Obituary of Burnet Jennings Clark
Burnet Jennings Clark, Jr. (BJ) passed away on October 24, 2021 in Honesdale, PA. He was born December 8, 1938 in Summit, NJ at Overlook Hospital to the late Burnet Jennings Clark, Sr. and Jane Porter Clark (Brown). He grew up in Summit, NJ on Valley View Avenue and attended Summit High School where he was captain of the boys’ tennis team and was a key member of the boys’ soccer team that won a State Championship. He was also on the boys’ basketball team and he participated in a variety of other clubs. After graduating Summit High School, BJ attended Denison University where he majored in History. He played on the men’s varsity soccer team and was awarded a spot on the “All Ohio” team. BJ was also a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, Iota Chapter and not surprisingly he served as “Social Chairman.” He graduated in the spring of 1961. After college, BJ worked for McGraw Hill Publishing. He would spend the first 35 years of his career at the publishing firm serving in a variety of positions and would rise to the rank of Editor-in-Chief in their college textbook division. He worked for 42 years in the business and finished his career at Marcel Dekker Publishing and Taylor & Francis Books, Inc. BJ’s career was quite accomplished and there is much to be proud of, but his greatest achievement actually occurred on his way to work early in his career. And this “achievement” would ultimately lead to the next sixty-plus years of his joyous life. It took place right after college during his commute from Summit, NJ to New York City on the old Erie Lackawanna trains complete with wicker seats. For months, BJ had been commuting with his stepfather, Herbert D. Brown, sitting with him on the train every day, even though BJ had an eye for a particular lady that was also riding the train on a daily basis. His stepfather finally said, “What are you going to do about that?” referring to the aforementioned lady. And so, one day, BJ got the courage to change seats on the train and sat next to her. That single decision, that single swapping of seats would put in motion more than sixty amazing years of joy, love and laughter. That beautiful, petite lady sitting just a couple of rows away was of course Suzanne Johnston, daughter of Donald and Elizabeth (Betty) Johnston (Gorman), also of Summit, NJ. Interestingly enough, while BJ and Suzanne both attended Summit High School and were just three years apart, they only just knew of each other, they didn’t really know one another. That would of course change…beginning with a cross-country trip they took together while they were dating. Less than two years after meeting on the train, despite their “scandalous” cross-country trip, BJ and Suzanne were married July 6, 1963 at Calvary Church in Summit, NJ. Shortly after their wedding, they moved to Seattle, Washington where BJ served as a West Coast Representative for McGraw Hill. About a year later, he and Suzanne moved to Los Angeles where he served in a similar role covering the State of California. It was there that they had their first two sons, Stephen (1964) and Christopher (1966), at UCLA Hospital. Shortly after Christopher’s birth, they moved back to NJ where they lived on McMane Avenue for a brief stint before moving to their longest-term residence on Sherbrook Drive in Berkeley Heights, NJ. They lived there for 35 years. Over this period, they welcomed their next two sons, Jonathan (1969) and Matthew (1976) who were both born at Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ. Their home in Berkeley Heights would become the epicenter for wonderful stories, tales and memories that are so much a part of his legacy. Indeed, there was no shortage of activity when it came to raising their four boys. When BJ wasn’t commuting back and forth to NYC or traveling to various college campuses for work, he was very involved with his kids—whether it was coaching their soccer teams; playing tennis with them or leading a game of “spectacular catch” in the front yard where BJ would provide hilarious commentary and outlandish scoring with every catch—he just loved any opportunity to spend time with his boys. Similarly, he loved connecting with his friends as often as possible by hosting or attending cocktail and dinner parties with Suzanne. BJ always wanted to be in the thick of things and his gregarious and kind nature was perfect for it. There was never a moment that he couldn’t find a way to strike up a conversation with someone he had just met or a longtime friend. In 2003, as BJ’s career was winding down, he and Suzanne made the decision to move into the home they built at the Forest Lake Club, located in Hawley, PA. This would become the new place for family and friends to converge. The Forest Lake Club was really an amalgamation of everything BJ loved to do including fishing, golf, tennis, paddle and of course attending and/or hosting cocktail and dinner parties. Week in and week out, there was no lack of people for he and Suzanne to congregate with in order to share some stories along with plenty of laughter. Even when the Club was quiet, BJ would be sure to import some family or friends like his Summit Class Reunion group which “reunioned” on a regular basis—sometimes multiple times a year. Over the next eighteen years at the Forest Lake Club, BJ had accumulated a treasure trove of friends from the Forest Lake Club, Woodloch Springs as well as the greater Pike and Wayne County (PA) area because that was the kind of person he was. People enjoyed his disarming and friendly demeanor and really appreciated his kindness and the interest he took in them. And while BJ absolutely loved his friends, be it from his youth; his college days at his fraternity; those from the greater Summit area including those from St. Andrews or Calvary Church; or those he met via his membership at various clubs including the Blooming Grove Hunting Fishing Club, the Summit Tennis Club, Canoe Brook, Woodloch Springs and of course the Forest Lake Club—he loved his family even more. There was no shortage of fun and laughter when BJ and Suzanne were around their four boys. That is when BJ was at his best. And as the family grew through marriages and grandchildren, the fun and laughter only increased. The BJ stories would accumulate over the years and everyone would roar with laughter whenever they were recounted. The funny stories are limitless, but we all remember some of his classics, for example, the time half his body fell through the living room ceiling while he was attempting to install insulation in the attic; or the numerous times he would cut the grass or tar the driveway in a cashmere sweater and penny loafers; or the times he would come home from a party (when the boys were older of course) and he would regale them with his favorite college drinking song called the “Hamburg Zoo”; or how BJ would break out his “40-Love” serve he called the “Prunedale” where he would serve an ACE by serving up a wicked spin serve because he launched it using the “wrong side” of the strings of his racket. The serve was devilish, but the motion it took to deliver it was even more ridiculous. That really sums it up. BJ was a true gentleman who enjoyed telling a joke as much as he liked being on the receiving end of one. He was truly a legend. BJ is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Suzanne Johnston Clark and his four boys and their spouses, Stephen and Angela, Christopher and April, Jonathan and Elizabeth and Matthew along with thirteen grandchildren; and BJ’s brother and his wife, Peter and Vivienne Clark and their two daughters. A celebration of BJ’s life will be held in the future, in the meantime, we hope all of you will celebrate his life today and make a toast to the “Big B.” We love you BJ and miss you already.