The nineteen accused the attorney and accountant and nurse of fraud, and described Beth Israel as Huguette’s jailer, keeping a scared, vulnerable old woman closeted as part of a plot to take her money. The doctors and hospital had treated Huguette’s cancer, the family alleged, but hadn’t treated an underlying psychiatric disorder that had caused Huguette to remain in her home with untreated cancer in the first place. The attorney for the nineteen, John R. Morken, wrote to his clients that their aim was not financial, but to ensure “that Huguette’s true wishes are honored and that justice is done.”
Fourteen of the nineteen acknowledged in court papers that they had never met Huguette. Of the other five, the last time each of them had met her was in 1957, 1954, 1952, 1951, and “during the second World War.” A few of the relatives said they thought they had gotten a glimpse of her at the funeral for her half-sister’s daughter, back in 1968. A few of the relatives did have limited contact with her from a distance. Eight of the nineteen said they had visited Bellosguardo in the 1940s, 1950s, or 1960s, with Anna and Huguette present for some of these early visits. They had been awestruck by the beauty of the property, had played tennis, and sometimes got a peek inside the great house. Ten of the nineteen said they had sent cards or letters to Huguette for Christmas or birthdays, and four had received some kind of reply. Most of these relatives were far younger than Huguette. She was born in 1906, and they between 1921 and 1964, so in some cases their parents had sent Christmas cards or lilies, or had received holiday phone calls from Huguette into the 2000s. Huguette on these calls was always very interested in their families, referring to the children and grandchildren by name.
But in the past half a century, these relatives had only occasionally reached out to their elderly aunt, and she had not reached out to them.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Huguette did not call her relatives, as she called her goddaughter Wanda, to give reassurance that she was fine.
The Clark relatives said they were always respectful of their elderly aunt’s obvious desire for privacy and dignity, and didn’t thrust themselves into her cocoon until they felt it absolutely necessary. When New York City went dark for three days in an electrical blackout in August 2003 and people were suffering from the heat, Clark relatives who lived within a mile of her apartment did not stop in to check on her. Some years later, one relative did have her attorney call Huguette’s attorney: Niece Karine McCall had her counsel call in 2008 to ask whether she was in Huguette’s will. Karine says she needed that information for tax and estate planning, as she was moving from England. Karine, who had met Huguette as a child but never established a connection, says she always had the impression Huguette was “mentally slow.” She says she was shocked to learn that she was not going to inherit any of the Clark money from Huguette.
The nineteen Clarks seeking Huguette’s fortune include an international campaigner for human rights for torture victims, and an organizer of legal services for people with HIV/AIDS. One is an honored diplomat who served as the French ambassador to South Korea. Many Clarks support symphonies and museums. In recent years, several in the family have donated to environmental causes, such as campaigning against fracking, a method of extracting natural gas that environmental groups say contaminates groundwater. In that way, Clark money is being used to protect the environment from the ravages of mining.
Although some of W.A.’s children and grandchildren squandered their money on racehorses and divorces, others worked hard, making quiet contributions on Wall Street or in hospitals. Some wrote children’s books or translated Tibetan poetry. Others bred quarter-horses or sailed yachts.