APOLLO BEACH — When Nancy Meyer came to visit, she found the apartment dark. Richard Clarke would be sitting in a well-kept living room beside the empty chair he had set out for her.
Meyer, the pastoral care director for Prince of Peace Catholic Church, gave Mr. Clarke communion elements and showed him the latest church bulletins. After, Meyer would ask Mr. Clarke if he wanted special prayers.
"Just what you said is fine," he would always reply.
Mr. Clarke died Wednesday at LifePath Hospice. He was 92.
A sister in a Philadelphia nursing home survives him.
"He was a very prayerful man," said Sister Maureen Smith, who worked alongside Mr. Clarke for at least eight years at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission. "Not lacking in intelligence but simple in the right sense of the word. He lived very simply."
Even non-Catholics had to agree with that. Debra Hogue, who manages Ellsberry Court, said that her tenant was never happier than when watching golf on television or eating her key lime pies.
Mr. Clarke grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a chauffeur and a seamstress. He first marriage ended when he came home unexpectedly from his job as a trucker to find his wife in bed with his best friend, he told Hogue.
"Catholics don't believe in divorce," Hogue said.
Mr. Clarke worked as a monorail conveyor in Philadelphia — and made and lost money gambling, according to Hogue's husband, Edward.
Eventually, he found his roots again in the church.
When it came time to give up driving, Mr. Clarke gave the Hogues his 1992 Saturn.
Mr. Clarke was a lay member of the Institute of Charity, an order of the Catholic Church that places an emphasis on charity work. He read spiritual literature, especially the "Maxims of Christian Perfection," written in 1830 by Catholic scholar Antonio Rosmini, who founded the institute.
Becoming a Rosminian can take years. There are successive periods of prayer and contemplation and vows to live frugally and decently as commitment to spiritual principles deepens.
As Mr. Clarke's digestive system began to prevent him from swallowing, he refused a proposed operation on his throat.
"I kept telling him to go," said Angelo Pignataro, the church deacon who regularly served Mr. Clarke communion. "He said, 'No, I'm in my 90s.' "
If Mr. Clarke thought he was ready, he would have gotten no argument from Sister Maureen.
"He probably has a high place in heaven," she said. "People can keep up their prayers for him, or to him, if they have a special request."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (813) 661-2431 or [email protected]