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Published: Friday, 6/15/2007

Salesman was a lifelong sailor

Chris Lark, 48, a sailor on the Great Lakes since his youth whose career tacked from special education to industrial sales, died of cancer Tuesday in his Maumee home.

He was vice commodore of the North Cape Yacht Club in LaSalle, Mich., and was in line to become commodore this fall, said longtime friend Dick Frazier, a past commodore.

Mr. Lark's father, Lawrence, is a past commodore, and they would have been the first father and son to hold the post in the club's 45-year history.

Mr. Lark grew up in Ida, Mich., and was about 11 when his father taught him to sail. He sailed many races through the years, from the Mills Trophy Race on Lake Erie to the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Race.

Liberty, a 33-foot racer he and Dennis DeGolier owned, was named 1997 Boat of the Year at the Associated Yacht Clubs annual awards.

In 1998, Mr. Lark was a crew member on Mr. Frazier's Sweet Carmela, which won the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Race in its class.

"The thing he was noted for the most was always being calm and under control when things got hairy," Mr. Frazier said. "He was the guy you could always lean on."

Mr. Lark was noted as a sailing teacher. "He had a knack for connecting with people because of his laid-back attitude," Mr. Frazier said.

That quality was noticed anywhere he went.

"He was a person who always made the person next to him feel wonderful about who they were," his wife, Phyllis, said. "He always set himself aside. He laughed and listened and was interested."

Mr. Lark worked for several industrial sales and service companies since the late 1980s. The last four years, he was in sales at Monroe Rubber and Plastic. His customers included North Star BlueScope Steel in Fulton County, his wife said.

Teaching brought him satisfaction, but the low pay led him to a new course.

"It was such a big career change, and he still had that teacher's heart," his wife said. "It was so foreign to him [and] he excelled at it."

He knew from volunteering while a student at Ida High School that he wanted to be a teacher.

He received a bachelor's degree in special education from Eastern Michigan University.

He taught special education students at Washington Elementary School in Toledo and Wood Lane School in Bowling Green. He also taught adults with autism at Bittersweet Farms near Whitehouse.

"He just excelled at it so much," his wife said. "And he could see that he was making a difference in their lives."

Surviving are his wife, Phyllis Lark, his high school sweetheart, whom he married May 29, 1982; son, Adam; daughter, Elise Lark; parents, Lawrence and Barbara Lark; brothers, Jeffrey, Matthew, John, Thomas, and Joseph, and sister, Jeanne Baer.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Walker Funeral Home, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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