Raymond and Suella Clark and their four Clark children—Matthew, 17, Anthony, 15, Erin, 13 and Kiera, 8—have had a home in Quechee for the past five years. This is a family that doesn’t take for granted the quality of life that Quechee offers. They enjoy every minute of their time here.
Ray and Suella grew up in South Africa, in Umkomaas, a small town on the east coast that, Ray says, felt very much like Quechee—Ray’s parents were both born in South Africa, as was Suella’s dad; her mom was born in London. Ray and Suella met when they were nine-year-olds sitting next to each other in school. They agreed to stay in touch after high school, met up four months later and decided to get married. In 1998, and ready to start a family, they both realized that South Africa was not an ideal place to raise their children. The crime and violence had reached such a level that they decided to leave. They both admit leaving their birth country and moving away from their parents as one of the toughest decisions of their lives, and they were not alone. Their high school class is scattered all around the globe and many South Africans have adopted new countries to call home. As Suella describes it, “It started to get bad when I was in my teens. Everyone you knew was affected by the crime in some way. Homes have security systems and bars on the windows. Many homes have electrified fences, some with barbed wire, guard dogs and security at night. It’s scary.” She visited her sister and parents there last month, was happy to see them but realized how secure and safe she feels in the United States.
Ray explains that with the shift of power following the necessary elimination of the apartheid system came a period of uncertainty for the country. “Unfortunately, there is such a gap between the haves and have nots and a vast number of the population have turned to criminal activity in an attempt to sustain themselves. It was always going to be a significant challenge to rid the country of the negative impact brought upon it by apartheid, but thanks to people like Nelson Mandela, the foundation was laid for meaningful change, including a constitution that recognizes 11 official languages,” he says.
Unsure as to the future of the country and the outcome of the challenges that the New South Africa faced at the time, Ray and Suella packed up Ray’s golf bag (of course!) and their backpacks and moved to Northern Ireland. Coincidently, as they were leaving, so was Arch Bishop Desmund Tutu, having completed the charter of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa; Tutu was invited to assist in the peace talks in Northern Ireland ultimately establishing Northern Ireland’s version of this human rights policy.
They lived in Northern Ireland, just outside Belfast, for five years, and then Ray was given a promotion and transferred to Limerick, Ireland in 2004, now a family of five with the addition of Matthew, Anthony and Erin. They found Ireland to be a friendly, welcoming place. Ray “learned to drink Guinness, eat potatoes and golf in the rain.” In 2005, with yet another promotion, the family made the move to the U.S., settling in Beverly, Massachusetts. Kiera arrived in 2007—the only US born member of the immediate Clark family—and she is totally into those all-American My Little Ponies, offering to share them with me as we chatted.
And finally Quechee
So how did the Clarks find their way to Quechee? Like many of us, friends brought them here. Ray was invited to play in a member/guest golf tournament with a business associate. “I was sitting on Aidan Browne’s deck, looking at the wonderful view and sipping champagne and thought, I will own a house here one day if it’s the last thing I do. A beautiful summer’s day in Vermont can’t be beat!” he recalls. The family began coming here from Beverly for visits and then decided it was time to buy. Ray loves a bargain and found a house in 2011, which the family has truly made their home. Suella says that Ray had always dreamt of being an architect and he has great vision when it comes to houses. He really sees the potential and has used that vision, along with his enthusiasm to get several of his friends to buy in Quechee.
And specifically what do each of the Clark’s like about Quechee?
Matthew – “The golf and skiing. I bring friends up to ski with me in the winter. But my favorite thing is to cook breakfast early in the morning for the family on the grill at Lake Pinneo! My specialty is eggs with avocado wrapped in bacon.”
Anthony – “The lake and skiing.” He’s a 15-year old guy and that’s what he said!
Erin – “Swimming, golfing and the food. Especially the lunch buffet on Dewey’s Deck on Saturday.”
Kiera – “The playgrounds (or “parks”) at Lake Pinneo and on The Green are my favorite, I learned to swim and ski here, I love it.”
Suella – “I love the quality of life.” Both she and Ray learned to ski in Quechee, as have all the kids. We relax and enjoy the safety and beauty here. Quechee is a place to just be a family together.”
Ray – “Quechee is an incredible hidden treasure. There is so much to do as a family; it’s like being on vacation every weekend. We all love it. And the Vermont craft beer scene is great, too!” As to learning to ski here, Ray admits he has yet to master the skill. “It looks like a yard sale by the time I get down, there are skis and poles everywhere.”
Then there is of course, the golf. Ray and his brother, Tim Clark, a PGA Tour Player, learned to play golf when Ray was three years old at their hometown club of about 80 members. That club has produced two members, Tim and Garth Mulroy, who have held PGA tour cards and a third, Manny Zerman, who was runner up in the U.S. Amateur for two years in a row in the early ’90s and the low amateur at the Masters in 1992. Ray has been lucky enough to play golf in a few different corners of the world and describes the two Quechee golf courses as some of the best.
From Umkomaas to Quechee sounds like a fun adventure, and also like home sweet home for the Clarks.