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Portsmouth, NH and York, ME
Dr. Geoffrey E. Clark, 84, passed away unexpectedly early on Sunday, January 8, 2023, at the family’s retreat on Argo Point in York, ME with his family by his side.
While Jeff had many interests and titles—physician, entrepreneur, scientist, pilot, sailor, collector, explorer, board member, philanthropist—he was most importantly a devoted husband and ever-present father and grandfather. He was a man full of kindness and old-fashioned New England grit, committed to a life of learning and curiosity.
In addition to his life’s work as a physician and medical entrepreneur, Jeff had an independent and adventurous streak, maintaining lifelong passions for aviation; theatre and opera; sailing; polar exploration; and the history of cannibalism (!) to name but a few.
As a physician, Jeff worked to realize Francis Weld Peabody’s maxim—“the secret of the care of the patient is caring for the patient”—a creed that also guided his fierce commitment to his family. Jeff was also a tireless advocate for the causes he believed in and the greater Seacoast community. He often quoted the late Seacoast philanthropist Joe Sawtelle who said, “There is no limit to what you can get done if you don’t care who gets credit.”
The first of five children, Jeff was born in Providence, RI on May 21, 1938, to Samuel Clark, a physician, and Janet Barber, an artist and a teacher of philosophy at Vassar College. The family settled in Bristol, RI and maintained close ties to the Maine woods where Jeff’s grandfather had acquired a historic camp at the base of Mount Katahdin. Jeff spent many happy summers on the island and would go on to introduce his wife, children, and many friends to the magic and rugged beauty of his treasured escape.
Jeff was enamored as much by the simple and mundane tasks of daily living as by exploring the outer reaches of the globe and pondering questions of science and philosophy. He was a sensitive, shy, and intellectual child. Two years into a challenging period as a boarding student at Kent School, his mother died suddenly. After this tragedy, his father joined the MIT Student Services medical department and moved the family to Cambridge, MA.
Jeff found respite from the challenges at school and later his mother’s death by taking flying lessons. Encouraged by memories of his mother, Jeff earned his pilot’s license at age 16 before he could even drive a car. Jeff loved to escape to the skies, doing so as recently as the week before his death.
Upon graduation from Kent School in 1956, Jeff attended Harvard with the intention of studying philosophy. Still reeling from the grief of his mother’s death, he decided to leave Harvard in 1958 for a period of military service. Stationed in Nashville, he completed basic training and served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army from 1959-1961. A participant in anti-war rallies and civil rights workshops, Jeff was eventually stationed as an assistant in a radiology lab, the experience that inspired him to begin the process of becoming a physician.
Jeff returned to Harvard in 1961 to study biology. He graduated in 1962 as a member of the Class of 1960. From there, he spent two years at the University of Vermont medical school before following a favorite professor to SUNY Buffalo where he finished his studies in 1966. After graduation, Jeff interned at Cambridge City Hospital, followed by a Harvard Service Residency at Boston City Hospital. After finishing his residency, Jeff traveled with Project Concern to just outside of Da Lat, Vietnam where he worked as a physician with the Montagnard Tribe. He left Vietnam just two weeks before the Tet Offensive, returning to Cambridge in early 1968.
The following year, Jeff met Martha Moreau Fuller at an event on Beacon Hill where he was sharing his photographs of Vietnam. Even though Martha fell asleep during his remarks (!), their courtship flourished, beginning with a picnic excursion to Manchester by the Sea. Jeff proposed to Martha in the fall of 1970 at one of his favorite childhood spots: on the Togue Pond lookout to Mt. Katahdin.
Jeff and Martha married in the spring of 1971 at the York, ME Congregational Church, after which they traveled by horse-drawn carriage to the wedding festivities at the Fuller family’s Rams Head Farm. Later that year, the newlyweds purchased the Fulmar, the first of many sailboats. As much as Jeff loved flying, he and Martha have long shared a passion of being on the water. Some of their happiest times together have been spent sailing—around New England and as far away as the Caribbean and Newfoundland. Theirs has been a happy marriage, marked by their commitment to each other and each other’s interests, their local community, and above all, their children.
In 1973, the Clarks moved to Portsmouth, NH and began restoring the Langley Boardman House on Middle Street, still the family home. Jeff began private practice in Internal Medicine at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover. He went on to become a founding partner of Gastroenterology Partners, which currently has offices in Portsmouth and Somersworth. The births of their three children followed: Caleb in 1975, Nathaniel “Than” in 1981, and Anna in 1984.
In 1985, Jeff started Braintree Laboratories with Harry Keegan and Jeff’s cousin Reiner Beeuwkes. Braintree Labs produced a number of pharmaceuticals, including Golytely, Nulytely, MiraLAX, and PhosLo. The company went on to be a major player nationally and was sold in 2019.
Around the time Jeff started Braintree Labs, his interest in exploration began to focus on the Arctic, particularly the life and expeditions of Adolphus Greely. In 1986, Jeff, Martha, and Caleb traveled to the Arctic Circle. Fifteen years later, Jeff returned to the Artic with Anna, committing to return again to film a documentary about Greely’s journey to the Arctic Circle. “Abandoned in the Arctic,” in which Greely’s journey was retraced, was filmed in 2004 and released nationally on PBS in 2009 (www.pbs.org/show/abandoned-arctic). In 2011, Jeff and Martha visited the Arctic again, sailing the coast of Greenland. When not actively exploring the Arctic, Jeff continued his research and commitment to exploration through his membership in The Explorers Club (based in New York City), of which he was an esteemed member of the Archive Committee. His personal collection of Inuit Art and archival material related to polar exploration will be gifted to Dartmouth College.
Jeff and Martha’s move to the Seacoast coincided with the beginnings of Portsmouth’s Renaissance—the era of the Blue Strawbery restaurant, the early days of historic preservation, and a bustling creative community, which the couple has long actively supported. Jeff was an early volunteer for set-striking at Theatre by the Sea, went on to chair its board, and was instrumental in the theater’s move from Ceres Street to Bow Street, the current home of Seacoast Repertory Theatre. Jeff invested both his time and treasure in a variety of non-profit organizations, including The (Portsmouth, NH) Music Hall, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Families First, New Hampshire Public Radio, and Sustainable Harvest International. He also played an active role supporting his wife’s political career. Together they have supported the Democratic party and other non-profit democratic organizations at the local, state, and national levels.
After retiring from private practice, Jeff enrolled in a Masters in General Studies program at the University of New Hampshire. Finishing with Distinction in 2011, his final project continued his interest in the Arctic, focusing on the photographs of the Greely Expedition. During his retirement, he continued to serve on the board of Braintree Labs, sailed every summer on the couple’s beloved Sedna, and oversaw the design and building of a retreat on Argo Point, complete with a state-of-the-art music room.
Whether you found him filling the many bird feeders at Argo Point, flying loop de loops in the sky above Saratoga, Florida, calculating the number of steps from an Art Deco Palazzo to the stairs of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily, planning upcoming trips to the Northwest Passage and Morocco, devoting countless hours to Democratic organizations or sitting down with his beloved wife for the Friday night PBS News Hour, Jeff was a thoughtful man deeply engaged with life down to the last detail.
Geoffrey is survived by his wife of 52 years, Senator Martha Fuller Clark; his sons Caleb Clark and Nathaniel “Than” Clark; his daughter Anna Clark; his grandchildren Scarlet, Emerson, and Miles Clark, and Naiki Ennis Nguyen; his brothers Peter, Sam, and Tom Clark; as well as many close family members and dear friends. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his sister Kitty Clark.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to New Hampshire Democracy Fund, a new organization Jeff was instrumental in launching that is dedicated to strengthening the Granite State's democratic institutions and ideals, democracyfundnh.org, or the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association Foundation, https://foundation.aopa.org.
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on what would have been his 85th birthday—May 21, 2023, at 2 p.m. at South Church, 292 State Street, Portsmouth, NH. Bow ties are encouraged. Reception immediately following at the Strawbery Banke Visitor Center, 14 Hancock Street in Portsmouth (limited parking available onsite). The service will be livestreamed on YouTube. For viewing information and a link to Jeff’s obituary, visit www.jeffclarkmemorial.com.