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U.S. News
Their mother admires the five Clarke sisters equally

Sunday, February 09, 2003

By Mackenzie Carpenter, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Torie Clarke may be the best known of the five Clarke sisters of Sewickley, but her mother isn't about to say who was the best-behaved, or the smartest, or the prettiest.

A childhood snapshot of the Clarke sisters, from left, Cecilia, Anne, Caitlin, Torie and Constance.

"They're all very talented and very nice," declared Cecilia Clarke, 78. "They were all good students and enjoyed school."

Torie was, however, "the tallest," her mother admitted. "She was fairly noisy and more interested in sports than the others, particularly horseback riding and field hockey, but she gave the hockey up because she didn't see any point in losing her face."

How's that again?

"She was the goalie. She just didn't believe in living dangerously."

Maybe not, but Torie Clarke may get some dicey duty as Defense Department spokeswoman if the United States goes to war in Iraq. Which worries her father a little bit.

"I'd rather she hadn't taken the job. It's risky, and you never know what is going to happen," said Dr. Charles Clarke. "But she can handle it. She's kind of bold, a person of action rather than contemplation."

The 81-year old internist -- "that means I'm a doc for old people" -- still has a practice and goes into the office every day.

All of the Clarke sisters, in fact, grew up to do interesting things, their parents note proudly.

Caitlin Clarke, the oldest, at 52, is an actress and graduate of Yale Drama School who has appeared on Broadway in "Titanic" and acted in productions with Kevin Kline and Christopher Reeve. Two years ago, she moved back home from Manhattan to teach theater arts at the University of Pittsburgh.

"I love it. I love being able to walk out my door and smell trees every day," said Caitlin, who described her youngest sister Torie as "the one most interested in news and current events. When she was in high school, she always insisted on watching Johnny Carson before going to bed, while the rest of us were into the classics, opera and Gilbert and Sullivan."

Anne Clarke-Ronce, 50, of San Francisco, heads an executive search and human resources consulting firm. She was appointed by California Gov. Gray Davis to the state's Fair Employment Commission and she is, her father said, "a real women's libber," a description that sent Caitlin into paroxyms of laughter. "She's a very accomplished person," Caitlin said in an amused defense of her sister.

Constance Clarke, 49, of New York, is a researcher for ABC's "Prime Time Live," while Cecilia Clarke, 45, of Sewickley, "is probably the most learned of the bunch," said her father, with degrees in anthropology and theology.

Growing up in the small blue-gray house on Academy Avenue, Torie was always the comic relief, said Caitlin.

"She was hilarious, just a very lively, fun baby girl. She used to insist on walking around the house in a cowboy hat and leather pants. I think she actually had a holster and a gun."

Torie was, her father insisted, named after Queen Victoria, "one of my heroes." But his oldest daughter begs to differ.

"My mom always said that when she was born, her heart valve didn't work so they baptized her right away, and when she made it through, they named her Victoria because she was victorious over death."

Mackenzie Carpenter can be reached at mcarpenter@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1949.

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