Clarke Covington

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Clarke Covington, a young 80, passed away on May 20, 2015. Clarke was born on August 10, 1934 in Austin, Texas, where he grew up. He graduated from Austin High School when he was 16 and then obtained a Mechanical Engineering Bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in 1956. He served in the Air Force for three years at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and in 1958 he married Mary Louise Davis, who had just graduated from Baylor. In 1959, Clarke and Mary Lou returned to Austin where she taught school and he completed a Master's degree at UT in 1961 while working at Balcones Research Center. After finishing his degree, they moved to Fort Worth where Clarke worked for General Dynamics.

From the time he was stationed at the Rocket Base at Edwards AFB, Clarke was captivated with the exploration of space. Finding his true career calling, the family moved to Houston in 1962, where he began his 34 year career at NASA's Manned Spaceflight Center (later JSC) and Clarke began working on Gemini and Apollo crew systems interfaces. Clarke worked for years on advanced space systems such as Solar Power Satellites and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, traveling to Russia during the Cold War for early docking module design and negotiation sessions. After various other assignments, he became the manager of the Space Station Project Office, leading NASA JSC's space station effort during the exciting and politically challenging design and early development phases. Clarke was a popular public speaker and was invited to speak internationally, nationally, and locally, including for many universities and schools. It was important to him to urge young people, especially young women, to study science and technology. Clarke was not only known as a brilliant engineer and talented project manager, but also a manager who cared for his people, encouraging and inspiring them to grow in their technical fields and as individuals. During his time at JSC he won several engineering and management awards, including the Certificate of Commendation, JSC's highest award. He was also especially proud of an award for promoting equal opportunity for women in the workplace. In recognition of his NASA achievements, Clarke was inducted into the Austin High Hall of Fame. Although space took a lot of his time and energy, his family remembers him showing their value to him by never missing one of his daughters' concerts, recitals, or plays.

Clarke was a man of many dimensions. He loved music, conversation, reading, baseball, crossword puzzles, and making people laugh. He also valued spending time at home, serving at his church, enjoying his grandchildren, going to the gym, playing with his granddogs, and solving the world's problems, especially NASA's, over lunch with his friends. Clarke knew a lot about most things and something about everything. He was an attentive listener, sought after reservoir of knowledge, lifelong learner, and a researcher of things that fascinated him or his friends.

Clarke was born to two band directors and came by his love of music naturally. He played Bach on the piano when he was four, and continued to play throughout his life. He had perfect pitch, and could hear a song and immediately play it. He played baritone and trombone starting as a teen and won many medals and honors, including first chair in the All State Band for several years. He taught private lessons and directed the ROTC band while a student at UT. Clarke loved to use his musical talents at church, serving as interim choir director and pianist, arranging songs for the choir, and accompanying his daughters when they would sing or play arrangements he wrote for them. Listening to good music with good headphones made him happy.

In addition to his musical contributions at church, through the years Clarke taught Sunday School for ages ranging from preschool to single adults. For many years he has been in charge of the information desk and greeting ministry at University Baptist Church. Many people have shared that he had a unique way of making them feel valued and important when they came through the door, and they looked forward to seeing him every Sunday.

Clarke is survived by his wife of almost 57 years, Mary Lou Covington; their two daughters, Kayla Covington of Houston and Kathy Covington Burke of Austin and her husband John; his granddaughter, Ashley Burke Steinmann and her husband Dominic; grandson Justin Burke; one brother, Scott Covington of Dripping Springs and his wife Linda; two nieces and two nephews; and two granddogs, Millie Lou and T.J. He is also survived by many loving friends from church, work, and the gym, and hundreds more special people whom he greeted individually at church every Sunday, making them smile.

Following a visitation held on May 24, Clarke was buried at Capital Parks Cemetery in Pflugerville, Texas, just outside of Austin, on May 25, following a visitation at UBC in Clear Lake on May 24. His life will be celebrated at a Memorial Service on Saturday, June 6, at 2:00 pm at University Baptist Church, 16106 Middlebrook Dr, Houston, Texas 77059.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift to glioblastoma brain tumor research at MD Anderson Cancer Center, P.O. Box 4486, Houston, Texas, 77210-4486
(reference Clarke's name in the memo field of a check, or
online select Memorial Gift, Fund Designated by Family
http://www.mdanderson.org/how-you-can-help/brain-tumor-center-research.html;
University Baptist Church for the Children's Center building (http://www.ubc.org);
or the Beltway 8 South Crisis Pregnancy Center (http://www.lifelinecpc.org).


Religious Service Information
University Baptist Church
16106 Middlebrook Dr
Houston, TX 77059
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Published on yourbayareanews.com from June 1 to June 15, 2015
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