What’s the secret to living long enough to be able to celebrate your 105th birthday? “Everything in moderation” she had said. Her father’s advice to his children.
On June 16, 2012, after four strong startling, and surprising sneezes and a calming sigh, Clara Margaret Sears, 108, laid her head back on her own pillow, in her own room of five years at Serene Meadows Adult Family Home and passed away in Davenport, Wash. She was surrounded by family, including her first great-grandson, Michael, from Portland, Ore. The family of Serene Meadows staff were the last names on her lips; which is indicative of how much she was loved and cared for.
She was born Clara Margaret Zurbrugg on January 9, 1904, in Latty, Ohio, to Frederick and Katherine Merz Zurbrugg. Frederick and his first wife emigrated from Bern, Switzerland in 1873. At age, six months she came to Washington state by train, accompanied by her family and her own grandfather, Julian Zurbrugg. They settled on a mountain ridge west of the Colville Ranch, Fruit Hill Ranch in Stevens County, Wash. Clara’s father had been widowed with three sons when he married Katherine. Clara’s half brothers were Edward, George, and Harve. She had an older brother, August, two younger brothers, Ernest and Alfred and two younger sisters, Helen and Hilda (all preceding Clara in death). Grandpa Julian lived alone until his death in a small farm house down the road from the family. As the family expanded, Frederick built a larger home in the Greenwood area of Meyers Falls, closer to a school. The stories of early school days, walks homes, pranks played by siblings will be remembered by those she shared with. Raised a devout Lutheran and catechism instruction overseen by her father, she was confirmed at age 16.
Clara desired a high school education, the first in the family. Clara lived with a Colville family and shared a room with a Carol White. According to Clara, the account of working for room and board was not accurate…she did help when she could. She graduated from Colville High School in 1921, at age 17. She concentrated on business and secretarial skills during her education which proved valuable when working for the US Post Office and typing War Bonds.
After high school, Clara moved to Chewelah and worked at the creamery there in the office. She met Clarence Eugene Sears and they got a marriage license December 31, 1922, and were married the next day…1923 New Year’s Day. The couple had four children; three in their home in Chewelah attended by aunties, while Clarence worked as postmaster. Pauline was born in 1924 and passed away 2009. Her spouse Don Crowther remains in Wyoming. Lois was born in 1926 and her surviving husband Elten Klein is presently residing in Almira and Spokane, Lois passed away in 1981. Neal Sears was born in 1928 and passed away in 2011. Neal is survived by his wife, June Sears, residing in Chewelah. Clara is survived by her son, Richard Sears and his wife Karen of Alameda, Calif. Richard was the first male baby born in the new Kaiser Mason City Hospital…always a favorite story about Clara coming to Coulee Dam at the start of construction in 1934 on a bus from Chewelah with Neal on her lap and the girls next to her…Clara was pregnant with Richard on that bus ride. They lived in Mason City across the street from Henry and Edgar Kaiser…who, until their deaths, Clara stayed in touch with them as old neighbors.
Clarence became the postmaster of Mason City, in 1934 and later after it was renamed Coulee Dam, and officially became Coulee Dam postmaster in 1942. Clara became a postal employee and retired 1.5 years after her husband in 1963. The couple were founding members of the Methodist Church in Coulee Dam. Clarence and Clara boldly sold their home, and many possessions, bought an Airstream trailer and traded a station wagon for a Suburban wagon so they could travel across the country in style. The couple met many incredible people and their address book and correspondence list grew with each stop and visit. They enjoyed the Wally Bynum Airstream Caravans. For winters, they eventually settled in a mobile home park in the new Palm Springs suburb called Cathedral City…where Clara resided by herself until 2007 at age 103; Clarence passed away in 1969 of cancer. Clarence and Clara attended the church of the Eisenhowers and she stayed with the Methodist Church during her residency in California; however, she still professed to be a Lutheran.
Traveling never ceased for Clara. She was accompanied by her sister Helen, daughter and son-in-law on numerous cruises and trips: China, Africa, Australia, Greenland, and South America.
Her life was becoming lonely recently with the passing of her children, and a grandson. She has outlived her friends, her doctors, her dentists, eye doctors, and sadly, even many of her fellow residents in Serene Meadows. Despite this, her giggles, smiles, and “quirky” mannerisms and behaviors endeared her to all whom she me tsince moving (despite much grievous and inflammatory feelings about not going back to warmth and sunshine). The day she flew from Palm Springs in June of 2007 the temperature was 120 degrees at the airport. Her children making the decision to have her remain North where she could be assisted with monitoring and visits by family more available. Her grandson Norman (Pauline’s son), residing in Utah, faithfully called his grandma every night at 7:30 p.m.
Clara celebrated her last four birthdays, at brunches with family and friends at Northern Quest casino (staff remembering her each year). Clara is survived by 12 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, and 31.5 great-great-grandchildren (one due in September) and several great-great-great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held on Monday, June 25, at 11 a.m. at the Chapel of Strate Funeral Home, Davenport. Concluding services and vault interment followed at Spring Canyon Cemetery, Grand Coulee, at 3 p.m.
Please go to www.stratefuneralhome.com to sign the guestbook. Strate Funeral Home, Davenport, is caring for the family.