NORMAN — Leatrice Faye Buckley Clark was born March 29, 1927, in a log cabin near Oxley, Mo., to Claude E. Buckley and Cecil Mae Earnhart Buckley. She was the oldest of five children. She passed away peacefully Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, with her son, Frank, and grandson, Roy, at her side.
Services will be 2 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church of Norman, with interment following at IOOF Cemetery in Norman.
When she was very young, the family moved to Kiowa, where her parents share-cropped a small farm. The next year, they went to Gideon, Mo., where they picked cotton, and then went to Reynolds to share-crop again. Lea then spent a year with her grandparents at Beggs. In 1938, her dad traded a truck load of pigs as down payment on a farm near Limestone Gap, northeast of Atoka. Lea and her siblings went to a local country school until it was time for her to go to high school. She moved to Atoka, exchanging cooking and chores for room and board with an elderly woman. That was the first time Lea had lived in a house with electricity and indoor plumbing. The next year, she went to work for Dr. Cotton at the Cotton Clinic and roomed with two of his nurses. After graduating from Atoka High School, Lea attended nursing school in Tulsa for a year, but returned to Atoka because of illness and finances and went back to work for Dr. Cotton.
In 1947, she met Benjamin F. Clark, of Coalgate, who had just returned from World War II. They dated on a 1940 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. They married at his mother’s house in Coalgate on Christ Day, 1947. They lived in Ada, but she continued to work for Dr. Cotton in Atoka, while Ben was a pressman at the Ada Evening News. Dr. Cotton had planned on retiring, but when Lea became pregnant, he kept his clinic open and staffed until Benjamin F. (or “Frank”) Jr. was born on March 2, 1949. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Liberal, Kan., where Ben was a pressman, photographer and columnist at the Southwest Daily Times. Lea worked for a while as a “Rosey the Riveter” at the Beech Aircraft Plant. Their daughter, Claudia Lynn, was born Sept. 10, 1950.
In 1954, the family left Kansas to get out of the Dust Bowl and moved to Norman, where Ben worked at The Norman Transcript. They bought a new house on Lahoma Avenue, which became the family home for almost 60 years. In 1958, they bought Cloar Tag & Printing in Oklahoma City, renaming it Clark Printing. Lea was the phone operator, bookkeeper, bindery person and janitor there for many years. The Clarks continued to live in Norman and commute to the city six days a week. Lea was a 50-plus year member of the Norman Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, and was a past mother advisor of the Norman Rainbow Assembly. She later became a district executive in charge of 22 Rainbow Assemblies and was active in both Rainbow and Demolay Mothers’ Clubs. She and Ben wore out three vans hauling kids all over the state.
Later in life, Lea was blessed to babysit and help with her grandkids, who were often there on a daily basis. For them, Lea became active in the band parents and was a regular at Norman High football games. She and Ben also were members of Norman Square Dance Club.
In 1993, Ben was involved in a traffic accident, which resulted in brain injury. He eventually became home and then bed-ridden. Lea nursed him for almost five years until he died on July 2, 1997. She later went through the illness and death of her daughter, Claudia, who died from cancer on Jan. 1, 2008.
Lea was an amateur but avid geneologist. She had traced most of her and her husbands’ families back more than 400 years on all sides.
Both Lea’s husband and son were pilots but were never able to take Lea up in a plane. But in October 2010, she went to Albuquerque to visit her granddaughter and went up in a hot air balloon. Shortly before that, she walked a mile to the dentist in 100-degree heat, had a tooth pulled and walked home. But by November, Lea was unable to walk across the floor. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with a form of dementia, which resulted in an eating disorder, and was then diagnosed with Alzheimers. She resided at Noble Health Care until her death.
Lea was survived by her sisters: Margaret McClendon of Farris, Jessie Doerr and her husband Jim of Wichita and Alice Hooker of Lexington; her sister-in-law Mary Buckley; her son, B. Frank Clark Jr. of Oklahoma City; grandchildren Lydia Jorgensen and husband Joey of Norman, Roy Alender of Oklahoma City, SFC Jordan Busse of Ft. Bragg, N.C., and Lacey Cates and husband Matt of Los Angeles; two great-grandchildren, Nicholas and Brian Alender of Oklahoma City; and many nephews, nieces and friends.
Visitation will be 3 to 6 p.m. today at Havenbrook Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Norman Rainbow Assembly or the library of First Baptist Church of Norman.
Arrangements for Leatrice and her family were placed in the care of the Vice family at Havenbrook Funeral Home in Norman.
Online condolences may be shared at www.havenbrookfuneralhome.com.
Norman Transcript, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012