Cover photo for Theresia Clarke's Obituary
Theresia Clarke Profile Photo
1927 Theresia 2015

Theresia Clarke

June 3, 1927 — November 16, 2015

Theresia Josephine (Walla) Clarke 03 Jun 1927-16 Nov 2015 Theresia Clarke, well known secretary at Gravenhurst High School for many years, joined her loving husband, Alphonse Clarke, in heaven, in her 89th year. Theresia was the daughter of John and Anna (Micheller) Walla, born in Laksarska Nova Ves, Slovakia. Theresia is predeceased by her brother, Felix Walla, of Manchester England, and three grandchildren. Early years: Anna and John were living in Vienna, Austria, and according to Slovak tradition, Anna went back to her home village to deliver her children by midwives. So, although the children were of Slovak birth and heritage, they were raised in Vienna from infancy. In 1928, John immigrated to Canada leaving his family in Vienna. Meanwhile, Anna opened a ‘green grocery store' under the second floor flat where she and her parents lived. While Anna ran her store to contribute to the family income, her father was a streetcar driver and during the day her mother looked after Theresia and Felix. Wisely, Anna's shop was located on a street leading to the hospital and so her business was highly successful. Leaving Europe: When WW11 was on Vienna's doorstep, Anna predicted the foreseeable dangers and feared for her children, Felix then 14 years old and Theresia, 9. So, in 1936, Anna sold her business to her sister, packed a steamer trunk, and with her children, boarded the R.M.S. AURANIA. According to relatives in Vienna, they boarded the last ship taking civilians from Europe to Canada before WW11. Arrival in Canada: John met his family at the Gravenhurst train station, never having seen one another for the past 8 years. The new immigrants needed to learn English, as German was the language in Austria and Slovak was the language at home. The new culture was shockingly different, going from ballet and opera performances to a labourious farm life where winters were much more bitter than in Vienna. Education, Employment & Family: Theresia thrived in school. Theresia's dream was to become a doctor but this goal was thwarted as her father did not believe in girls going to university. Anna insisted Theresia receive further education. Theresia enrolled in Shaw's Business College graduating with honours. This certainly proved Theresia had the aptitude for higher learning. Theresia's first job was as secretary in the Christensen Law Office. Not long after, Theresia fell in love with Al Clarke, who had recently returned to Muskoka from a WW11 battlefield in France. He, and his brothers Phil and Jack, were building their store, the Gravenhurst Meat Market, on a vacant lot next to the law office. Today the building is a video store. Theresia and Al married. After their first child Kathy was born, Theresia stayed home to raise her family. It soon expanded to include Terry and Angela. Employment Again: When Theresia's children were still in elementary school she ventured back into the workforce defying that ‘a woman's place was in the home'. She started as a secretary at GHS and when an opening arose was promoted to head secretary. From 1962-85 she was at the helm of GHS. Theresia sent out many letters of reference on behalf of students, supported reunion committees (even when retired), was the archivist for school memorabilia, and was the front-line guard to the principals along with all the other admin duties. She was often a listening ear, the band-aid lady, and always had the detention list in her hand at the end of the day. Former principal, John Brownlee writes, "Your Mom was a great lady, her expertise, kindness, and knowledge, helped make GHS a great place to be." Entertainment: Life centered on the family, as well as frequent travels to visit relatives. One highlight of Theresia's life was to travel back to Vienna with her mother to reunite with Anna's sisters and families. She and Al travelled back several times more to create reunions with those she grew up with and loved. Saturday evenings often saw Theresia and Al playing darts or dancing at the Legion; not surprisingly, bringing home a prize or trophy. They enjoyed their annual winter trips to various warm places. This benefited their health greatly. Theresia's memberships included 40 years with the Catholic Women's League and the Royal Canadian Legion. In retirement Theresia enjoyed putting her feet up and was an avid reader. In Canada, Theresia leaves behind daughters Kathy Shillinglaw and Angela Clarke of Barrie, son Terry (Raylene) Clarke of Minden, 13 grandchildren, several great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. Also, in Gravenhurst, cousin Albina Kornfeil and family; in Vienna, cousins Ernst (Erika) Strasky and Walter (Hannelore) Gach; in Slovakia, cousins Emilia and Jazmina Cigancova, and in England, Linda (Walla) and Roy Walker and Ray (Marie) Walla. In keeping with Theresia's wishes, cremation has taken place. This chapter of Theresia's life concludes with a Memorial Mass in Gravenhurst at 10:30 a.m., Fri. 27 Nov, 2015 at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church under the auspices of Father Joseph Moran, followed by Interment for Theresia and Al at Mickle Memorial: Veteran's Section. Luncheon to follow at St. Paul's Parish Hall. In memory of Theresia, donations to Guilda's Club, a cancer support association, would be appreciated. Arrangements entrusted to the Cavill-Turner Funeral Home, Gravenhurst. Messages of condolence may be left at

Service Information

Friday, November 27th, 2015 10:30am, St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church

Interment Details

Mickle Memorial Cemetery


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