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Gravesend's 'dog whisperer' Vic Clarke, known for walking people's pooches near Thong Lane, dies

By Jenna Dobbs

Hundreds of tributes poured in for a town's very own “dog whisperer”, after the news of his death was announced.

Victor Clarke, known as Vic, passed away on Sunday, December 30 at the age of 83, after living in Gravesend all his life.

Known for his love of our four-legged friends, when Mr Clarke’s last two dogs died, he couldn’t stand being in the house without them.

Victor "Vic" Clarke was known as Riverview's "dog whisperer"
Victor "Vic" Clarke was known as Riverview's "dog whisperer"

Out of the kindness of his heart, he decided to look after his neighbours’ pets while they were at work or on holiday, accepting donations for dog charities instead of payment.

Mr Clarke, who lived in Leander Drive in Riverview Park for 60 years, would often be seen walking over Thong Lane fields with a team of dogs in tow, and left a bowl of water outside his house for any passing canines.

His actions had a lasting impact on those in the community, who will forever remember his smiling face and positive nature.

One of seven children, Mr Clarke grew up in Jubilee Crescent and has two surviving siblings still in the area.

Not a great lover of school, he would go “apple scrumping” as a young man, and became a hop picker at the age of 12.

Vera and Vic Clarke on their wedding day in Chalk, Gravesend
Vera and Vic Clarke on their wedding day in Chalk, Gravesend

After completing his National Service at 18, he became a reelerman at the Northfleet Paper Mill, where he met the love of his life, Vera May Ferguson, who was the admin assistant there.

The pair married at Chalk Church in 1958, and became two of the original “settlers” in Leander Drive, off Thong Lane.

They went on to have five children - Victor, 59, Vanessa, 57, Rachael, 55, Ruth 51 and Connie, 48.

Mrs Clarke passed away at the age of 40 after developing breast cancer, and Mr Clarke worked tirelessly to keep the family as comfortable as possible.

Vanessa, who now lives in Spain, said: “He worked hard all his life.

Vic and Vera Clarke on their wedding day at Chalk Church, Gravesend
Vic and Vera Clarke on their wedding day at Chalk Church, Gravesend
Vic and Vera Clarke
Vic and Vera Clarke
Victor "Vic" Clarke, from Gravesend (6518701)
Victor "Vic" Clarke, from Gravesend (6518701)

“After he left the paper mill he would find work wherever he could, grafting hard until he started his job at Slade Green Train Depot as a maintenance fitter for British Rail.”

Mr Clarke’s eldest child, Victor, trained as a chef and now owns Alice’s Tea Room in Lower Higham Road, Chalk.

Vanessa studied to become a teacher at the Royal College of Music, and later became a special needs co-ordinator in secondary schools.

Rachael is now a project manager at JP Morgan, and Mr Clarke’s youngest daughter, Connie, works in telesales.

Ruth, who has experience as a palliative carer in a hospice, has been described as a “fantastic support” to her father in his final weeks, as has his grandson Christopher, who cared for him since he was first diagnosed with cancer.

Victor "Vic" Clarke (6518551)
Victor "Vic" Clarke (6518551)

Mr Clarke had eleven grandchildren, including three step-grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Vanessa said: “He always considered himself a young man – even at the age of 83 when the illness kicked in.

“He was kind, generous, happy, always had a smile on his face and would say hello to everyone.

“All who knew him adored him.

“He will be a great loss to the community.”

Mr Clarke’s funeral will take place at Chalk Church in Church Lane, Gravesend, on Friday, January 25 at 11am, and there will be a collection for the Dogs Trust charity on the day.

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