Kevin Clarke, 1955-2018

Courtesy of Rhonda Kutter
A contractor with a dry wit and kind heart, Kevin Clarke died suddenly on Christmas Eve.  
01/16/2019

Kevin Clarke, a general contractor and family man in Point Reyes Station known for his light touch and pervasive kindness, died on Christmas Eve. He was 63.

Kevin and his wife and partner of 33 years, Rhonda Kutter, who serves as an aide to Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, moved west from central Marin in the early 2000s to start a new life in a smaller town, just in time for the birth of their daughter, Ruby. 

“My dad said kindness was what he tried to embody, that kindness was the most underrated thing,” Ruby, now an eleventh grader, recalled from a conversation she had with her parents prompted by a middle school assignment. “I feel like so often people are like, ‘You have to have success, have people recognize you’… But kindness is the thing that people remember, and that they are really seeking. Kindness was a really key part of his character.” 

Kevin was born to John and Joyce Clarke on Aug. 29, 1955. He and his four siblings were fourth-generation San Franciscans, though their father’s service in the Air Force at times pushed the family around the county. Honoring the legacy of his grandfather, Harrison Clarke, an architect well known for his etchings, Kevin earned an architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1979. The degree would led to a career in construction. 

Through his company, Kevin Clarke Construction, Kevin often collaborated with Jim Martin, a Petaluma resident and landscaper. “Kevin was a perfectionist,” Mr. Martin said. “It was his background growing up Catholic, his education in architecture at Berkeley, his personality—he had to get it right.”

Mr. Martin added, “Kevin told you the truth, and he was on top of everything. He didn’t overbid on anything, and clients were always very appreciative that he always came in right around where he said he would be.” 

A highlight from their working life, Mr. Martin said, was participating in the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show at Fort Mason, which involved designing and setting up a temporary installation. 

Kevin also shared his design prowess with his community in Point Reyes Station. He and Rhonda spearheaded improvements at West Marin School, including to the family center, and designed and led the installation of Toby’s Community Park in collaboration with the county in 2008. 

A close friend, San Rafael resident Richard Flout, said Kevin was drawn to the natural beauty in the western half of the county. Being outside was an important part of his spirituality, he said. 

“I think Kevin was most comfortable year-round in a T-shirt, sweatpants, hiking shoes, out in nature. He was a soulful person on those walks, and he loved to ponder great questions of mind, heart and soul—what it meant to be alive, and one with the spirit. I wouldn’t call it religious, but he had a spiritual point of view, and his life ethic was a deep sense of kindness, generosity and hospitality,” Mr. Flout said. 

Rhonda said their first date was a walk in Golden Gate Golden Park. Their second was a hike on Mt. Tam. She had been living in San Francisco and training for her first career as a massage therapist when she met him at a class. “Kevin was interested in personal growth, and that brought him to body work—he gave a good massage. He explored different kinds of healing and self-help. He was on a journey,” she said. 

Kevin was the second of the five children. His oldest brother, Chris, who passed away in 2016, was a big part of his life. Chris had Down syndrome and, born at time when society was less accepting of those with special needs, the family stepped up to provide most of his care. Kevin, called “brother captain” by his siblings, and Rhonda took over as the primary caretakers in the later part of Chris’s life. 

Loss has defined the Clarke family in recent years. Last summer, Kevin’s younger brother Leo Justin Clarke, an Emmy-nominated television producer, died. Their father, John, died in November 2017. 

Kevin’s last surviving brother, Paul Clarke, told the Light this week, “Kevin’s credo was similar to my dad’s. He did everybody right, and he let his work, and those qualities, speak for themselves. You would never hear them boast.” 

Paul, a Kentfield resident who has had a big career himself, including as working as the White House press secretary for two presidents, added, “I think Kevin felt overwhelmed by all these people who were always self-promoting. Not because he wanted to be like them, but because that was not the stuff he built for himself.”

Paul recalls that, in his 20s, Kevin “turned on” a new sense of humor: a dry wit that came as a surprise, given his quiet nature. “We were all mentored by Kevin,” Paul said. “He took on a lot of the burden of making things better for our family. As a military [family], we don’t like to think of ourselves as dependent, but I was dependent on him. That’s part of why this is all such a surprise.” 

A family history of heart disease meant Kevin had taken precautions, and his work kept him active and healthy. His sudden death from a heart attack on the night of Dec. 24 came as a shock for everyone. 

“There is an appreciation in the Clarke family of saying things in a different way,” Ruby said of her family’s culture, persistent even through so much loss. “There is humor in the Clarke family. Maybe a dark humor. I think comedy is a way to share your view of life, make it funny, give it a different spin, make it something useful, enjoyable or understandable.”

Ruby added, “When my uncle Leo was in the hospital for six months, people would say we all seemed pretty well-adjusted because even though we were in the hospital, we would laugh with each other. Death shouldn’t be able to take that away from you. Death takes life away, and it also gives life to life.”

 

A memorial service for Kevin Clarke will be held on Feb. 2 at the Community Congregational Church, in Tiburon. Space is limited; RSVP requested to dee@roccophotography.com