Robert (“Bob”) Edward Clarke, born November 2, 1936, died on February 5, 2023, peacefully at home surrounded by his family and loving care givers Dianne Brown and Tori Dieppa. He was the son of Ralph Edward Clarke and Myrtie Edith Berry Clarke of Morganton, North Carolina, both of whom predeceased him.
He is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 65 years, Elaine Burleson Clarke. Bob and Elaine were born and raised in Morganton, North Carolina. Bob attended North Carolina State University and graduated in 1961 with a degree in Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning. He got his first (and only) job at Southern Air when George Costan recognized that Bob’s drive and ambition would be an asset to the company. Mr. Costan was not wrong. Bob worked at Southern Air for 54 years, becoming President of the company in 1976, CEO in 1998, and Chairman of the Board in 2002. Under his leadership, Southern Air became one of the leading mechanical/electrical contractors in Virginia and supported numerous charitable organizations. He retired from Southern Air in 2013.
Bob served his community in many capacities. He was a board member of Central Virginia Industries, a member of the Education Foundation Board of Central Virginia Community College, a member of the founding Board of Big Brothers of Central Virginia, Chairman of the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, member of the Western Regional Advisory Board of Wachovia, member of the Steering Committee for the new Comprehensive plan for Lynchburg, member of the Industrial Development Authority Board, member of the YMCA Board of Directors, member of the Board of Directors at Ferrum College, and Chairman of the Work Force Investment Board of Region 7.
He and Elaine began attending Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church in 1961 when they moved to Lynchburg from Raleigh, North Carolina. Bob served the church in many leadership roles including serving as the Chairman of the Administrative Board and he enjoyed singing in the church choir. He participated in an outreach project through the church that involved a trip to the Appalachians in Tennessee to provide the physical labor needed to provide for residents living below poverty level. He was so moved by that experience that he helped organize a similar project for Franklin County, Virginia. Bob’s important work did not go unrecognized. He was the recipient of the National Conference for Community and Justice Humanitarian award in 2002, and the George Taylor Stewart III Award for Community Service in 2003. Bob was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame in 2008.
In addition to his loving wife, Bob’s death is also mourned by his sister Philecta Clarke Staton; his four daughters and their spouses Clarissa Clarke Frayser and Jay Frayser, Adair Clarke and Harry Faulkner, Elise Clarke Jones and Ken Jones, and Kirsten Clarke Tiller and Bryan Tiller; his six grandchildren Erica Adair Feldenzer, Emile Feldenzer, Chase Robert Jones, Anne-Elaine Tiller, Maris Catherine Tiller, and Finn Clarke Tiller; his niece and nephew and their spouses Deirdre Staton and Kim Fridinger, and Clarke and Hope Staton; as well as many friends and colleagues too numerous to name. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 9, 2023, at Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg. A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 10, 2023 at Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church with Reverend Adam White officiating.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that Bob’s memory be honored with donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters, the United Way of Central Virginia, Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, or the charitable organization of your choice.
Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg is assisting the family.