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Elizabeth Paulson Clark, 100-year-old native of Richmond, died peacefully in her sleep at her John Knox residence in Higginsville, on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 4:40 p.m.
Mrs. Clark was born to Paul and Ida (Sloan) Paulson on Halloween day, Oct. 31, 1907, at the North College Street family home. Relatives and friends celebrated her one hundred years of living with a grand birthday party last Oct. 31, at the John Knox Retirement Center. She was educated in the Richmond Public Schools and graduated with honors from the Richmond High School. She enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute where she studied millinery and the art of making ladies’ fancy hats. In 1929 she opened a millinery business in the back section of Miss Jen Patton’s store on the south side of the square. During this period she attended piano and organ classes at William Jewell College.
Mrs. Clark married Floyd H. Clark on Oct. 17, 1929, at her North College Street home. Mr. Clark was a well-known dairyman. He served as Ray County Assessor, from 1956 to 1976 and later became City Assessor. He worked in Planning and Zoning for Richmond until his retirement in 1986.
Elizabeth and Floyd’s introduction happened during a sleighing event. She and Madge Carter had gone sled riding on a cold, wintry Saturday. As they pulled their sleds along North College, they encountered two farm boys driving a team and wagon up the street. Elizabeth described their introduction as follows: “This big ole farm boy, tall and skinny, asked if we’d like to hitch our sleds to his wagon for a ‘real’ sleigh ride. Well, what a ride that was! He wouldn’t let us loose and, in fact, we were married about 10 years later.”
In the 1930s, Mr. and Mrs. Clark moved to the Clark family farm near Knoxville and subsequently started a dairy business, which they operated until 1950. Then they sold their milk route and acquired distributor rights to Meadow Gold products in Ray County, operating that business for another 10 years.
Life on the farm was a huge transition for a city girl. They lived in a three room house with no electricity, water or central heat. They owned one of the few telephones in the county. Dairy farming was a 24-hour, 7-day and 52-week-a-year business. It demanded being out of bed by 4 a.m., firing up stoves, unfreezing well pumps, feeding live stock, gathering eggs, and fixing a full sized breakfast. Then they filled and capped hundreds of milk bottles, hitched the team and wagon, drove to Richmond and deposited each customer’s order on their back porch in time for breakfast. Then they headed back to the farm where they washed and sterilized bottles and got ready for next day’s milking and delivery.
Despite long, hard working days, they found time for church and an active social life. Fun events included Chataquas, silent movies, pie suppers, square dances, winter skating parties, ice cream socials and rare trips to Kansas City. Like most Ray Countians, the Clarks were loyal Jeffersonian Democrats who loved to attend the “no-holds-barred” political debates, usually held on the town square, or at a local park. Regarding sports events, Mrs. Clark said she preferred “cow pasture ball games” between the Knoxville Knockers and Roosterville Crows over the Royals and Yankees.
Elizabeth and Floyd were life long members of the Richmond Baptist church. Floyd served on the Board of Deacons for much of his life while Elizabeth taught Sunday school class for nearly 70 years. Most of her bible students stayed with her class until they moved, or died. Mrs. Clark served as organist for the church, as well as playing for community events, funerals and other occasions. She was a popular piano teacher who taught hundreds of Ray County children and adults.
Mrs. Clark is perhaps best remembered for her humorous declamations and especially her
rendition of Minnie Pearl, the Grand Ole Opry star. Her performances rated right up there with Mark Twain and Will Rogers. Her opening welcome of “How-Dee folks” was a sure-fire show stopper. Local folks remember her monologue about the annual community skating party. The town folks came to watch the holi-polloi, such as Mayor Weltmer, doctors, school board members, and even the preachers put on skates and performed pirouettes in the Richmond ice capades. Playing the role of a respectable country lady, she described with disgust how these so-called respectable citizens fell over, under and into each other, creating outlandish scenes and insults. Her performances were sell-outs over many years as she continuously updated the cast and material so that each audience was always eager to hear her juicy gossip about the current local celebrities.
Mrs. Clark loved Saturday nights on “the square.” Like most farm families, the Clarks squeezed the chores into Saturday morning so, by early afternoon, they were headed down the road to Richmond. The earlier they arrived, the better hitching spot they got on the square.
Then it was off to shop for groceries, clothing and hardware while frequently stopping along the way to visit with old friends. Lively conversations filled the air as they discussed weather, grain prices, hog and beef markets and, of course, the latest gossip. Seen and heard during these evenings were the politicians extolling their virtues and their opponent’s foibles.
Mrs. Clark was proud of her native roots, as well as her Swedish and Scottish heritage. Her grandfather had been a noted fencing champion and member of the Swedish king’s security until he immigrated to Missouri. Her father was a talented carpenter who built the Daugherty Opera house, now known as the Farris Theater.
Elizabeth was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the P.E.O. chapter. She was also a member and served as Worthy Matron of The Eastern Star at the same time her husband, Floyd served as Worshipful Master of the Masons.
Throughout her 100-year-life, beginning in the twentieth century and ending in the twenty-first, Elizabeth Clark earned the highest of respect, admiration and love from her family, friends and communities. One of her closest friends summarized her life,
“She was compassionate, kind and gentle; a person of genuine humility, marvelous humor and outlook on life; one who brought joy and laughter to thousands of people but, most of all; they admired her faith in God and his church.”
Survivors include: her sister-in-law, Marjorie Clark Creason of Kansas City, Mo.; her cousins, Lucille Gill of Richmond, David Blair of Spring Valley, Calif., and Charles Hicks of Arlington, Va.; nephews and nieces, Brent Williams of Foster City, Calif., William Clark of Lexington, Jean McLendon of Kansas City, William and John Graham, of Jefferson City, and Peggy Eaton of Columbus, Kan.
Her parents, her husband, Floyd, her sister, Helen Williams, and her brother, Paul William Paulson of Provo, Utah, preceded her in death.
The family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Richmond First Baptist Church, Higginsville First Baptist Church or Kansas City Hospice.
Visitation will be Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007 from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Thurman Funeral Home in Richmond. Funeral services will be Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007, at 2 at the funeral home. Burial will be at Richmond Memory Gardens in Richmond.
Arrangements are under the direction of Thurman Funeral Home in Richmond.