Long-time WASH-FM radio host dies at 77, is remembered for his generosity and faith
Jul 2, 2019
Longtime local radio host Francis Gerard Clark Jr., or “Jerry,” died on April 19 at age 77, leaving behind his wife, Mary-Ellen Clark, two children, Diane Marie Branson and Robert Francis Clark, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Clark worked for 15 years as an on-air personality for WASH-FM (97.1), and is also well known for hosting the local portions of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association on Channel 5. Later in his life, he served as a mentor for young radio professionals.
Clark was a parishioner at Holy Family Parish in Mitchellville, where he was a member of the Knights of Columbus and served as a lector and as an Extraordinary Minister. Father Joseph Jenkins, the pastor of Holy Family, recalled how Clark would help give out gifts to men on Father’s Day and flowers to women on Mother’s Day, and once volunteered as a bartender for a church fundraiser.
“No job was too big or so small as to be beneath him,” Father Jenkins recalled. “…He was always ready to help and to participate in parish life.”
At his funeral Mass at Holy Family on April 26, friends, family and co-workers gathered to remember his generosity and his faith.
“He really made a gift of himself to anyone who got to know him,” said Father Jenkins, as he began celebrating the Mass.
During his homily, Father Jenkins assured Clark’s loved ones that “love is stronger than the grave” and “the testimony of Christ and the Church is that the transition is not the end” but rather “just the beginning.”
“His 70 some years of life is just a dot on the paper,” he said. “We have yet to draw the line of his life.”
Father Jenkins said Clark had become a dear friend to him, and he recalled how when he first arrived to Holy Family in 2007, he only recognized two people in the pews – one person who he had met previously, and Clark, who he had never met but who he knew from radio and television.
“I took great pride that I was in Jerry Clark’s parish,” he said, joking that he was kicking himself for never getting an autographed photo of Clark.
“He was a true professional, very devoted to family, friends, and the community of the church,” said Father Jenkins. “And he loved this little church.”
Father Jenkins added that Clark was always one to give back to the community, because he believed “we should try to leave the world a little bit a better place than when we came in.”
Father Jenkins reminded the congregation of God’s love for them, and said, “every once and a while, with children like Jerry, he gives us glimpses of what that love is all about.”
Clark’s son, Robert Clark, told the congregation that his father “loved what he did, he loved his family, and he loved everyone” who was his friend.
His granddaughter, Gabrielle Clark, recalled how “he was always the kind of guy who would give to everyone…he had an impact on so many people in so many ways.”
Two of his Clark’s former coworkers shared their own reflections about Clark, who they referred to as “coach” because of his mentorship to so many younger coworkers.
Bob Duckman, another former radio host at WASH FM, noted that what made the day of Clark’s funeral so difficult is that “Jerry was always there when you needed him.”
Clark was always there to give advice, help plan bachelor parties, give someone a ride to work at 5 a.m., or lead basketball or softball teams raising money for charity, he explained. Furthermore, Duckman recalled that he had his first shift on air at the radio station while filling in for Clark, because he had left to go be with his mom for mother’s day.
“Nothing got in the way of family – he was always there,” said Duckman, who noted that in addition to his real family and his church family, the bond between their WASH work family was strong.
“The glue that has kept us all together is Jerry Clark,” he said.
Madelaine Waltjen Shedlick, another one of Clark’s coworkers, said, “Jerry lived and loved his Catholic faith so much,” noting that she never heard him say a mean word about anyone.
“Our radio family is devastated by the loss of Jerry,” she said. “…We have lost our guiding light, our coach.”
And though he is no longer able to be heard through the airwaves of Washington radio, Father Jenkins noted that if they have radio in Heaven, “I have a suspicion Jerry is going to be on today.”
Father Jenkins said he hopes they don’t assign Clark to the weather forecast, which could be boring because it is probably always sunny, but he believes “if there is a radio in Heaven, I think it transmits a message of joy and hope everyday.”
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