Clarke remembered

Published 6:58 am Friday, December 1, 2017

Mary Frances Clarke is being remembered as a driving force in Buckingham County, a generous and active member of the community who sustained one of the county’s oldest businesses.

Clarke died Sept. 27 at 101 years of age.

Clarke, who was born July 7, 1916, first opened the Mary F. Clarke Grocery Store in the county with her now-late husband, Robert, in 1949, according to a previous Herald report.

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She had been involved in the grocery industry long before that, working in her grandparents’ store starting when she was 5 years old.

The Mary F. Clarke Grocery Store had been in continuous operation in the county for decades, eventually closing in 2015 when Clarke, 99 at the time, moved to Fredericksburg with her son, James Earl “Billy” Clarke.

Clarke was a lifelong member of Slate River Baptist Church and was titled “Church Mother.”

During a ceremony honoring Clarke in 2015 at Slate River Baptist Church, Deaconess Yvonne Brown noted that Clarke had been born during World War I and had experienced the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the conflict in the Middle East.

“You were here for the passing of the voting rights bill, you saw the election of Virginia’s first black governor, you saw the election of the first black president of the United States,” Brown said.

“The best part of it is you were here for us,” Brown said during the ceremony. “You have left a legacy with us.”

Members of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, during their Nov. 14 meeting, passed a resolution remembering Clarke that would be given to members of her family.

Clarke has nine grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, nine great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild, according to the resolution.

“Mary Frances Clarke was the owner of Mary F. Clarke Store where she started at a young age working in her grandmother’s store and operated her store until the age of 99,” the resolution cited, “where she loved meeting people.”

“Clarke was a pillar to the community and was loved and respected by all who knew her and will be greatly missed,” the resolution cited.

District Six Supervisor Joe Chambers proposed the resolution. He said he had known Clarke and had seen her impact in Buckingham County all of his life.

He said he remembers frequenting the grocery store as a kid and Clarke giving him and others candies and other treats.

Her generosity and hard work was evident to him even then, Chambers said.

“She was a good person,” Chambers said.