Leonard Clarke, a prominent Hudson Valley fruit grower, passed away Monday, January 14, 2019. He was born May 23, 1918 to parents Walter R. and Ruth Birdsall Clarke in Milton, NY where he lived his whole life. He celebrated his 100th birthday in May 2018. He is survived by his sons and their spouses, Walter Roe and Carol Clarke, and Steven and Judy Clarke along with nieces and nephews and his 5 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.
Leonard graduated from Newburgh Free Academy in January 1938, commuting daily from Milton by train. He treasured the broad education he received there, and went on to college at Massachusetts Agricultural College at Amherst. After his first year, he chose to come back and save the farm during the hard times of the Great Depression. He became a self-educated mechanic, farmer and bulldozer operator. Together with the love of his life, Marion, they had a successful career farming apples, pears, and cherries. The Clarke family celebrated 200 years of farming in 2018, and Leonard was happy to share stories (and he remembered a lot!) from the 100 years that he had been a part of.
The passion of Leonard's life was hunting and fishing, which he pursued all over the U.S., South America and Africa. As he got older, he became an avid photographer, and entertained many with his slide shows of his adventurous travels. In his 90's he loved to give advice and share his life experiences with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is one of the last of his generation of fruit growers, and his knowledge, experience and reassuring optimism for the future will be missed on the farm and in the family.
Calling hours will be held on Wednesday evening January 16th from 5-7:30 pm. Funeral service to follow at 7:30 pm with Pastor Vicki Annin and Pastor Jodi Spiak officiating at the DiDonato Funeral Home, 1290 Route 9W, Marlboro.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Leonard's memory may be made to the Hudson Valley Research Lab, PO Box 727, Highland, NY 12528 and the United Methodist Church of Milton & Marlboro, 112 Church St. Milton, NY 12547.