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HomeObituariesIn Memory: Katherine Clarke-Keffer, Age 82

In Memory: Katherine Clarke-Keffer, Age 82

Obituary - Katherine Clarke-KefferNewark, Delaware – Katherine Clarke-Keffer (November 18, 1940 – July 6, 2023) died July 6, 2023. She was 82. Her childhood in Rye, New York, with parents Nora and John Shaughnessy and siblings Jack, Mary, Don, Anne, and Joe was filled with love (and, according to her and her siblings, shenanigans). She was always an excellent student. After Resurrection School and Resurrection Academy in Rye, she started college at Albertus Magnus in New Haven, CT, but left to finish her Associate’s degree at Katherine Gibbs in Manhattan, a school providing “secretarial training for educated women.”

She married Francis Clarke in 1962, and her early career as Assistant to the Controller at IBM was more lucrative than his first job as an attorney. Kay and Frank, who each called the other Bob for reasons long lost, started their family in 1965. They soon moved to Miami Shores, Florida, where Sharon, Andrew, and Kieran engaged in extensive childhood shenanigans of their own; those were probably the source of her loving nickname for them: the three little shitbirds.

The family was active at St. Rose of Lima parish and school and in support of their kids’ sports teams at the Miami Shores Community Center. Kay was a fixture for 25 years as Assistant to the (many) Principal(s) at Archbishop Curley Notre Dame High School, an extraordinarily diverse Catholic school in Little Haiti, Miami. At Curley, Mrs. Clarke was a utility infielder. She helped with maintenance, athletics, hiring, communications, fundraising, and mentoring for staff and students.

Kay loved sports and crosswords and books and gardening. She loved Jeopardy, but not Mayim Bialik. She loved to entertain. Her Christmas Eve parties were epic. She set up a house where everyone was always welcome. Kay and Frank were married for 29 years and then continued their friendship until his death in 1992. She married widower George Keffer, the family’s dentist, in 1999, and the two enjoyed fellowship and travel until his death in 2002.

In retirement, Kay moved to Durham, North Carolina, to live near her beloved sister Anne. Their sister Mary soon joined them. The Shaughnessy girls had a fantastic group of friends and a full roster of volunteer work at Duke Gardens and the Durham Library, along with many required educational activities organized by Anne. They were superfans of Duke Baseball. But Kay also reserved time for additional shenanigans of her own.

In 2019, Kay moved to Newark, Delaware, to be with Sharon and husband Andrew. She ruled the roost during the pandemic. Once traveling was allowed again, her children and grandchildren visited her in Delaware and she earned the nickname Old Baby. Old Baby Fanclub, which included her children, their spouses (Andrew and Alexa), and her six grandchildren (Kevin, Peter, Fischer, Tate, Jack, and Annie), and other family friends, will miss Old Baby. She was loyal and smart and wry and wise. She was frugal and generous. She loved birds and cats, but dogs–not so much. She rode her tricycle fearlessly. She loved the beach. She steered clear of negativity. She dressed well, kept a very clean house, and didn’t allow men to wear hats inside. She ironed all of her clothes (and yours, if you begged hard enough). She thought women should always wear a little lipstick. She did not suffer fools. She taught us to resist bigotry and arrogance and to be grateful.

When we asked her about this obituary, she said she wanted us to say that her family was her joy and also a pain in her ass. Sleep tight and dream of the angels, Mamma Kay.
We will celebrate her at a memorial mass at St. Margaret’s of Scotland in Newark, DE, on July 29 at 11:00. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation of time or treasure to your local food bank.

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