The new Clark William Deardorff Pavilion adjacent to Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale was dedicated on Sunday, Sept. 10 2023. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Church)
LANSDALE — A new addition to Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale is now open, creating a new bright spot in memory of someone who brightened countless lives.
Church members held a dedication ceremony on Sept. 10 for the new Clark William Deardorff Pavilion, named for a late church member who has left a lasting legacy.
“Along with our family and friends, our Trinity family was by our side, and was so supportive when our son Clark suddenly became so very sick,” said Clark’s father Curt.
Clark was a lifelong Trinity member, who helped at his father’s dental practice, played and coached tennis and lifeguarded locally, and coached the girl’s tennis team at Gwynedd Mercy High School while working on vaccines at Merck. Readers may recall Clark’s story: in 2017 he went into septic shock, suffered multiple cardiac arrests, and “was on every life-support system the ICU had, and there was little hope for his survival,” Curt said, speaking to Trinity’s congregation at the dedication ceremony.
“He spent the entire summer of 2017 in the ICU, and over 75 days of that in a medically-induced coma,” he said. Lehigh Valley Hospital staff, “with God’s help, miraculously brought Clark back to life,” and despite the amputation of all four of his limbs, Clark was supported by Trinity members during his rehab, his return to walking, and his eventual homecoming.
Photo courtesy of Deardorff family
From left, Ares, Clark, Ava and Celeste Deardorff are photographed in their Harleysville home in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Deardorff family)
“In 2018, Clark’s rehab had many ups and downs, but all in all he achieved greater independence, far ahead of expectations. 2018 was truly an amazing year — until September the 5th, when he had what they call ‘a widow-maker’ — a heart attack suddenly took Clark’s life. Along with our family and friends, our Trinity family was there for us again,” Curt said.
“Clark was a caring, selfless person, who liked to give back, helped encourage others, and always wanted everyone to have a good time. Clark loved having family celebrations under a pavilion — so, almost three years ago, when Trinity’s manager of buildings and grounds Denny Smith suggested a permanent pavilion instead of a temporary tent, we jumped at the idea,” Curt said.
Church members gathered on Sunday, Sept. 10 2023 to dedicate the new Clark William Deardorff Pavilion adjacent to Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Church)
That temporary tent was installed on Trinity’s grounds in the earliest days of COVID-19, to allow the church to hold outdoor services with safe distancing and ventilation. It has now been replaced with a red-roofed permanent structure, surrounded by flowers, with lights and chairs for gatherings like the dedication.
“We wanted to give back to our Trinity family, and construct the pavilion in memory of Clark,” Curt said. After plenty of meetings, planning and approvals, the pavilion now stands, with a spotlight aimed at a red sign with white lettering reading “Clark William Deardorff Pavilion.”
“We thank you all again for being there for us in our time of need,” Curt said.
Church Lead Pastor Fritz Fowler led the dedication ceremony, thanking the Deardorff family for the financial donation that made the pavilion possible.
“We are gathered to ask God’s blessing, as with thankfulness we dedicate the Clark William Deardorff Pavilion, to the glory of God and in loving memory of Clark,” said Fowler, as he lead prayers of thanksgiving from the congregation.
“May faith abide in this place. May love abound in this place. And may your presence be known in this place. Use this pavilion for your holy purpose, oh God,” he said. “May warmth and welcome fill this place. May it be a home for the community, and a haven for the stranger; a safe place for laughter, for tears, and for wonder, and a center for acts of service and deeds of love.”
On the Friday night before the ceremony, Fowler told the congregation, he was walking his dog nearby and heard a fire call dispatched, with emergency vehicles howling through the town — and spotted a young lady sitting in a chair below the pavilion.
“I said, ‘Are you OK? Is everything OK?’ And she said ‘Yes, I just need a few minutes to sit. The sirens were a little scary,’ she said. So we had this really holy moment: she said ‘Is that allowed, is that OK, am I going to get in trouble?’ I said, ‘You’re more than fine! if anyone tells you that you can’t be here, tell them the pastor has said it’s OK, that this is a place that you can always come, and sit, and contemplate.”
Trinity church council vice president Teri Lanan recalled meeting Clark on a church service trip in 2005, and said she still recalled several traits she saw while he was a crew leader on that trip.
“If I did my math right, Clark was 23 at the time, he was half my age. And he had quadruple, or perhaps ten-fold, my energy,” she said. At the end of each day of construction on that trip, the older group members would congregate on a porch to relax, “but not Clark, he was the kid magnet.”
“Clark had a lot of energy in reserve to burn, and an array of ideas for entertaining the youth. They migrated to, and surrounded him, like bees to honey. And he kept them entertained until it was time to retreat to their cabins for bed,” she said.
“This pavilion you’ve built, Sue and Curt, in his memory somewhat resembles, or at least reminds me of that summer porch. And when I look at it, what I see in my mind’s eyes is Clark, surrounded by a slew of laughing children, young ones, and playing together, and experiencing joy with one another, as friends, children of God, and brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Lansdale Mayor Garry Herbert added that he thought Trinity was “one of our closest, and nearest and dearest” for the borough, and the pavilion was “such an amazing asset in our community.”
Fowler said this week that the pavilion has already been put to use since the dedication, by Trinity staff having meetings outdoors, and those interested in holding events at the pavilion can contact the church office at (215) 368-1710. It’s equipped with electricity and fixtures for a ceiling projector, and is available to community members for use for weddings, picnics, or events like a ‘Blessing of the Animals’ Trinity will hold there, open to any community member and their pets, at 1 p.m. on Oct. 1.
“The intention is for the community to see this as a gift to them. The pavilion is an extension of the mission of Trinity: to celebrate diversity, and connect the community to each other, and to God or the divine,” Fowler said. “We want people to know how grateful we are to Curt and Sue for this incredible gift.”