stage for a family that viewed the outdoors as a giant playground.
“We were outdoors and playing sports as much as possible from morning to night throughout our collective childhoods,” Denise said. “The joy of sports and physical activity was deeply instilled in each of us and is a primary force in all of our lives today.”
When the Air Force transferred Bob back into the United States, the family moved to Sacramento, Calif. Bob coached and refereed the Mather Boys Basketball Association throughout the late 1960s, while Pat used her high school cheerleading experience to coach cheer at the MBBA. She made the cheer uniforms herself and also kept score for the league, and when softball season came around she coached Little League.
The family eventually made its way to the Tacoma area in the early 1970s, as each of the girls grew in their love of sports. Their parents filled their childhoods with physical activity on a daily basis and took the family on camping vacations that featured canvas tents, water skiing, fishing and swimming.
“The way my wife and I brought our daughters up probably didn’t endear us to their boyfriends,” Bob said. “They weren’t afraid of anything and were willing to try anything. Picking up a snake was not a big deal.”
Jackie joined the swim team at Clover Park High School in 1975, beginning a Clark tradition of athletic participation at Clover Park that stretched into the start of the next decade. Denise played volleyball, basketball and softball at Lochburn Junior High before shifting her focus to the drill team at Clover Park from 1975-77.
Robyn took everything to another level as a volleyball, basketball and track athlete at Clover Park, lettering three times in each sport. She averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game during her high school basketball career and was a first-team all-league honoree as a junior and senior. She helped lead the Warriors to a Washington AAA Girls’ Basketball State Championship in 1978, and with Lori joining the team the following year the Warriors placed third in the state tournament.
Lori continued her own illustrious career at Clover Park, garnering a total of nine varsity letters in the sports of volleyball, basketball, softball and track. With Michele joining the Warriors a year later, the duo paired on league-champion volleyball and basketball teams. Michele also finished her prep career with nine varsity letters, and she capped her time at Clover Park with a third-place state finish in softball and the 1982 AAA State Basketball Championship.
“What a blessing it was to have the Clark girls in the Clover Park volleyball program,” then-Warriors volleyball coach Suzie Ross said. “They had a strong work ethic and gave a lot of effort to their play. Since they got along well with all the players, they were effective in getting the team to play well together.”
All five girls continued their physically active lifestyles after high school. Lori received a volleyball scholarship to Green River Community College and spent two years there. Denise and Robyn each attended their father’s alma mater of Oregon State, with Robyn starting 115 games for the OSU women’s basketball team from 1979-83. She set an OSU record with nine steals in a game and totaled 1,009 career points, 612 rebounds and 238 steals while helping lead the Beavers to the No. 17 national ranking and 1983 NCAA Sweet 16.
As time has passed, seemingly no sport has proved too difficult for the Clark sisters. Lori has completed two duathlons and one triathlon; Jackie has tried sky diving and scuba diving and walked in a pair of three-day Breast Cancer Walks; Denise joined Jackie to win a Tacoma Maritime Festival dragon boat title and has done everything from snow shoeing to sailing; and Lori and Robyn have proven to be a dominant tennis team.
The outdoor activities of their childhoods have continued as the girls have grown and had children of their own. Jackie has two sons who played sports all through high school; Denise’s daughter was a volleyball star in high school and remains active; Lori’s two sons are excellent youth tennis players and Michele’s son and daughter enjoy any outdoor activity on the water and both participated in various sports through school.
While Pat passed away in September 1998, Bob continues to live in Lakewood, Wash., where he remains active doing everything from bowling to scuba diving, hunting, fishing, water skiing, skeet and target shooting, playing racquetball and handball and “working” as a classic car buff and shade tree mechanic.
Jackie (Peterson) lives in Puyallup, Wash., and works as a Transportation Supervisor for Totem Ocean Trailer Express. Denise (Philips) lives in Normandy Park, Wash., and works as a Conference Director for Philips Publishing Group. Robyn (Sharp) lives in Reno, Nev., and works as Director of Development – Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Nevada, Reno. Lori (Rogers) lives in Ashland, Ore., and is a physical therapist assistant. Michele (Jones) lives in Olympia, Wash., and works as a Legal Assistant for Pierce County Superior Court.
“While we are a family of five girls raised in an era when sports were primarily for boys, our parents instilled in each of us a love for physical activity and sportsmanship,” Denise said. “Our parents’ love of sports led them to challenge the norm of the day – sports were for boys – and raise their girls to be independent, strong and confident and to have an incredible sense of fun and joy along the way.”