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Mary Jane Clark

Obituary for Mary Jane Clark

December 3, 1916 - May 6, 2018
San Antonio, Texas | Age 101


December 3, 1916 – May 6, 2018

Mary Jane Ihle Clark was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 1916. While still an infant, she contacted polio which left her with an atrophied leg and other residual weaknesses. In spite of being disabled, she earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and a MAW from Wayne State University. Being disabled herself, she knew the second-class status with which they were held. The most unfortunate were the developmentally disabled, many of whom were held in such low esteem that they were placed in large institutions where they would be out of sight and out of mind. She was one of the first few who accepted employment in the uninviting field. She spent almost all of her professional career at what became known as Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled. It had originally been classified, Wisconsin Home for Epileptics and the Feebleminded. This gives some indication of how far we have advanced in our thinking and acceptance in a relatively few years. When she started working there, the resident population was about 1800. During the time that she was Director of Social Services, there were at least 1000 additional admissions.

Yet, when she retired the population was down 600. The explanation for this is that her first analysis of the situation was that many of the residents (then called patients) did not belong there. Her solution was to return them to the community, preferably on jobs within their capabilities, thus, making tax-payers out of tax-users. As this work expanded her staff grew to 12 professional social workers. She established the first foster home for the intellectual disabled in the State, and one of the first in the nation. She also established the first group home for young adults who could not qualify for employment. Mary Jane was still not satisfied with the progress that was being made in the country for the intellectual disabled in the state, so at their own expense, and on their own time, she and her husband, Kenneth, set out on a search for better programs in other countries. In all, they visited twelve countries in Europe and this continent to find improved methods. Because of her devotion to improving the lot of others with disabilities, her experience and ideas were sought by others. The governor of Wisconsin appointed her to the Governor's Committee for People with Disabilities. The findings of this committee became the basis for revised legislation dealing with the disabled. Soon after her retirement and move to Texas, Governor White appointed her to the Board of Disabled Persons Rights, Inc. She also served on the Board of the Access Advisory Committee to the San Antonio City Council. Because her entire life had been committed to improving the lives of people, she wanted her efforts to continue after her death. She also realized how much her Catholic Faith had helped her overcome her disabilities. She accordingly endowed Mary Jane Ihle Clark Archdiocesan Fund; the income from which will finance in perpetuity ministries administered by the San Antonio Archdiocese.

Mary Jane is survived by her nephew, Edward Ihle of Elmendorf, Texas; niece, Alida Anton; and grand nieces, Alexis Anton of Austin, Sarah Jane Ihle, and Allison Ihle of San Antonio.

FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2018
10:30 A.M.
6907 KITCHENER, 78240

Friends are requested to contribute to the Building Fund for St. Brigid's in lieu of flowers. Mary Jane's ashes will be interred in the family lot in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • Friends are requested to contribute to the Building Fund for St. Brigid's in lieu of flowers
  • Friends are requested to contribute to the Building Fund for St. Brigid's in lieu of flowers

Arrangements By

Porter Loring Mortuary

1101 McCullough Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78212
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