Deena Clark was born Ruby Constandina Speliakos in La Jolla, California in 1913. After graduating from San Diego State University she accepted a teaching position at an elementary school in Hawaii, and traveled there on a steamer ship in 1932. She met the man who was to become her husband, Blake Clark, on the ship en route to Hawaii. She was active in Honolulu society, and she was befriended by former territorial governor of Hawaii, Walter Frear and his wife. Deena and Blake Clark were married in the garden of the Frear house, in Honolulu. The Frears maintained a lifelong friendship with the Clark family, and much of their correspondence relays information about Hawaii in the days of territorial status and early statehood.
Clark and her husband moved from Hawaii in 1942, and both attended Vanderbilt University, where she earned a master's degree in English. While her husband finished his degree she traveled with a dancing group through South America, performing and interpreting traditional Hawaiian hula dances.
During World War II, Ms. Clark modeled for the John Robert Powers Modeling Agency in New York. She modeled current fashions, as well as women's military support uniforms. She moved to Washington in 1944, where she was secretary to the director of the Stage Door Canteen. After the war ended, she experimented with an acting career in an off-Broadway production entitled Viva O'Brien!. The production had a brief run in Chicago, but was cancelled due to unfavorable reviews.
Before breaking into television, Ms. Clark worked as a freelance writer and did some radio work. National Geographic published her articles about Paris, La olla and Iceland in the 1950s.
Ms. Clark had her television debut as a guest mediator on Meet the Press in 1954 with John F. Kennedy as a special guest. As her career expanded, she was host of NBC's Deena Clark: A Moment With, as well as The Deena Clark Show on CBS. While working for NBC, she also wrote a column for The Diplomat, called "Deena Clark's Social Sparks." She retired in the early 1980s and remained active on the Washington social scene for many years. Ms. Clark was a member of the Chevy Chase, Sulgrave and National Press clubs, and the Philhellenes Society.
A star athlete in high school, Ms. Clark had a lifelong passion for swimming. At the age of 58, she swam the Corinth Canal, a connection of nearly four miles between the Ionian and Aegean seas in southern Greece. She was the first woman on record to have done so.
Her marriage to Blake Clark ended in divorce, in 1973. In 1977, when she was 64, she traveled to Turkey and fulfilled a childhood dream: to swim the width of the Hellespont, the current-driven strait between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara known in modern times as the Dardanelles. Thousands of onlookers cheered as she made the crossing in 63 minutes.
Deena Clark died on August 1, 2003, in Sibley Memorial Hospital of Washington, DC. Survivors include a daughter, Nikia Clark Leopold of Ruxton, Maryland.