Clarke set the standard for fitness family

Published 2:40 pm Sunday, July 19, 2015


TRIBUTE: The late Robin Clarke's work ethic and generosity are remembered by her Fitness Unlimited family.

TRIBUTE: The late Robin Clarke’s work ethic and generosity are remembered by her Fitness Unlimited family.

Robin Clarke was a fixture at Fitness Unlimited in Washington, more often than not the first to greet members when they entered the door and the last to wish them a good day after their workout.

Clarke died May 16 after fighting a courageous battle against cancer, but her work ethic and generosity live on. Fitness Unlimited owner Austin Thomas is making sure of that.

Clarke was a role model for other gym employees when she was alive, but even in death she is setting the bar high.

“Robin was a very dedicated, very outspoken person,” Thomas said recently. “In regards to Fitness Unlimited, she was really the personnel catalyst that started all the growth. She could relate to every kind of person … she was very unselfish, very generous. Generous is the number one word I would use for the lady.”

Two months after her death, Clarke is still very much a part of the Fitness Unlimited family. She is missed by fellow employees and by members; Thomas shared that her death leaves a huge hole in his life. He said Clarke was a “consistent glow” in his life and the lives of his wife and three children. When she knew she was dying and that the end was near, she turned to her boss and friend to prepare a eulogy.

“There are only a handful of people who come into your world and touch your life in a dramatic fashion,” Thomas noted in the eulogy, given during a funeral service held in Washington’s First Baptist Church. “Some of the people are just flickers of light during a long life, while others are consistent glows for years. For me, Robin was my consistent glow.”

When Clarke applied for a job with Fitness Unlimited, there actually wasn’t a position open, Thomas recalled. But the boss man was impressed so he hired her, essentially creating a job and passing some of his own duties on to her.

“That was the first time I delegated duties to an employee,” Thomas said with a smile. “Robin was a worker. She was a doer. She never stopped moving.”

Over the next seven or eight years, the business grew and Thomas eventually had 30 employees. But then came the day when she was diagnosed with cancer.

As she lived her life, Clarke faced her imminent death with dignity. So when she asked Thomas to deliver a eulogy, he couldn’t turn down the request.

“I’ve seen a fair amount of people who are about to die,” Thomas said. “But I have never seen someone with the perspective she had on her life. Even when she was having the worst of days, she was inspiring others and asking about someone else.”

During one of their last visits in the hospital, Thomas and Clarke discussed the eulogy.

“I went home that day and just started writing anything and everything I could think of in regards to Robin,” Thomas said to those gathered in the church for her service. “This was very difficult for me. I went back to the hospital a couple days later and I was able to sit with Robin for a little while, just the two of us.”

It was then that Clarke told Thomas that she wanted her eulogy to be a tool to inspire others. And she wanted everyone to know how much Fitness Unlimited and the staff there meant to her.

And in what Thomas called “true Robin fashion”, she used a little subtle pressure to steer him in the right direction.

“Robin was very skillful at getting folks to do more than they ever imagined they could do,” Thomas eulogized his friend and coworker. “And she did it in a way that was fun, efficient and highly effective.”

Thomas said Fitness Unlimited is searching for just the right lasting tribute to Clarke; in the meantime, her legacy is setting the standard for the rest of her work family.

Thomas thinks she would approve.