Dowagiac family’s legacy celebrated at Lions Club

Published 4:07 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

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DOWAGIAC — A Dowagiac family’s legacy of giving was celebrated Wednesday afternoon.

The Dowagiac Lions Club hosted an end-of-summer celebration funded by the Clark Family trust fund for local adult foster care homes. The state Department of Human Services (DHS) and local adult foster care homes participated in the event, which was hosted in celebration of the Clark Family, a family with strong ties to the community and known for giving back to the adult foster care community. The event featured a bingo game for prizes, food was provided and local musician Al Mott was on hand to perform for those in attendance.

Rex and Norma Clark both taught in addition to farming on Downey Street in Silver Creek Township. Rex Clark taught government at Dowagiac Union High School and served on the county board. He was also Dowagiac’s wrestling and football coach as well as its band director. Norma taught elementary school.

Their children – Rex “Rexie” and Martha – were both developmentally disabled. Both lived with Sherry Roden, a third-generation adult foster care provider, in Wayne Township. She is one of three siblings who provide adult foster care. 

“Rex and Martha lived at home until their father passed away. Their mother passed away about a year later,” Roden said. “The estate tried to have a caregiver come into the home to take care of the children, but that didn’t work out.”

Rex and Norma left a sizable amount of money in the Clark family trust fund, which paid for Rexie and Martha’s care and furnished money annually to the state Department of Human Services, which uses it to purchase goods and recreational activities for residents.

“(Rexie and Martha) were private pay because of their parents’ smart thinking but most of the adults in AFC receive state pay, which is only $44 a month for hygiene and anything other than their care and food,” Roden said. “That’s less than what most kids get for allowance, so (Clark family trust fund) is huge for them.”

According to Roden, Thursday’s event was the first social AFC event hosted by DHS since the pandemic began. The pandemic has limited residents’ ability to socialize.

“It took away all of their socialization,” she said. “They don’t get to go out and see each other and just have fun, so it’s nice that we were able to do this.”

Carroll Clark, Rexie’s uncle, was honored to be able to help celebrate his family’s legacy of giving.

“I’m just so privileged,” he said. “Everybody’s special in this world; Rex not only took care of his two children, he also took care of so many people in local adult foster care and included them as one big family. It was all his money, not from the state or nothing. I had to be here today.”