Whitney Clark

0:00 Whitney Elizabeth Olson Clark died peacefully at her home in Bristol, R.I., on December 11, 2023. Her husband of 63 years, Allen Clark, was […]

Published January 11, 2024 3:55 PM
3 min read

0:00

Whitney Elizabeth Olson Clark died peacefully at her home in Bristol, R.I., on December 11, 2023. Her husband of 63 years, Allen Clark, was by her side. She was 86. The cause of death was cancer.

 Born in Washington D.C., on October 26, 1937, she was the daughter of Sidney and Zembra Olson, who were originally from Utah, which always had a special place in Whitney’s heart. Her relatives were farmers and ranchers in Bear River City, in the northern part of the state. During her youth, she and her family traveled frequently back to Utah, and she would often talk of how she loved riding horses, mostly bareback. Later in life, Whitney, Allen, and their children would travel there often to spend time with her relatives.

 In 1941, the Olsons moved to Larchmont, N.Y., where Whitney attended Chatsworth Avenue School before going to Rye Country Day School. She spent two years at Smith College followed by two more at Columbia University’s School of General Studies.

 Whitney and Allen, who grew up in Mamaroneck, met as teen-agers at a Larchmont Yacht Club dance. They dated on and off for seven years, before and during college, and even in Europe in 1958.

The two married in 1960 and moved to Brooklyn. Whitney worked in book publishing (Farrar, Strauss), and Allen in advertising. A year later, they moved to Mamaroneck and had their first child Tony. He was joined by a sister, Margot, in 1964, and a brother, Rob, in 1969. The Clarks lived in three houses during their time in Mamaroneck. 

In 1984, the Clarks moved to Rye. They renovated the 1925 house on Forest Avenue that was their home for nearly 40 years. It was the scene of a lot of love and fun, great parties, many sleepovers, and get-togethers, and even a wedding (their daughter Margot’s). 

Whitney was a devoted mother and homemaker, as well as daughter, sister, and friend. Between caring for and entertaining her children, she loved hosting dinner parties, gardening, cooking, reading, talking on the phone with friends, traveling (especially lower Tuscany), walking, playing tennis, and skiing. The family joined Manursing Island Club in the late 1970s. 

She designed and decorated the family’s homes with a quirky twist — from furniture to art to fabrics and plants. Whitney applied the same approach to her wardrobe, which was always stylish, but also fun. Her sense of humor pervaded so much of what she did.

She was a master thrift-shop/auction house hunter, a talent she used for many years as a volunteer at United Hospital’s 15th Twig Antiques in Rye. For over a decade, she wrote columns and articles for The Rye Record, beside her husband Allen, then co-publisher of the paper. She played an important part in the development of The Rye Arts Center, was a longtime and active member of The Rye Garden Club, and served on the Rye Free Reading Room’s Auxiliary Board. 

Atop Whitney’s many joys was reading. She read with voracity, even managing to read all of Proust. Fiction, non-fiction, the New York Times, and the New Yorker – Whitney was always reading.

 Family and friends (and dogs!) were what Whitney loved most of all. Her joy from being with her loved ones always shone through. She was funny, caring, kind, empathetic, and a great listener.

At a farewell gathering in Rye last year, before the Clarks moved to Bristol, longtime friend Barbara Cummings said, “Whitney is not replaceable, and she is one of the finest people we have ever met.” Peter Jovanovich said, “Life would be diminished without Whitney. Her voice and presence communicate humor, love, and above all, a delight at wonderment of life and nature.”  

One of Whitney’s great joys in recent years was helping her daughter Margot research and write a book about her father’s wartime reporting at the end of World War II. “Following the Front: The Dispatches of WWII Correspondent Sidney A. Olson” will be published in fall 2024.

In addition to her loving husband, Allen, Whitney is survived by her children, Anthony Clark (Ylva), Margot Clark-Junkins (Theo), and Robinson Clark (Amy Wilson), and six grandchildren: Madeleine, Guy, Axel, Rasmus, Arlo, and Echo. Her brother, John Olson (Linwood) of Houston, Texas, also survives her.

A celebration of Whitney Clark’s life will be held in Rye in the spring.

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