Clara Viola Kilgore was born 13 July 1924 to Walter Swen and Maude Charlotte (Lillie) Clay in Leon, Iowa and died peacefully in her sleep on 28 September 2020 at Clearview Home in Mount Ayr, Iowa.
Clara was the 10th of what eventually became a family of 11 children, growing up in the Leon (Decatur County) area, graduating as salutatorian from Leon High School in 1943.
She attempted to join the Army after graduation as all of her brothers had done, but she was too short (waiverable) and had a perforated eardrum (not waiverable), so applied for a “hostilities only” civil service job. Acceptance of her application took her to Washington DC, where she worked as a clerk in the Pentagon for the remainder of WWII, returning to Iowa after the end of the war and marrying George Samuel Kilgore of Diagonal, Iowa on 30 June 1946 to end a long-distance letter writing romance.
Seven children were born to the couple: David, Kerry, Kevin, Charles, Anne, Gordon, and Margaret, and while the initial residence was near and on the family farm north of Diagonal, the family relocated to another farm in rural Diagonal, later to rural Clearfield, and later still to the City of Clearfield.
The marriage was celebrated by a Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1996 and finally ended by George’s death in 2004. Clara continued to live at the same residence until her physical deterioration precluded living alone, and at that point she became a resident of Clearview (Clearfield) and later Clearview (Mount Ayr).
Clara was a stay-at-home mom, canning fruits and vegetables in quantities sufficient to feed a family of nine through next year’s harvest from a huge garden and available fruit trees. She was a scratch cook who rarely if ever had a leftovers problem, and her baked beans were a favorite requested at the family reunions.
Despite being a stay-at-home mom, she held numerous part time jobs: she was a school teacher at the local country school when first married, she sold life insurance, was for a time the Clearfield City librarian, and still found time to be a surrogate mother to several local children.
She was an avid reader, scrapbooked notable news for years, and until she became physically unable wrote weekly letters to each of her children in the military (and after) and monthly letters to Pen-Pals she had corresponded with since WWII. She had no shortage of opinions, no hesitation about speaking her mind, and anyone who knew her will recognize the “attitude”, a gift she passed on to her children.
She was preceded in death by her husband George, all ten of her siblings and daughters Anne and Margaret.
She is survived by children David (Beverly) of Rolleston, New Zealand, Kerry (fiancée Dwayne Cason) of Clearfield, Kevin of rural Diagonal, Charles of Creston, Gordon (Leslie) of St Joseph, MO; 9 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren, and 3 great great grandchildren.
Memorials are in her name to be decided later.
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