Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Mary Clark “served as deputy mayor of her home community for a year in the late 1980’s.” She actually served as deputy mayor in the late 2000’s. NNSL Media regrets the error.”
Mary Clark’s autobiography, Mama’s Love Lives On, opens with a grainy black-and-white photo of her mother, Maria Blake.
Although her mother’s story is only one part of Clark’s 56-year journey — including her childhood in Fort McPherson and Old Crow, a tenure as deputy mayor of the latter, and many children and grandchildren — it’s the chapter of her life to which she devotes the most time when discussing her book.
It’s also a subject that stirred painful memories during the writing process.
“When I finished the book, I thought, ‘My mom shouldn’t have died that night.’”
Clark still remembers the night when she was six years old when her father became intoxicated and violent. “He went into a rage,” she says.
Around midnight, Clark and her oldest brother, Charlie, fled through the cold to the house of the local RCMP officer. “And we went down there and asked — begged, cried and asked — the RCMP to come to the house.”
“And [the officer] was telling us, ‘No, we’ll come up in the morning.’ And they told us to go back home, and we just tried to beg and plead with them, but they wouldn’t come.”
Clark and her brother headed back home in the cold.
The next thing she remembers, she and her siblings were in the home of an elderly couple who were close to the family.
“And we were in their home, and all the family was there, and it was kind of quiet and you kind of knew something was going on, like something had happened.”
”And sure enough, in the morning there was a knock at the door, and [it was] the RCMP.”
The police had found her mother dead at 7 a.m. that morning.
“I can remember my brother, the one that went with me to the police station, there was a couch there, and I remember he cried so hard.”
Following her mother’s death, Clark and her brothers went to live with their grandparents in Old Crow. Her father served about two years in prison before being released on parole. Clark would spend the next few years living between Fort McPherson and Old Crow, including with her father.
Even after the death of her mother, tragedy followed Clark, including her first brush with alcoholism just before starting high school. Both of her older brothers would eventually succumb to their own addictions, as well as her husband, Gordon Clark. The book is also dedicated to their memories.
Despite the tragedies that marked her upbringing, Clark went on to have a full and varied life and career: She served as deputy mayor of her home community for a year in the late 2000’s; She twice ran for MLA of Mackenzie Delta, in 2007 and 2011; She has worked as a community linguist, a justice coordinator, and a life skills coach.
It was in April of last year that Clark decided to share her story, with her self-published autobiography debuting in January. With the publication of her book, Clark hopes her story can uplift others who have lived through similar circumstances. Since publishing her memoir in January, Clark says both close friends and distant acquaintances have reached out to share their own stories of abuse, and she’s received much positive feedback.
NWT News/North reached out to RCMP to ask what their current protocol is for responding to urgent, life-threatening cases of domestic violence, but did not receive a response.
Mama’s Love Lives On is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions.
Proud you did therapy healing by writing and for good cause and respect to your late mother and to show light on this continuing issue.