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Husband, father, grandfather, educator. Born April 12, 1925, in Toronto, died Jan. 12, 2012, in Toronto of cancer, aged 86.

To appreciate the life story of Doug Clark, you have to go back to April 5, 1917, eight years before he was born. That's the day Doug's uncle, Private Douglas Clark of Toronto, was killed at Vimy Ridge. He was only 16.

Douglas had lied about his age and enlisted at 15. It wasn't until he was in France, preparing for the coming attack against the Germans, that one of his older brothers discovered Douglas had become a soldier.

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Alexander Clark, also serving overseas in the First World War, sent word through military channels about his kid brother. So four days before the battle began, the underage soldier was sent packing. But while returning from the front lines, Douglas was killed by German shell fire in one of the skirmishes before the main battle.

For years, Alexander was plagued by guilt, haunted by the thought that, had he not intervened, Douglas might have survived the war.

In 1925, Alexander had a son and named him in honour of the young soldier. Doug Clark went on to have a long and happy life, perhaps because of lessons learned from the First World War.

You see, when the world went to war again, Doug dropped hints that he would like his father's permission to enlist as an underage recruit at 171/2. "Don't even think about it," his father said.

Doug joined the air force at 18, training as a bomb aimer. But the Second World War ended before he could get overseas.

His family sometimes wonders if Alexander Clark's refusal to let Doug enlist early saved him from seeing action, and perhaps sharing the fate of his uncle.

After the war, Doug became a teacher, starting in Aurora, Ont., and moving on to Etobicoke. Throughout his career, he saw the value of mixing fun with learning. He loved to tell people about one class that found such joy in reciting the poem The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee by Mildred Plew Meigs that they asked to perform it for a visiting superintendent.

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Later in his career, when he was a principal, Doug accompanied a special-ed class to an outdoor education centre. It was winter, and water in the long ruts of a dirt road had frozen. "Hey kids, let's slide," Doug said, leading the way.

After he retired in 1986, Doug still found time for fun. He skated and cycled until well into his 80s. While on his bike, he would occasionally ride no-handed, just to see if he still could. He also found pleasure tracing his family tree to the early 1700s.

And he enjoyed spending time with his family: wife Irene, whom he married in 1951; children Valorie, Brian, Ron and Nancy; daughter-in-law Joanne; son-in-law Mark; and grandchildren Mitchell and Madeleine.

The elder Douglas Clark died on the battlefields of Europe, never seeing his 17th birthday. The nephew who shared his name passed away at home at the age of 86, surrounded by his family.

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