Long-time resident Marlene Ann Clarke dies at 86
February 15, 2023
Marlene Ann Clarke passed away Feb. 7 in the Wrangell long-term care facility.
She was born on April 3, 1936, to Nellie Prescott and Howard Messinger in Wrangell. She spent most of her childhood in Wrangell except for short stays in Juneau, Haines and Anchorage. She came back in the third grade and graduated from Wrangell High School in 1954.
Working summers in the shrimp and fish canneries gave her the push to move to California to try something different after graduation. She took business and office machine courses.
In 1956 she married Merlin Liefer and moved to Illinois. They had a daughter, Dianne, and a son, Greg. In 1959 they moved to Wrangell. Marlene and Merlin divorced in 1962 and Marlene started working for National Bank of Alaska. In 1964 she transferred to the Air Force Communications System, located in the post office. At that time, fast messages were sent by teletype. She remained there until marrying Dr. Jack Clarke.
Dr. Clarke accepted a position with the Veterans Administration in 1966 and the couple moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, for two years, followed by Hot Springs, South Dakota, for two years.
Marlene and her teenagers moved back to Wrangell in 1970 after Dr. Clarke's death. She worked at the post office for 12 years and quit to open Joys Gifts. The shop closed in 1996.
She was on the Citizens Advisory Council, University of Alaska Sitka campus, for more than 20 years. She served on the Wrangell Medical Center Board from 1999-2003. She was active in the Episcopal Church and volunteered at the polls on election days. She was a passionate member of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. "She felt her years volunteering were a small way to say thank you to this community and state which she loved deeply," her family wrote.
She moved to Oregon in 2016 to be closer to medical specialists and her children and grandchildren. "She returned to Wrangell at the end of 2018 because she missed it so much."
She loved bird-watching boat trips, playing bridge and cribbage. She was an avid reader, and when her eyesight failed she listened to audio books. Marlene loved jazz and her jazz CDs were enjoyed by the staff at the long-term care facility. In the past, she even had a jazz show on KSTK.
Marlene is preceded in death by her father, mother and brother, Ron Schmitz.
She is survived by her sisters Linnea Brooks and Debbie Werner; daughter Dianne Cassidy; son Greg Leifer; grandchildren Joy (Sean) Healy, Megan (Brian) Friend, and Lauren (Kevin) Baily; great-grandchildren Jackson Wayland, Ellie Bailey, Charlotte Friend and Tobias Bailey.
Service will be held in the spring. Donations in Marlene's name can be made to Wrangell Fire Department.