Barbara Clark, 95

Sept. 3, 1923 - Jan. 20, 2019
Barbara Clark, Sept. 3, 1923 - Jan. 20, 2019

‘When Barbara Lee Clark went into the hospital not long ago, her daughter Heather Reylek had to smile when she came to the question on the paperwork she was filling out that asked when her 95-year-old mother retired. 

“I said, ‘Retired?’ She’s still working, what’s ‘retired?’ ” Mrs. Reylek said. “To the day she died, she was still a registered insurance agent and she was still working for Amaden Gay. She’d still do the training every year and get the checks. She still had her customers.” 

Mrs. Clark, who was known as Buzzy, was also a fan of the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and active in civic causes throughout her life in addition to being a wife, career woman, and mother of seven children. She died on Jan. 20 at home on Shelter Island of complications of colon cancer.

Mrs. Clark was born on Sept. 3, 1923, in Brooklyn to John Beith Smith Jr. and the former Elna Margretha Kolstad. She graduated from Richmond Hill High School before attending the Juilliard School for vocal training and the New School for Social Research. 

She was working as a secretary at the Pan American Airlines offices in the Chrysler Building in Manhattan when she found her way to eastern Long Island one summer with some Brooklyn friends who were vacationing here.

She and her friends chose some lodging on Shelter Island, at what is now Camp Quinipet, and it was there that she met her future husband, Robert Arthur (Bucky) Clark. They were married on Sept. 12, 1948, and spent the early years of their married life in Locust Valley, where Mr. Clark worked on a private yacht before returning to his native Shelter Island at the request of his parents, who were longtime caretakers of what is now the Mashomack Preserve when it was still a private estate. They eventually bought a piece of land near Taylor’s Island in Mashomack, and it was there that the couple raised their family while Mr. Clark continued his work as a yachtsman, caretaker, fisherman, and charter boat captain. He died in 2000. They lived intermittently over the years at Mashomack’s manor house, overseeing the property “both when it was a private estate and during the time when it operated as a private hunting club,” her family wrote.

Mrs. Clark returned to the work force after her children were in school. She was employed at Rowe Industries for many years and later became a licensed insurance broker with the Amaden Gay Agencies in East Hampton. 

She was a founding member of the Shelter Island branch of the League of Women Voters, and belonged to numerous other groups, including the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 281, the Shelter Island Coecles Harbor Association, and several choirs and choral societies.

Mrs. Clark’s love of the arts and civic engagement endured throughout her life, much like her love of her careers. She was a loyal visitor to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., and a dedicated international traveler to spots as far-flung as Thailand, Cuba, Spain, and Argentina. She faithfully donated money to progressive causes such as Doctors Without Borders, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood. 

She is survived by her children, Virginia Ann Garbowski of Hampton Bays,   Patricia Ann Hurley of Naples, Fla., and Mrs. Reylek, Wendy Sanwald, John Fulton Clark, Keith Robert Clark, and Andrew Albertus Clark, all of Shelter Island. She is also survived by 14 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Clark’s memorial service was held at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church on Saturday. At her request, her cremated remains were mingled with those of her late husband and her late father. 

Since Mrs. Clark supported so many progressive causes and the arts, the family has suggested donations in her memory to a like-minded organization of the donor’s choice.