Clara Ann Young, 83, Lawrence, Kansas, passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family, Wednesday, Oct. 28, after a courageous fight against cancer.
A member of the Citizen Band Potawatomi nation, Clara was born Jan. 19, 1937, in Pawnee, Oklahoma, the daughter of Walter and Julia (Bruno) Willison. Clara grew up in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, where she attended school and later worked as a waitress and then at the sewing factory. While living in Pawhuska, Clara met the love of her life, John Young. “After some convincing,” as Clara liked to tell the story, the couple married in 1957 on Clara’s 20th birthday.
Telling John she would move anywhere with him, except to Kansas because she hated tornadoes, the couple and their growing family first moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1961. Three years later, Clara found herself living in Lawrence, after John took a job at Haskell Indian Junior College. She was not impressed, especially since Clara witnessed a tornado touch down near the city during her first summer living in Kansas. It’s still not clear whether Clara ever completely forgave John for this incident.
Despite the tornadoes over the years, Clara grew to love Lawrence and eventually called it home. During the 56 years she spent here, Clara worked as a child care provider, a cook, a retail worker, a custodian and, in her later years, as a courier. Clara finally retired in 2016. She also found the time to raise a family that included nine children and grandchildren and numerous puppies, a hamster and even a peacock over the years.
Clara was a strong, loving woman who always had a smile on her face and loved being around people. She loved her family and especially loved playing with her grandchildren. Her other loves included country music, reading, the Kansas Jayhawks, Patrick Mahomes, nickel slot machines, watching “Dr. Phil,” cooking and baking, cake decorating and Elvis — so much Elvis — perhaps more than all of her other loves combined. So much, in fact, that the annual family Christmas tree centered around an Elvis decoration.
Survivors include two daughters, JoEllen Young, Pawhuska, Oklahoma; Julia Kay Teel and husband, Mark, Lawrence; son, John Walter Young, Chicago, Illinois; grandchildren, Jimmie Sandusky II, Kylah Young, Ashley Raney; and nine great-grandchildren.
Clara was preceded in death by her husband, John, in 2014; parents; daughter, Johnnie Fields; son, Jimmie Sandusky; brother, Jimmie Willison; and sister, Peggy Bickford.
Friends are welcome to attend a viewing for Clara between noon and 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, only 45 people are allowed inside the mortuary at one time. We are asking loved ones to please respect and comply with social-distancing guidelines. Masks are also required to be worn at all times.
A graveside service for Clara will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, at Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence. Family and friends are welcome to attend Tuesday’s graveside service. Please note COVID-19 safety precautions will continue to be in place, with social distancing and masks required. Attendees may listen to the service from the comfort and safety of their vehicles, as the service will be broadcast over the radio on station 89.7 FM, provided by Warren-McElwain Mortuary.
Memorial contributions may be made in Clara’s name to the American Cancer Society and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th St., Lawrence, KS 66044.