Tribute to a special lady


Lindale lost a very special lady last week when Mary Louise Claunch lost her battle with cancer. She was 78.

Always a joy to be around, Mary Louise was a regular visitor here at the Lindale News and Times until her health forced her to slow down.

She and I would have some memorable phone conversations as well, mostly centered on our grandkids and kids.

Aside from being a terrific wife, mother and grandmother, she was a tireless advocate for the Lillie Russell Memorial Library.

A true “friend’’ of the library, she helped found the Friends of the Lindale Library in 1992 and when the Lindale Library Board of Directors was formed, she served several terms as board president.

In late 1993, she began volunteering her time at the library and worked a couple of days a week for the next 21 years.

Part of her library duties was writing a weekly column for the News and Times which centered on activities, planned events and which books were especially worth checking out.

Born in Sulphur Springs on Sept. 4, 1939, she was the daughter of Clovis Edgar Stewart and Vallie Dodd Stewart. After graduating from Sulphur Springs High School in 1957, she moved on to East Texas State Teacher’s College (now Texas A&M-Commerce), where not surprisingly she earned Dean’s List honors for three semesters.

After college she worked first at her father’s public accounting firm in Sulphur Springs then moved to Dallas to work as a bookkeeper.

It was there she met Charlie Claunch, a former Navy pilot who was working as a crop duster near Paris, Texas.

In 1963, they were married in McAllen, Texas and the next year son William Nathan Claunch was born.

Charlie was still crop dusting but decided a more stable flying career would better suit his little family and became a pilot for American Airlines. He trained in Dallas, was transferred to LaGuardia Airport in New York for a few months before being transferred yet again, this time to Nashville, Tenn.

For more than 20 years, the family loved life in Donelson, a Nashville suburb just north of the airport.

Mary Louise made friends quickly there as well, and joined a young mother’s group at their church, Andrew Price United Methodist. Volunteering came easy for her and she was active in helping disabled children, worked the church’s annual bazaar and even served as a Cub Scout Den Mother.

Quilting was also one of her many interests and she helped start the Music City Quilters’ Guild. (We still have some of the wonderful Christmas presents she knitted for my family.)

In the late 1980’s, with both sons committed to colleges in Texas (Bill to Baylor, and David to Trinity), Charlie and Mary Louise moved back home to Texas settling on 25 acres west of Lindale.

She was gifted with her first pair of leather gloves and reluctantly learned to drive a tractor. Their country neighborhood consisted of several recently retired—but still young—couples, and they enjoyed pot-luck dinners, two-stepping and many adventures together. They joined the Lindale United Methodist Church and Mary Louise found new friends in the Busy Bees quilting group.

When not flying for American Airlines, Charlie enjoyed owning and flying various small airplanes. The two took many trips to visit friends and family. She enjoyed water-skiing, snorkeling, and cruises. Though she never learned to fly, one of Mary Louise’s proudest accomplishments was learning to do a snap roll in a two-seat acrobatic Pitts Special airplane.

In 1989, Mary Louise joined the Quilters’ Guild of East Texas, meeting in Tyler. There she made many new friends and honed her quilting skills. She was co-chairman of the annual Azalea Quilt Show for two years, and later president of the Quilters’ Guild for two years. She was elected a Life Member of the Guild in 2003.

A couple of years ago she called to let me know about her diagnosis and with her typical spunk and spirit, found some humor in it all.

The phone calls then became less frequent so I knew she must not be feeling up to it.

Sadly, wonderful people such as Mary Louise are all too rare. When they touch our lives, we must remember how much better we are because of them.

She was a good friend and I’ll miss her dearly.


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