left to right: Banks Southerland, Walton Clarke, Mac Southerland, Sarah Clarke, Charley MartinCONTRIBUTED

Sarah Yuille Clarke, active in Alzheimer’s causes, dies at 72

Sarah Yuille Clarke met her husband, Walton Clarke, on a blind date in 1970, and they were married six months later.

But Clarke was not one to rely on chance when it came to her relationships — with her husband, family or friends.

“She was very devoted to everyone who came into her life,” said longtime friend Tricia Allen of Atlanta. “Life can get busy, but she was one who would follow up and make those plans to have lunch. She maintained those relationships all the way through.”

Clarke, 72, died peacefully, just before sunset Friday, at Piedmont Hospital of congestive heart failure. Her daughters, Katie and Mary Mac, and other family members were by her side, keeping her company until the end.

Clarke was actively involved in civic causes, especially bringing awareness, providing support and raising money for medical research aimed at fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sarah Clarke was instrumental in growing the annual ‘A Family Affair’ fundraising dinner which has raised more than $5.5 million dollars to date for our Alzheimer’s disease research efforts," said Dr. Allan Levey, director of Emory University’s Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and chair of the Department of Neurology. “She and Walton served as Chairs of this event in 2014, sharing how this disease had personally impacted their family. Sarah had an extraordinary gift to make everyone she met feel important. Her willingness to share her family’s story with Alzheimer’s helped countless friends, neighbors and community members in their journey with the disease.”

Daughter Mary Mac Southerland said her mom loved routine: her long walks around Peachtree Battle; her devotion to eating well-balanced, healthy meals; her cocktail (but never before 6 p.m.); and Tuesday bridge games. She was also someone who loved gatherings of all sizes and especially relished those with her husband, daughters and three grandsons (who Clarke always referred to as “her boys”), including regular Sunday lunches. She treasured summer getaways to Sullivan’s Island, S.C., as well.

“She never overindulged, and she was kind of a regimented person but she was also spunky and fun and so easy to talk to,” said Southerland.

Clarke was born June 25, 1947 to Alexander Massie Yuille and Arlene Tweedy Yuille in Lynchburg, Va. She was an only child. She was very close to her mother, who suffered and died from Alzheimer’s. In 1998, she and her friend Sarah Kennedy (whose father also died from Alzheimer’s) launched The Atlanta Alzheimer’s Auxiliary. The group grew to 150 founding members and continued to increase over the years. The name was later changed to the Atlanta Alzheimer’s Society.

Sarah and Walton Clarke

In recent years, Walton Clarke was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“My mom always thought it would be her,” said Southerland. “It’s been very stressful, but she has been so loving and patient with dad.”

Allen said Clarke adored her husband.

“She thought he was clever and funny and laughed at everything he said,” she said.

She watched Clarke lovingly take care of her husband.

“She was always very devoted to Walton,” said Allen.

Clarke was also a dedicated volunteer at the Shepherd Center, receiving special recognition for her many years of service.

There will be a memorial service at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road NE. The family suggests donations to the Emory Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, 12 Executive Park Drive NE, Atlanta, 30329.

MORE: Alzheimer’s grows sharply in Georgia — and faster than national average

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