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A U.S. Flag waves in the wind during a vigil marking the anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Iraq at the Lafayette crosses memorial on Thursday, March 19, 2009 in Lafayette, Calif. About 50 people attended the evening vigil. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

A longtime antiwar activist who owned the hillside that bears more than 4,800 white crosses symbolizing U.S. troops killed overseas has died. Louise Clark was 86 when she passed away Sunday at her son's Santa Rosa home, surrounded by family, after a more than yearlong battle with lymphoma, said her daughter, Candi Kauffman.

Clark was born and raised in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago where she met her husband, Johnson Clark.

They moved to the Bay Area in 1948 after Johnson served in the Navy during World War II, and to Lafayette in 1950.

Louise Clark, an architect, designed the home the family moved into seven years later.

She and her husband designed and built several apartment complexes in Lafayette and elsewhere.

She became active in the antiwar movement in the late 1960s and was dedicated to peace and environmental sustainability her entire life, Kauffman said.

"She felt that she had a mission in life to change the world, by example, one person at a time," Kauffman said, "and she really believed that one person can make a difference."

Clark joined the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center in 1969 as a draft counselor.

"She was a class act. She was lovely," said Mary Alice O'Connor, the center's executive director. "She just did so much for peace during her life."

Along with Lafayette resident Jeff Heaton, Louise and Johnson Clark began the Lafayette crosses memorial in 2006 to honor American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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The display, overlooking the Lafayette BART station and Highway 24, brought instant controversy to the quiet suburb; detractors called it an insulting political statement, while supporters said it was a stark depiction of the cost of war.

Although negative response to the crosses memorial sometimes scared her, Clark was never one to back away from her beliefs, Heaton said.

"She was someone I really looked up to and felt like she was a mentor and a teacher in a way," he said.

The Clark family still hopes to build a senior apartment complex on the site -- a use first proposed in 2000 before neighbor opposition killed it -- and include a permanent memorial, Kauffman said.

Clark was also active in the Lafayette senior community and was a member of the original Lafayette Senior Recreation Center, a group founded in 1950 now in the process of merging with the city's senior services department.

Clark is survived by her four sons and two daughters. A private service will be held Saturday.

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.