The Passing Of A Great Southeast Queens Lady

A Personal Perspective

A great lady from the community recently died and her passing is no small loss to the Southeast Queens community.

District Leader Amanda Leah Clarke, who ran for the 31st Council District in 2001, was the quintessential community loyalist. And while she lost the council seat to now-Sen. James Sanders, she continued to be an engaged community activist throughout the rest of her life. She was a class act all the way.

Married to attorney Donald L. Clarke, Sr., Clarke and her husband moved from Brooklyn to Springfield Gardens. Brooklyn’s loss was Queens’ gain as the couple contributed to the life of their community, while rearing their beautiful family of four children and building successful careers—she as a teacher and he as an attorney.

I vividly recall Mrs. Clarke’s debate in the Tribune/Press office, then located in Fresh Meadows. She was there along with the other candidates for the soon-to-be vacant council seat. She held her own against another great lady, Charlotte Jefferson, Professor James Blake, the aforementioned James Sanders and several other candidates.

She conducted her campaign with style and took her loss in stride. That was the hallmark of her public life. And while things worked out well with Sanders as councilman, I never forgot the honorable district leader Clarke—and, in fact, would see her at community events throughout the years. I was always happy to see her.

But there is something else about her that most people may not have known until seeing it in her funeral program. Amanda Clarke was a thrill-seeker. She had been a licensed airplane pilot since 1979, logging “many hours in the air and was a member of the Ninety-Nines, an international women’s pilot association; The Ravens Flying Club; and the Ida Van Smith Flight Club.”

Not content just with adventures above the clouds, she also enjoyed “piloting boats” and loved race car driving. According to her bio, she was a car collector who, in her lifetime, owned a 1969 Jaguar XKE convertible, 1973 Rolls Royce and Bentley Continental GT convertible. She was a member of the Jaguar Club of North America and enjoyed racing at events. What a fascinating lady!

But Amanda Clarke wasn’t just about the thrill of danger. She and her husband were members of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton and Laurelton Club and were dedicated to service at their children’s schools. They were dedicated members of First Presbyterian Church of Springfield Gardens and spent their lives contributing in many other ways.

From South Carolina—where she began her life—to Southeast Queens, where she spent the last 47 years of it, Amanda Clarke was someone worthy of emulation. We will likely not see her likes in these parts again.

Not many of us can say we knew a woman of the 78-year-old Clarke’s generation who pursued all these wonderful passions that are typically associated with men. She felt, as Tom Cruise says in Top Gun, “the need for speed” and she indulged in it with gusto.

It is truly sad to lose this captivating and loyal community servant. May she rest in peace and may her family take comfort in the many wonderful memories they shared.

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