Joe Clarke

Joseph Clarke of Baltimore, 83, died peacefully surrounded by family on February 10, 2024, only weeks after celebrating his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife Mary Pat.

Joe had a long career in real estate development, spurred by his service as a special assistant to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter administration. Later in his career, Joe shared his experience in real estate development in courses at The Johns Hopkins University, where he also earned graduate degrees in business and liberal arts and served as president of the alumni club.

Joe was an astute observer of local and national politics, an avid traveler, a lifelong learner and information sharer, and a passionate follower of the Baltimore Orioles. In recent years, he rarely missed an inning through good seasons and bad. He was devoted to his family and to his hometown, Baltimore, which he served in many philanthropic roles. Joe and his closest friends bonded over their shared love of urban planning, Baltimore history and politics, local sports teams, travel, “the gift of the gab,” and their families.

Joe was born in Baltimore in December 1940, to Rose Ellen (Hagan) and Joe Clarke. Known to his family as “Jay,” the couple’s first son was welcomed into a large family spread throughout the parishes surrounding Patterson Park. His younger sister Mary Ellen (“Bonnie”) and brother Tim followed in the next few years. His father’s career led to moves away from Baltimore, including to Philadelphia, where Joe met his future wife, Mary Pat, at an 8th grade St. Patrick’s Day mixer.

Joe received his bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s University in 1963 and began his career as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia. He and Mary Pat married over the holiday break in December 1963, before the schedule called for both of them to return to their high school teaching duties. In the late 1960’s, the couple moved to Baltimore, where they would raise their four children, John, Erin, Susan, and Jennifer, across the street from Joe’s mother Rose Ellen.

In the roiling world of Baltimore politics in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, Joe and Mary Pat were active members of the New Democratic Club. In 1970, Joe ran for a seat in the State Senate as part of the first desegregated ticket in Baltimore political history. Later, Joe played roles behind the scenes in campaigns for future U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, among other figures. But most significantly in the world of politics, Joe was a lifelong sounding board for Mary Pat in her long career in public service and Baltimore politics.

Joe was a devoted Catholic who served the church in many roles, including as a board or committee member for St. Ignatius Church and the Basilica of the Assumption and, earlier, as a eucharistic minister at the Church of Saints Phillip and James. Outside of the church, his philanthropic endeavors included his longstanding support of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, service on the boards of the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Gallery, and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, and support for Living Classrooms and Jubilee Baltimore.

Joe believed in serving without attention. Mary Pat would often encounter Baltimoreans who shared with her tales of some charitable effort by which Joe had impacted their lives – which Joe had never mentioned. Ironically, nothing delighted Joe more than witnessing the warmth and enthusiasm that electrified a room when Mary Pat entered, or hearing strangers sharing with him their love for his wife and the things she did to help them.

Joe loved “the beach” beginning with his courtship visiting Mary Pat at the Jersey Shore. They made it a point to visit Delaware beaches for at least a week every summer when Joe was not off to Italy or somewhere else in Europe. Joe also loved snowstorms – particularly when he could read by the fireplace in his home bursting with books: histories, biographies, and every published piece by his old friend Garry Wills. He was an early and devoted jogger from the days of Jim Fixx and New Balance, whose shoes were his go-to for many decades.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Timothy, of Gaithersburg, and many dear friends. In addition to his sister, Bonnie Clarke, of Austin, Texas, Joe is survived by Mary Pat, their children and children in-law John and Susan (West) Clarke of New Canaan, CT; Erin and David Gorden of Dover, MA; Susan and Jay Chandrasekhar of Los Angeles, CA; Jenny Clarke of Baltimore; and Fife Hubbard of Baltimore, and ten grandchildren: Eleanor and Steele Clarke; Tom and Claire Gorden; Will, Ella, and Janie Chandrasekhar; and Paull, Lucy, and Amy Hubbard.

We will miss Joe’s tales of his early days at Metromedia, where he escorted “Batman” Adam West around DC for a weekend; his affection for Brooks Robinson and Earl Weaver; his classic, tweedy style and long-held belief that it is important to dress up for a flight or train ride; and his quiet attention to those in need. We will miss his kindness toward everyone; the closest he came to name-calling was an exasperated: “what a nit-wit.” Joe was extraordinary: funny, dependable, modest, kind, respectful, genuine, and loving.

A funeral mass was held for Joe at St. Ignatius Church on Saturday, February 17th.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Joe’s name to the St. Ignatius school fund or a charity of your choice.

Published by Baltimore Sun from Feb. 14 to Feb. 16, 2024.