Jean Clark died on June 24, 2018 at the age of 95. Ms. Clark was known as the “Mother of Recycling” in recognition of her diligence and effectiveness in pioneering the Montclair recycling program in the 1970s, one of the first recycling centers in the country.
Ms. Clark used her academic training and innate intelligence to shepherd key environmental legislation to passage, and became a repository of knowledge about the environmental movement in New Jersey. She received many awards: “Recycler of the Year” from the National Recycling Congress (1980), “Recycler of the Decade” (1980) from the NJ Dept. Of Energy and Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Pride Award in the field of Environment (1986), and the Wells College Alumnae Association Award, (2000), and more. Groups she joined were often more effective than flashy, such as the Essex County Solid Waste Advisory Council.
She graduated from Wells College in Aurora, New York in 1945, and received her masters in arts degree in philosophy from Mt. Holyoke College.
In 1970, the New Jersey Audubon Society felt there should be at least one woman on the board, so they made Ms. Clark the secretary. She served for more than 30 years.
She was also active in the Montclair Bird Club, the Montclair Organizations for Conservation, the Association of New Jersey Recyclers, the Montclair Nature Center, the Montclair Hawk Watch, and the League of Women Voters. Before turning her full attention to environmental matters, she worked as the assistant to the Montclair architect Alfonso Alvarez.
She claimed to be an atheist, but, when pressed, said, “I’m a pantheist.” She saw the order of the universe in nature. In New Jersey or the Adirondack Mountains, she chronicled the natural world. On an African safari, she took professional quality photographs that she presented to numerous groups, from the Montclair Bird Club to the Museum of Natural History in New York.
She was a patron of the New Jersey Symphony and chamber music groups.
Ms. Clark was daughter of Guy Gayler and Annie Anderson Clark. She was born at 326 North Mountain Ave., across from the park her grandfather, C. W. Anderson, donated to the community. After her father’s death, she and her mother moved to Seneca Place. Except for her college years, she never lived outside of Montclair. She often paired in civic service with her sister, the late Beatrice (Betty) Evans, and the name of her late brother, Guy, is inscribed on Montclair’s memorial obelisk at Edgemont Park. He died while serving in the Army in the Second World War.
Ms. Clark is survived by her niece and nephews Ann, John, and Norris Evans, and their families.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Donations to her favored charities in Jean Clark’s memory would be welcome: New Jersey Audubon Society, The New Jersey Symphony, and Wells College.