For Family Friday this week I choose to remember my grandma, Clara Lee White. She died on Friday, a couple weeks shy of her 92 birthday. She was the youngest child of Joseph Sharp Packer and Jesse Anderson.
She didn’t talk about her childhood much. There are a few stories out there that would lead me to believe that life was tough. Her dad left the family… mom couldn’t cope and eventually Clara Lee needed to be bounced around from relative to relative. Alcohol was a definite factor. Some of the early childhood memories she shared included bars. I met my Great Grandpa Packer. He told me about running liquor from Idaho to Montana. I never met my Great Grandma. She died when my mom was very young. She never met her either.
By the time Clara Lee was 16 she was living with her widowed sister working as a car hop at a restaurant in Salt Lake City, UT. That is where she met my Grandpa, Vern White. He was a cook at the restaurant and took Clara and her sister (who also worked at the same restaurant) home. Soon after they married, Vern left for Europe for two years as a soldier in World War II. Clara went to live with her new mother-in-law and gave birth to her first baby, my uncle Richard. After Richard was born, and over a year old, at least, Clara moved around a bit and worked odd jobs. Vern found her somewhere in Colorado when he returned from the war. Soon their little family was joined by my mom, Nancy Lee. I think Clara was 19 years old then.
The family added the twins, Barry and Byron and lived in California for a bit, before moving to Bend, Oregon. Vern opened an upholstery shop in Bend. Clara worked odd jobs and the kids grew up in Bend.
All the stories I’ve heard would lead me to believe that Clara Lee was very friendly and made lots of good friends. Although she wasn’t very religious, the experience she did have with the LDS church as a child (due to the relatives who helped to raise her were all members of the church) had been positive enough that she decided to take her kids to the local LDS church. She liked to point out that she even helped at the church some. That makes me smile. The result of her taking those kids to church was that the boys all served missions and they all stayed active in the LDS church and raised their families in the faith. Although not all of the grandchildren stayed as a part of the faith, the majority of her posterity continue to build their faith in Jesus Christ.
I am her first grandchild. As such, I have many memories of her. Some of my earliest memories of my Grandma White include her reciting the cigarette poem; visiting her in her house on the hill with the tall ceilings and rock fireplace; her tacos with tooth picks in the shells; the glass ware she displayed in that house; sleep overs at her house where she would give us a “Grandpa t-shirt” to wear as pajamas, rub Vicks on our chests and let us watch TV in her huge bed; watching birds make nest in the corners of her house; her yard and deck at the house on the hill. I remember traveling to Idaho and Northern Utah with her for my uncle Barry’s wedding. I remember her singing along as we drove to pass the time. I remember counting cows with her to keep me busy as we drove. I remember her paying me a penny to keep quiet with the “quiet” game. I remember it was very muddy at the dairy (I think) farm when we got to the wedding. She was very worried about my shoes getting dirty.
As I got older, I learned to ski with my Grandma White. She loved to ski. I remember going to the Ice-Capades in Portland with her. She also loved to golf. I walked A LOT of golf courses carrying her golf clubs. Sadly, I never did learn to golf.
I remember the log house my dad built for her and my grandpa. I remember when she went to China and the decor in her house changed to reflect all the things she loved about China. When she went to the Pacific Islands her decor changed again… and again when she went to visit Europe. She loved to travel and see the world. I did travel with her once. When I was 15 she and my grandpa took me on a road trip through Idaho, Montana and Canada. We visited a cherry farm and ate ourselves sick. Grandma and I floated a river and got terrible sunburns that blistered. We visited her dad, my great-grandpa Packer. We moseyed over to Glacier National Park and then headed north. We made stops at Lake Louise and Banff, both in Canada, before heading to British Columbia and visited Victoria Island. Because I had a driver’s permit, I got to drive through Idaho, Montana and Canada. That gave me bragging rights! We came home through Seattle, crossed the Cascades and moseyed home down the east side of the Cascades. It took us 3 weeks of that summer. It is one of my most cherished memories with my grandma.
I remember her love for turquoise jewelry. She loved to be fashionable. She mostly loved being fashionable on a dime. She was so proud of her fashionable outfits that she found at a thrift store. She was good at finding a good bargain.
She loved to attend big events and tried hard to make it to all the important family events.
She loved a good party. She loved dancing, She loved a slice of my grandpa’s bread.
She was a patter… meaning, she didn’t really hug you, she would pat you. She liked to go for walks and was diligent in keeping up her health.
She decided to renew her wedding vows. Her friend, Felix was the officiator. It was held at the Sons of Norway Lodge. My sister’s band played. We all danced.
She liked to be a part of family fun… and she liked that she could go home when she was done with the fun. With 4 children, 23 grandchildren, 80 great grand children and 7 great-great-grand children, I guess a family party could be overwhelming.
She loved her friends dearly. I think she liked to do things with them most. I remember her friend Felix and her friend Wanda.
She lived a good life full of adventure. She was spunky and energetic. She will be missed by many.