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Former Aloha Wear Designer Gretchen Clarke Dies

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) - Clothing designer Gretchen Clarke has died in California at age 78. She ran Waltah Clarke's Hawaiian Shops in Hawaii and on the mainland with her husband in what was once the nation's largest retailer of aloha wear.

Her son, Cameron Clarke, says his mother died Jan. 22 of kidney failure at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. The Los Angeles Times was first to report the death.

Waltah Clarke's Hawaiian Shops started in 1952 with the opening of the first shop in Palm Springs, a year before Gretchen Clarke met her future husband during hula lessons at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The couple grew Waltah Clarke's to more than 30 stores on the mainland and Hawaii.

Cameron Clarke says his mother designed most of the company's clothes and prints.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

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