Marie Antoinette “Noni” Clark died peacefully on October 9, 2020, at home and surrounded by her family.
She was born June 13, 1935, in Wells, Minn., to Loretta and Will Wilder. Her parents intended to call her “Toni,” which older sister Alys mispronounced as “Noni” and the name stuck. Noni graduated from Wells High School in 1953 where she was active in band, chorus, and golf.
Noni attended Mankato State College studying elementary education. She spent the summer of 1957 babysitting in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, to earn money for her tuition. Bringing her young charge to the lake for swimming lessons, she caught the attention of the recreation director, a recent college graduate from Michigan. Noni and Jim Clark were together ever since. After a whirlwind courtship, they were married on January 25, 1958.
Married life took Noni first to Ypsilanti, Mich., then back to a series of small towns in southwest Minnesota: Hanley Falls, where they welcomed their first daughter Molly; Marshall, where they added daughter Liz; and finally, New Richland. Through these moves, Noni continued her coursework and graduated from Mankato State while expecting her third daughter Jenny. Son Tom joined the following year. Noni was a working mother, teaching kindergarten while caring for four youngsters.
The family moved to Stevens Point in 1965 and added Sarah, John, and Pete. While Jim taught and coached baseball at UWSP, Noni kept the family running.
Noni’s greatest undertaking was raising seven children, a role she embraced with gusto. She was an independent, fun, and sometimes formidable mother, which served her well as Jim traveled often for his coaching duties. She attended every parent-teacher conference, game, play, or other school events, making costumes or treats even when given last-minute notice by the kids. She had a knack for knowing when to deliver a dose of tough love, when to lend a sympathetic ear, and when to simply join in the merriment.
The door to Noni’s home was always open. She welcomed every visitor, whether they stayed 15 minutes or a few weeks. Her favorite spot was her regular chair at the end of the table, drinking a glass of wine and listening to the kids and their friends regale her with the latest news.
Noni found time to hold a variety of volunteer and paid positions that allowed her to provide that welcoming spirit. She coordinated the USDA Commodities Food Distribution program with the commitment to upholding the dignity of all residents who sought assistance. As a greeter at St. Michael’s Hospital, Noni made it a point to reassure patients and family members who were feeling anxious and uncertain, putting them at ease with her friendly chatter.
She had a lifetime of service to the Catholic Church, first at St. Joseph’s parish, as a member of the Cemetery Board. At Newman University Parish, she was a lector and Eucharistic minister and helped with student suppers and altar decorations.
She and Jim served as marriage counselors and were part of the “morning saints” who enjoyed morning mass and coffee.
After their kids were grown, Noni and Jim enjoyed traveling, with memorable trips to Ireland, Hawaii, Florida, Monterey CA, Mackinac Island, Cape Cod, and New York City. They were active and involved grandparents, visiting their grandchildren for birthdays and attending their special events, and welcoming them to “Camp Clark” in Stevens Point. She took up woodworking, and her carefully-crafted ornaments and crucifixes were treasured gifts for family members. Noni was passionate about politics and was proud to cast her absentee ballot prior to her death.
Noni took great pride in having a welcoming home, and her greatest wish was to remain at home through the end of her life. This was made possible with the unwavering support from Jim, her husband of 62 years; Pete, the only child still living in Stevens Point, and his partner Carissa Smith, who made daily visits and handled endless tasks, big and small.
The family sends their deepest appreciation to Noni’s attentive and loving caregivers. A special thank you to Dana, Heather, Jenny G, Mary, and Susan.
She was preceded in death by her oldest child, Molly Voorheis, and her siblings Jeanne Enderson, Terri Wilder, and Alys Smith. She leaves behind her loving husband Jim; daughter Liz Menzer of Stoughton, Wis.; and grandchildren Evan, Graem (Susan), and Rory; daughter Jenny Clark of Milwaukee; son Tom (Nancy) Clark of Shrewsbury, Mass., and grandchildren Shannon, Ally, and Lauren; daughter Sarah Clark of Ann Arbor, Mich., and grandchildren Jack and Willy; son John (Kirsten) Clark of Gibsonia, Penn., and grandchild Torben; son Pete Clark of Stevens Point; son-in-law Tim Voorheis and grandchildren Mattie, Tom, Ellen and Pat; brother Fran (Geri) Wilder of Wells, Minn.; and beloved nieces and nephews.
A funeral mass will be held 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, at Holy Spirit Parish in Stevens Point, with live streaming through the parish Facebook page. Due to space restrictions from COVID-19, attendees for the funeral mass must reserve seating. Please contact the family if you would like to attend the mass.
A public visitation will precede at the church from 9 a.m. until the time of the funeral mass. All current social safety practices will be strictly enforced: including the wearing of face coverings, social distancing, and state-mandated capacity restrictions.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests honoring Noni’s background and commitment to early childhood education with a donation to CAP Services of Portage County in support of their Head Start program, 2900 Hoover Road Suite A, Stevens Point, Wis. 54481.