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June B. Clifford

Obituary for June B. Clifford

October 14, 2016


June B. Clifford
1922 - 2016

I've often said that I hit the parent lottery. It's true. While no one has had an ideal Norman Rockwell childhood (even Norman Rockwell!), mine came pretty close. Both my parents came from staunch working class families, and they both had strong characters and good values. Mom, for example, had ideals that I have come to realize were not typical for her generation.

She was born in 1922, and at 7 years and 5 months, was old enough to experience the effects of the Great Depression when it smashed the US economy to bits on October 24, 1929. That Depression was just winding to an end in 1939 when she was set to graduate from high school. She received a scholarship to go on to art school, but her father's death immediately plunged the family into their own financial depression, and she declined the scholarship to go to work and help keep the family afloat. She became a civilian worker for the US Navy during Worfd War II. When the war ended, she was told that as a woman, she should resign so that a returning veteran could take her place. She did resign, but (surprise, surprise) learned that the position did not go to a veteran.

She then became a telephone operator at Heintz Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of steel and steel ball bearings, in the Olney section of Philadelphia. She left when she married my father, John R. Clifford, and became a homemaker. They had only one child, me. Mom taught me to stand up to bullies, illustrated by stories from her own childhood. (Dad taught me how to make a fist, and how to throw a punch without breaking my thumb.) Mom's outlook on life was that learning was critical. "'What you have in your head," she would say, "no one can ever take away from you." It was a foregone conclusion that somehow I would go to college. The only way that she could see that happening was if I got a scholarship, so although I got time to play, studying and homework were never shirked. I got the scholarships. This reinforced Mom's other philosophy: "You can do anything you put your mind to." There were no limits, according to her (and Dad), as to what path I could take, what I could become. Yes, I could be a nurse, but I could also be a doctor! I could be a teacher, but I could also be an astronaut. The possibilities were limitless, according to her, and the choice was mine.

Socially, she had a few friends, but did not belong to cliques. She hated gossip. She was a seamstress out of need, making clothes for herself and for me, and endlessly patching my welder-fathers work clothes. Eventually we took a quilting class together. She then took to the decorative sewing arts as well, making a number of quilts for me and Dad. Perhaps this fulfilled the artistic bent that was stymied in her youth by the need to work. She learned to use herbs in her cooking, to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and returned to the crafts her mother used, to can and preserve the bounties of both her garden and the farm market, for enjoyment by her family. She preferred being with family and a few close friends. It was sad to see almost all of them pass away before her, or move too far away to visit. When she could no longer be home by herself, she did enjoy talking with her caregivers; she told them stories of her jobs when she was single, and they shared them with me, thereby completing the circle. In Hamlet, Shakespeare describes Death as "that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns."

On Friday morning, Mom closed her eyes one last time, and then quietly moved on to that next plane of existence, which none of us can know until we go there ourselves. It makes me sad that she has gone on and left me behind, but she left this life peacefully. I like to think that she went to sleep to this life, and woke in the next to the welcoming company of Dad and all the others she cared about.

We can but hope.

- Estella Clifford, October 17,2016

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