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A CENTURY-PLUS STRONG

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October 23, 2021

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

St. Frederick alumna and centenarian still going strong at 101.

Helen Clark SF’38, an alumna of St. Frederick, Class of 1938, worked many years at the Oakland County Health Division as a public health nurse and later as assistant director of nursing.


When you ask Helen Clark the secret to her longevity, the 101-year-old Pontiac, Mich., resident chuckles.

“People ask me all the time what’s my secret to aging gracefully. . .well I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I never had a husband, and I never had any children,” she said.

Clark, an alumna of the St. Frederick Class of 1938, has certainly seen and done a lot in the decades since the 1920s. From living through the Great Depression to the attack on Pearl Harbor that led to the U.S. involvement in World War II, the British Invasion and the Beatles, the Kennedy assassination, moon landing, invention of the internet, 9/11, the election of the country’s first black president, and now COVID-19.

“The world is a different place; I almost don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said. “I didn’t use the television a great deal so now when I read about some of those events, I can tell I don’t really remember them.”

Clark has lived in Pontiac her whole life and attended Catholic school along with her six siblings, from first grade through graduation.

“I have very fond memories of St. Frederick’s,” Clark said. “My only regret is that I never learned how to type.”

In recalling her time at the school, Clark said she mostly remembers the strict rules enforced by the school’s nuns, who she said kept students in line.

“They put a lot of emphasis on education and following rules, which was good for me. When I started college, I never had to repeat any courses,” she said.

Clark graduated from the Mercy School of Nursing in Detroit in 1943, and, the following year, joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a nurse. She was stationed in Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, as well as the 122nd General Hospital in India and China. She served her tour of duty until 1947.

“The male soldiers, some of them only 18 years old, would come and knock on our door all the time looking for company. They liked to talk about their families,” she recalled.

After returning to Oakland County, she took advantage of the army’s GI bill and furthered her education at Wayne State University before being hired at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. In 1953, she started working for the Oakland County Health Division as a public health nurse, and was later promoted to assistant director of nursing.

“I was primarily involved in health promotion and working with local schools and teachers to raise awareness around healthy habits,” Clark said.

In 1966, Clark earned her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan.

Despite retiring in 1986, Clark said she remained active as much as possible, whether helping out at the senior center, giving rides to church, volunteering, or making baby blankets for new mothers. Now, she mostly enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephews, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping her largely at home.

“I don’t go out much. I’ve had a few visitors who have been vaccinated but even that has become such an issue,” she said.

In September, Clark attended the 40th annual St. Frederick All-School Reunion, which included a mass, tours of the old school and a luncheon.

“It was like a birthday party for me; I very much enjoyed seeing some familiar faces,” she said.

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.