The Family Hug Lives On
"Big hugs!" is how Thomas R. Clark used to announce his arrivals home to his wife, Lisa — a prelude to wrapping his arms around her. When their only son, Matthew, now 2, grew old enough to speak, he asked for a piece of the action. "Me too," he'd squeal, smiling. Soon, Mr. Clark changed his opening line to "Family hugs!"
In the weeks after Matthew and the new arrival, Whitney, a girl, now 7 months, were born, Mr. Clark insisted on sleeping with them nuzzled up against his chest.
Saturday mornings were set aside for Mr. Clark and Matthew to breakfast together Father and son would pick up cocoa and pastries at Dunkin' Donuts, then sit and watch the trains pass through the Summit, N.J., station.
Mr. Clark walked home from that station every day, returning from his job at Sandler O'Neill & Partners, where he was an equity sales trader. In the summer, when Matthew would play in front of the house, he could see his smiling father from halfway down the block, so he would run to him and jump into his arms.
This is how the family hug became a tradition with variations.
"We still do it, the three of us," Mrs. Clark said, "and my son still smiles. He loves it."
Mr. Clark would have been 38 today.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 13, 2001.
Thomas R. Clark, 37, family storyteller
Thomas Richard Clark of Summit loved work, sports, family and friends. Those who knew him said he would mix all those facets of life with impartiality.
At the office, he was enthusiastic about his job and the people with whom he worked. At home, he put that behind him and dove into activities with his wife, Lisa, and their two children.
Mr. Clark, 37, took pride in his athletic ability, beginning with playing basketball with brothers Jimmy and Danny in the driveway of their home. As he grew, he moved on to Little League baseball and then to cross country at Millburn High School.
A big rock music fan, he attended "a ton of concerts," said the brothers, but did not necessarily have a favorite artist or group.
And the Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers he befriended while a history major at the University of Richmond were never forgotten. He would get together with them regularly, with their last meeting about a month ago in New York, recalled Jimmy Clark, the older brother.
Although his entire career was in finance, there was little wonder among the brothers about Mr. Clark's college major. He was the family historian of sorts.
"He was the storyteller," said Jimmy Clark. "He could remember verbatim things that were said in grammar school. He was the keeper of funny stories about everyone. That's a big loss there."
Mr. Clark was a vice president at Sandler O'Neill & Partners on the 104th floor of Two World Trade Center.
"Eighty-six people he worked with are gone," said Jimmy Clark. "If Tommy had survived, he would have been a basket case. He loved the camaraderie of the workplace."
Jimmy Clark described his brother as "a soft-spoken, sweet young guy."
Mr. Clark and his wife, who met at The Office restaurant and bar in Summit, married six years ago. They were the parents of Matthew, 2, and Whitney, 5 months.
Mr. Clark also is survived by his parents, Pat and Rich Clark of Short Hills, and a grandmother, Margaret Clark of Sea Girt.
A memorial Mass for Mr. Clark will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Teresa's Roman Catholic Church, 306 Morris Ave., Summit.
Profile by Jason Jett published in THE STAR-LEDGER.