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Clara Jane Schleef RadcliffeAugust 13, 1936 ~ August 22, 2017 (age 81)
Clara Jane Schleef Radcliffe, born on August 13, 1936, to Martin and Elma Schleef, died peacefully at the age of 81. Just a week before, Clara celebrated her birthday with her family and friends, eating salmon, chocolate cake, and drinking a truly delicious cabernet sauvignon. The day was full of laughter, stories, and gifts that delighted Clara (even though she had specifically asked for none.)
Clara was raised in Detroit, Mich., went to Wayne State University and University of Michigan. She moved to Port Orford with her husband, Thomas Radcliffe, and earned a doctorate in medieval literature from University of New York Buffalo, writing her dissertation on a manual typewriter on the edge of the Siskiyou National Forest. She had three children and was a powerful force in all three of their lives.
For twenty-one years, Clara lived on Elk River and was part of the Port Orford community, serving on the library board, acting in numerous plays, substitute teaching, tutoring, preparing students to take the GED, all while raising her children. In 1980, Clara began working at Southwestern Oregon Community College and started the relocation process to Coos Bay. Teaching was perhaps her greatest passion (although she also loved good conversation, acting, reading books, tragic heroes, going to the movies, her four grandchildren, dark chocolate and romantic love so much that it is hard to say exactly what her greatest passion really was.) She worked incredibly hard and grew her career from being the tutor in the welding program to becoming a tenured, full professor of English. She believed in her students, worked them like coal miners, and especially relished teaching Women’s Literature. She loved thousands and thousands of students, but her favorite student was the “nontraditional student”: a woman well past the age of joining a sorority, who had children or maybe had worked for years in a low paying, thankless job, who came to Southwestern to build a new life for herself. That was the student Clara looked for in her classroom on the first day of school.
After retirement, Clara served on the Southwestern Community College school board, continued to serve on the Dolphin Players board and was active in the theater with her spiritual sister, Alice Carlson, and built powerful relationships with her grandchildren. In 2008, she had a massive stroke and spent the rest of her life recovering from it. Learning to walk again, teaching herself to read again, moving from being right handed to left, she created a new world for herself at Ocean Ridge Assisted Living. While this world was smaller than any other she had ever experienced, she celebrated every ounce of joy and pleasure in it, and she was happy. Her friends (Alice, Mel, Sally, Leah, Jennifer, Oshi, Josephine, Clara Lou, Joanne, Dorrie and many more) stayed by her side with visits, food, books, stories, trips to her favorite restaurants, going to plays and movies. She had, in twenty years of professional work, amassed a nest egg that made a place like Ocean Ridge possible, but the true wealth was this amazing group of friends.
With a life full of her passion, a laugh that could be heard across Pony Village Mall, every sweater she knitted, every book she read, all those conversations and that piercing, loving intellect that worked in unison with her powerful heart, it is done with her death. But she is survived by her two sons, Nathan Radcliffe and Eli Clare; her daughters, Jessica Colinares and Melissa Smith Radcliffe; her grandchildren, Tristan, Sidda, Lana and Eva; and the woman who was her sister in every possible way other than blood, Alice Carlson. And she is survived by the stories we know you all have of her. Tell those stories to your children.
In lieu of flowers, if you want to celebrate Clara Jane, please consider a donation to the Dolphin Players, PO Box 3264, Coos Bay, Oregon 97420.
Cremation rites were held at Ocean View Memory Gardens Crematory in Coos Bay, and arrangements are under the direction of Myrtle Grove Funeral Service-Bay Area, 541-269-2851.
Friends and family are encouraged to sign the online guestbook at www.coosbayareafunerals.com