In memory of Danny Clarke, owner of The Loyal Oarsman

A Habs jersey and a newspaper clipping of a smiling, bearded fellow holding a draught sat in the spotlight on the bar as regulars shuffled into The Loyal Oarsman Pub on a Wednesday afternoon. They could be heard sharing their sympathies with the serving staff for the loss of Dan “Danny” Clarke, the proud owner of this well-loved Kingston public house for over 23 years, who passed away on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Clarke, a loving husband, father, and grandfather, was 67 years old when he passed, “surrounded by his family and their love.” He will be dearly missed by family, friends, and patrons alike, many of whom recall Clarke’s earlier foray into the restaurant and bar scene with Bellamy’s, formerly located in the Gardiners Town Centre

Dan ‘Danny’ Clarke. Submitted photo.

A private, family service will be held in Clarke’s memory this coming weekend at James Reid Funeral Home. A public celebration of life will be held and announced at a later date. Memorial donations can be made to the UHKF – Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario, his family shared.

In speaking with those who at knew Clarke well and cherished his companionship, it is obvious the word ‘loyal’ wasn’t simply part of his establishment’s name. Family, friends, and those who worked alongside Clarke openly shared their memories of the publican — a term that’s widely used to describe pub owners in the very place that inspired much of the offerings at the Loyal Oarsman, the United Kingdom.

The following are those sentiments, shared the way they were shared by those who loved and love the smiling man so many came to know well: in their own words.

The Loyal Oarsman on Bath Road in Kingston’s west end has been a place to visit regularly for many Kingstonians in its 20+ years, largely due in part to owner Danny Clarke’s hospitable and warm nature, and the way he treated staff and clients. Photo by Cris Vilela.

Spring (Gillett) Clarke — Danny’s Wife of 44 years

“Danny, with his wife of 44 years Spring by his side, has been in the restaurant business since 1988. In 1999, they opened the Loyal Oarsman Pub. Danny named the pub the Loyal Oarsman as a nod to the Kingston waterfront he loved so much. He loved the history of the city of Kingston and included historic pictures of the city throughout the pub. Over the years in the restaurant business, he raised money for countless charities in the Kingston Area through annual charity golf tournaments. Charity benefactors included the Boys & Girls Club, Special Olympics, Cancer Society, Happy Soul Project, and the Diabetes Society, to name a few. He sponsored countless sports teams throughout the years, as well. Danny was hard-working, dedicated to his staff and customers. He employed hundreds of staff over the years. Danny was always welcoming and always wanted to make the pub feel like a home away from home for all his loyal customers and staff.”

Dan Clarke, Owner of The Loyal Oarsman, passed away on February 24, 2022 “surrounded by his family and their love.” Submitted photo.

Kendra Babcock — Senior Serving Staff, Loyal Oarsman

“I have worked for Dan for about 20 years. He was the best boss I, along with many others, have ever had. He was always a mentor to all of us and always encouraged us to work hard, building us up for success and building a legacy that will forever be carried on. He became more than just a boss to me, but like a second dad. We all loved him very much.

It’s been a tough week at the pub. But at least it’s been nice to have so many customers come in and share their memories of Dan and of the good times they had here at the Oarsman. That’s been uplifting to hear.”

Dave Reid — Owner, Red House West

“Some thoughts on the amazing Dan Clarke… I worked for Dan Clarke for 10 years. Clarkey treated us like family at The Oarsman and we remain just that. He was the best employer I’ve ever worked for and became a great friend. Dan taught me so much about the hospitality industry over the years, and I use that knowledge to this day. He is a man I look up to and try to emulate in a lot of ways. He was an amazing influence on where I am today in my life and career.

Dan brought great people together through The Loyal Oarsman who, to this day, remain the best of friends. It’s sad to have to say goodbye, but he leaves an everlasting impression on all of us who were lucky enough to have him in our lives.”

Alex Batson — Serving Staff, Loyal Oarsman

“Working for Dan and Spring over the last 14 years has been an honour. Dan had a way of making all of his staff feel like family. When any of us have gone through hard times, Dan was always there to support us and help in any way he could. He had a personality that lit up a room and you always knew how proud he was of the business he created and the staff who worked for him. The love he had for his wife, children, and grandchildren was inspiring and really showed everyone around him the kind and loving man he was. He will be greatly missed by so many.”

Dan Clarke in one of his favourite settings, overlooking the water. Submitted image.

Mark Wensing — Former Business Associate

“Dan always took the time to listen to a story or share one. He was an all-around great guy. I met Dan many years ago when I was working in sales in the beer industry. It’s a true honor to call him a friend. Rest, my friend.”

Jamie East — Former Manager, Milestones

“I was super-impressed how Dan handled the violent situation they had a while ago… anyone who thinks of their staff first is A1 in this industry.”

Tony Pereira — Kitchen Manager, Loyal Oarsman

“I’ve been working with Dan since 1999. I’ve known him since he owned Bellamy’s. Dan always wanted to help the community out. Every year, he’d run fundraisers for different things, whether it was for the Diabetes Foundation or the Boys and Girls Club… He cared for everybody and gave all of his staff opportunities. If staff wanted to go to school or anything, he was always accommodating and encouraged them to reach further.

“I’ve always thought of him as family. He’s always treated me and my family well. I have three kids with autism and whenever I needed to take time off, he was always understanding. He treated me really well, we were close like family.”

Dan Clarke enjoys an afternoon on a patio. Submitted image.

Bill Mulville — Former Serving Staff, Bellamy’s and Loyal Oarsman

“I started working for Dan when I was very young, maybe 21 or 22. From the start, he treated me more like family than an employer. Dan was almost like a father figure to me.

One of the favourite memories I have with Dan is the hockey games we used to go to. He was a huge Habs fan and I am a Leafs fan. I have a collection of five-dollar bills in my sock drawer still from those games. We used to bet each other five bucks every game and sign the bill with our bet. I won’t get rid of those bills, not ever.

He was the best guy to work for. He always had our backs. No matter what. When we had an unruly customer, he always made sure that he got the full story before somebody else and he always had the staff’s back. He was great to be around. We would go to Blue Jays games together with my wife and his wife, Spring. We’d stay overnight and have dinner. It was a great, great experience to have him as a friend.

He was always talking about his daughters and how proud he was of them. He also loved his grandboys, gosh he loved his grandboys. And walking the dogs. That was his quiet time, walking the dogs around the neighborhood. Working a bar can be a stressful place, but he made it less so.”

One thought on “In memory of Danny Clarke, owner of The Loyal Oarsman

  • Wonderful tribute to Dan…we will all miss his presence and friendship.

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