Raymond Lark, a retired school bus driver and railroad conductor who served on Northwood City Council for 16 years, died Saturday at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perryburg Township. He was 79.
Mr. Lark died after a six-month illness, his family said.
A lifelong Northwood resident, Mr. Lark was a civic leader and business owner who lived to serve, his wife, Donna, said. He was passionate about helping children and his community, and did so by co-founding the Northwoodarea's first fire department and creating the youth teams that would become the town's first recreational baseball league.
"Every little town, every little city, and they're lucky if they do, should have someone like Raymond," Mrs. Lark said. "I cannot drive through Northwood and not see something there because he helped with that effort."
His wife said Mr. Lark was 15 years old when he and she met at a corner ice cream shop. They were married five years later and raised two children in Northwood. The couple celebrated their 60th anniversary in September.
"He always said he got the prettiest girl there was, and he would still tell me every single day that I was so pretty," Mrs. Lark said. "He always said that he fell in love with me the minute he saw me. He always expressed that to me. He was a wonderful husband and a wonderful father."
Mr. Lark always juggled multiple work and civic projects, his family said. His grandfather, Chris Lark, had been a longtime Northwood School Board member and his father, George Lark, volunteered as zoning commissioner for years, Mrs. Lark said.
"He had a very good work ethic," his daughter, Marla Lark-Landis, said. "He didn't work nine-to-five or eight-to-five. I hardly remember him sleeping. He was just always on the go, getting involved and caring for the community."
He worked as a railroad conductor for Conrail and Amtrak for 44 years, retiring in 1992.
For most of his working life, he started the day behind the wheel of a school bus. Mr. Lark spent 30 years as a contracted driver for Northwood Schools and was beloved by his riders, his family said. He decorated the bus for Christmas time and treated his busload of children to ice cream before summer break every year.
Mr. Lark established the first recreational baseball leagues for Northwood youth, in the late 1950s. He built the town's first baseball diamond for children behind Lark School and maintained the grounds, Mrs. Lark-Landis said.
Mr. Lark was delighted when someone he had once driven to school or coached on the ball diamond would recognize him years later, his wife said.
"Everywhere we'd go, people would say, 'Are you Ray Lark? I rode your bus,' or, 'I played on your ball team.' That little boy is now six feet tall," Mrs. Lark said.
He briefly served on the Northwood school board in the early 1960s, and spent many hours after work as a contractor on school building projects.
In the 1970s, Mr. Lark owned and operated three gas stations.
He was first elected to the Northwood council in 1978.
He served 16 years, but his family said he never stopped looking out for the community. Even in retirement, he kept his eyes open for potholes and deteriorating roads.
"He noticed those kinds of things that needed attention," his daughter said.
Mr. Lark is survived by his wife, Donna; son, Sidney Lark, retired Northwood police chief; daughter, Marla Lark-Landis; five grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Suj-
kowski Funeral Home of Rossford.
Services will be there at noon Wednesday.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Wood County Humane Society.