Frances Marie Clarke

July 3, 1921 ~ February 9, 2018 (age 96)

Frances Marie Clarke, 96, passed away peacefully at Claridge Court Residential Community on February 9, 2018 where she had happily resided for the past 9 years. Frances lived a full and productive life and was blessed with a loving, devoted family and remarkable health.

Frances was born to Thurman B. and Georgia D. (nee Gale) Barker in the family’s farmhouse in Western Wyandotte County on July 3, 1921. She was a member of Wyandotte High School’s Class of 1938. Frances graduated from the University of Chicago in 1942 and was one of the first women to graduate the School of Business, an impressive feat for that era.

Upon graduation, Frances returned to Kansas City where she worked at Mid-Continent Airlines and KMBC radio station. It so happened that the Barkers’ neighbor had a tall, handsome, and brilliant son, William (Bill) Clarke, who had recently returned to Kansas City upon his college graduation (receiving a degree in chemical engineering), after serving in WWII. The mothers conspired and arranged a blind date for the couple, which must have gone quite well: On November 12, 1950, Frances Marie Barker married William Wirth Clarke.

Frances thrived in her role as wife and mother and cherished raising their young son, Billy. She was also a tireless community volunteer. One of her most demanding service roles was the Junior League of Kansas City, Kansas, where she proudly served as its president. During her League service, she was selected as a national representative to the National Council for Mental Health.

In 1959, the Clarkes moved to Leawood, Kansas and settled into family life. Frances continued her dedication to community service where she served as a docent for the Nelson Art Gallery, memberships in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Altar Guild, Leawood Women’s Club Antique Guild, and parent volunteer at Pembrook Country Day School.

Frances spent many enjoyable years driving young Bill to junior tennis tournaments around the country, and later attending his collegiate and professional tennis tournaments with her husband. She also spent countless hours shagging balls for her young son when he was beginning his tennis career.

Frances was a member of Village Presbyterian Church and carried the second longest membership at Indian Hills Country Club in her twilight years.

In the early seventies, Frances ventured back into the business world and entered residential real estate. Her success parlayed into a lifetime business partnership with her husband, founding Arrow Oil and Bulk Petroleum companies. Upon the unexpected death of Bill Sr. in 1984, son Bill stepped in and partnered with his mother to run the companies, while maintaining his law practice in Phoenix, Arizona. Frances was forever grateful for her son’s loyalty and sacrifices during this difficult period.

In the late eighties, Frances entered the computer world with online investing, and, in a very short time, became a savvy online analyst and investor. She was featured prominently in the Wall Street Journal, and local publications, with an article entitled, “When This Grandmother Speaks, Wall Street Listens.” Her astute investment skills led to memberships in two investment groups: WOWS II Investment Club and Knickerbocker Investors. She enjoyed and valued her friendships from these clubs.

Frances flourished in her business partnerships with her husband and son. Her treasured roles as grandmother and business partner with son Bill sustained her after the untimely death of Bill Sr. Frances and son Bill thoroughly enjoyed their business partnership in different ventures over the years. Frances enthusiasm, research, and attention to detail often had Bill burning the candle at both ends. Three years ago, at the age of 93, Frances announced she was officially retiring.

Frances is preceded in death by her beloved husband, Bill.

She is survived by her son, William A. (Bill); daughter-in-law, Margaret (Peggy); and three cherished grandchildren: William Thomas, Alexandra Marie, and Stephen Daniel.

A Celebration of Life reception will be held at Claridge Court on Sunday, February 18 at 4:30 p.m. A family burial service will take place at Highland Park Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas on Monday, February 19 at 10:00am, followed by a memorial service that day at 11:30am at Village Presbyterian Church.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the University of Kansas Department of Athletics.

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