“How we made them feel”
My latest journey was a sad one, as I drove to Atlanta on Saturday to attend a memorial service for John Clarke, one of our 25-year attendees at the Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference, and a truly remarkable and unforgettable friend.
When John, age 64, died in a tragic fall at work on May 7th, friends and family rallied around Elizabeth, who had lost on that fateful day not only her best friend and husband of 41 years, but all their dreams, and the plans they had made for their retirement years together.
Driving down from Asheville on an overcast afternoon, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at The Dell, a small city park in a natural, grassy bowl bordered by a meandering stream and surrounded by classic Arts and Crafts homes. The low murmur of friends gathering beneath the leafy poplars and maples outlining the grassy field was punctuated by the laughter of neighborhood children playing in the yards just beyond the fringes of the park.
The majority of the more than two hundred people, who by three o’clock nearly filled The Dell, ranged from college friends, former and present co-workers, fellow Arts and Crafts enthusiasts, and friends and neighbors, who all arrived laden with platters and bowls of food and bottles of wine — just as John would have wanted.
As friends and family members shared with us their special stories about John and Elizabeth, I sat in the back row and marveled at the insight I was gaining into a man I always considered one of my most loyal supporters back in those early days of organizing an Arts and Crafts Conference in the mountains of North Carolina. But each speaker was, as my grandmother would have said, ‘preaching to the choir,’ for everyone gathered in The Dell already knew John as a compassionate, caring, and modest friend.
And I could not have imagined a more appropriate place for a memorial service for an avid Arts and Crafts believer such as John Clarke. Located in the 1904 Ansley Park Historic District where John and Elizabeth have lived since 1993, The Dell is an intimate, quiet park, tucked away in a natural depression, part of a green bracelet of five parks dotting the 275-acre neighborhood. Ansley Park was one of the first suburbs of Atlanta, located just north of downtown. Its wide and winding streets were intended to accommodate the city’s first motorcars, yet was heavily influenced by naturalist landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903).
Olmstead, best known as the landscape architect for Manhattan’s Central Park, Washington’s Capital Grounds, and Asheville’s sprawling Biltmore Estate, is considered the father of Arts and Crafts naturalistic landscape design. He believed, as one writer noted, “that Nature could be harmoniously integrated into modern landscape design for the benefit of everyone.” Ansley Park is the living embodiment of Olmstead’s principles, a friendly neighborhood where classic examples of Arts and Crafts, Colonial, Federal, Prairie School, and Queen Anne homes share large, rolling lots with ancient trees, native shrubbery, shallow streams, and rock retaining walls — all carefully tended by neighbors dedicated to preserving an environment and a lifestyle first promoted by the pioneers of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Near the close of the service, Elizabeth read a quotation, which I will have to paraphrase, which summed up John’s approach to life:
People won’t always remember what we did;
people won’t always remember what we said;
but people will always remember how we made them feel.
Words to start your week.
Make it one for someone else to remember.
In memory of our friend John.