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Violet Clark brought global vision to service in the Faith

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Violet Esther May Wuerfel Clark’s profound belief in humanity’s oneness found religious expression not long before the midpoint of her 100-year life when she accepted the Baha’i Faith, and bore further fruit in her retirement when she relocated as a pioneer to support development of the Faith in Belize and the Virgin Islands.

Violet passed away October 4, 2012, in her late-life hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan.

In a letter of tribute, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States wrote, “We … recall Dr. Clark’s services to the cause of humanity, not only through her career as an educator, but also her pioneering and travel-teaching efforts among the nations of the Caribbean — examples of detachment and devotion that will surely have spiritual effect for years to come.”

Born in 1911, Violet was a schoolteacher for many years in Dearborn, Michigan. She was a native German speaker and her horizons expanded internationally from early on. She was the founding president of the area’s chapter of the U.S. Association of Overseas Educators.

She came in contact with Marguerite True, a Baha’i who later moved with her husband to the Canary Islands in service to the Faith. Falling in love with the world-embracing teachings of Baha’u’llah, she became a Baha’i in 1952.

Over the next two decades Violet’s activity for the Faith included service on the Spiritual Assemblies of Detroit and Ann Arbor, facilitating sessions at Baha’i summer schools and institutes, and participation in the Baha’i National Convention as an elected delegate. She was on the committees overseeing the Davison (now Louhelen) Baha’i School and children’s classes in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

She also traveled internationally in service to the Faith many times: to Mexico, England, Canada and Iran. She also attended a scholarly gathering in Ghana in the course of conducting her doctoral project on Ghanaian students in the United States.

As a member of Partners of the Alliance (now known as Partners of the Americas), founded to provide grassroots support for the federal Alliance for Progress, she helped establish an exchange program sending Michigan teachers to Belize. She was one of them, and took many service trips to Belize starting in 1968.

So in 1975 when Violet was widowed and retired, doors were open for her to move to Belize full time. She worked vigorously to help the Belizean Baha’is organize and develop their communities. She also stayed involved in recruiting schoolteachers for service in the small Central American country.

She was also called on from time to time to support Baha’i activity in the U.S. Virgin Islands and make presentations at Baha’i summer schools. In 1982 she shifted her home base to the island of St. John, traveling to numerous islands in service to the Faith while continuing to visit Belize.

In 1983 she returned to Michigan full time, settling in Highland Park. She continued to correspond, lecture and travel in support of international development, and encouraged Baha’is to utilize exchange organizations to gain experience that could be valuable in serving the Faith overseas.

As late as 1997 Violet was traveling for the Faith to Europe and the Canary Islands. She was a supporter of Health for Humanity, a Baha’i-inspired international service organization, and was involved in race amity activity in southeastern Michigan.

5 Responses

  1. Judi Behrendt

    My husband Tom Behrendt, and I knew Vi, as she was making her trips to and from Belize when we were preparing to and then going to pioneer there in 1981. She was a “ball of fire’ and as dedicated a Baha’i as you would ever want to meet. She was one of those rare people I think who seamlessly melded together her Baha’i service to her humanitarian and professional service. She was a very down to earth and practical person, and was well known and respected by both Baha’is and non-Bahais in Belize. She gave the impression of always being “in motion” and even at her age, surpassed my energy level. She was a schemer, always trying to figure out how to do something that would be helpful in this world. We missed her when she no longer came to Belize any longer. I trust she is continuing to “scheme” away in the Abha Kingdom! Love you Vi!!

  2. Gerrold Bagley

    I remember Vi fondly asnd with gratitude for her advice and generousity.

  3. Donald T. Streets

    Our family knew Violet Clark for over 1/2 century. My brother roomed in her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the time he was enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Michigan. It was in her home, I believe, that he proposed to his wife, Pauline Rushing, who at the time was finishing up her degree in special education at Eastern Michigan University located close by in Ypsilanti, Michigan. At that time it wasn’t considered appropriate to have the races together let alone residing in the same household. Vi rented out rooms to students irrespective of race, religion, etc. When confronted and criticized by one of her racist neighbors for having students of different races living in the neighborhood, Vi merely responded that she didn’t share his views and that she was sorry that he hadn’t grasped the larger belief of inclusion that embraced all of humanity. There are many fond memories of Vi at Louhelen Baha’i school and at conferences and conventions. Her contributions to the progress of humanity are treasured by all who knew her.

  4. Bruce A Suttles

    She is love by all our family.

  5. Bruce A Suttles

    We Love you VI.