On May 6, I attended the memorial service for Claire Lovell at the request of her daughter Robin and our Seaside Signal editor RJ Marx. Since I had more of a history with Claire, both thought a few words of remembrance would be better served if I represented the Signal on its behalf.
I first became aware of Claire’s presence in the community when I moved to Seaside in 2003, but it wasn’t until I was hired as the managing editor for the Seaside Signal in January 2004 that I officially met her.
It didn’t take long to fully realize she had a strong will, quick wit and loyal following. On the other hand, not everyone enjoyed reading her weekly column. There was the mentality that you liked it or you didn’t — there was no in between.
However, it never ceased to astound me or our staff that each week, she hand delivered her column filling two legal-sized pages; each was hand-printed, single spaced, and all in capitalization. In a world that was in the throes of a new industry called digital technology, Claire continued to hand write each word up to her last, but not her final column.
In the course of my two years, we butted heads several times. Along with our publisher Kyle Larsen, we were three strong willed professionals, each with our own views on the direction of her column, which sometimes couldn’t come together to make a perfect kettle of coffee.
The world had expanded and was changing. There was political correctness, tolerance and education — in the sense of not letting history repeat itself. But this was not part of Claire’s world of Seaside and Clatsop County where almost everything stayed the same. Over the years, each column revealed slight intricacies of her life where nostalgia was very much a part of it.
She was very political and during a presidential election, she would pen her thoughts, opinions, and the candidate she favored. As well, many of her comments were so far into the “gray” area of journalism, we would either cut the graph or pull the column altogether.
Claire loved her life. She was born in Seaside and lived most of her 96 years here. She often wrote about John, the man she dearly loved; her children; her friends — both present and past — and always gave accolades to those deserving of them. She also never gave a second thought to correct our city officials or tell them what she thought about the work they had done… or lack of; or making a point to let the newspaper know the error of its ways. One never knew what Claire was going to write or whom she was going to write about. Those who came under her pen were either elated they were mentioned, or embarrassed — either way, her words were out in the universe for all to read.
She loved attending events: concerts at Liberty Theatre or her church, especially patriotic concerts; celebrations at the American Legion and the Kiwanis pancake feeds to name a few. Over the years, her attendance waned, not just due to age, but possibly not hearing of the event, missing the date, or as she would write in her column, she hadn’t been invited — as in the case of the annual Dorchester Conference. For whatever reason she missed an event, she made sure everyone knew.
After returning to the Signal in January 2014 in a different capacity, I felt I had gotten to know Claire a little better. Not just through her columns, but also by the few conversations we had in the office when she stayed a few minutes to rest before walking back home. Even up to the last time I saw her, she never ceased to amaze me that at 96 years old, when she felt up to it, she would walk from her house on Lincoln, along Roosevelt Drive to the Signal office, sometimes stopping traffic along the way. But she loved to walk, sometimes enduring the elements of the coastal weather; and sometimes those walks became inspiration for another column.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici recently gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives recognizing Claire as the longtime Seaside Signal columnist of “Scene & Heard.” Claire’s column chronicled the happenings in and around Seaside with “cogent prose and an observant eye.” She was a regular staple of the newspaper for 27 years.
Upon reading that article, I pondered the question, “What would Claire have thought?” From my observation, Claire might have shrugged her shoulder, waived it on with her hand as if no big deal, and not given it a second thought. But, I believe, she would have been delighted that a representative of the State of Oregon had recognized her for her dedication to the craft of writing and her love of the written word.
People attending Claire’s service shared their experiences of remembrance. As I listened, several stories brought back quips from her columns. In unison, the audience laughed and nodded their heads in a “yes” fashion, acknowledging the memory.
With Claire’s passing, she may have lightened my workload, but she has not lightened the void left in the hearts of the community or in my thoughts. As I prepare for each issue of the Signal, the void of her name on my post-it note is a reminder that somewhere in the universe is her final column — the one that never made it to our office for printing.
She was head strong, but she knew how to compile her wit, sarcasm and vigor into a signature language that was her own and one her readers became accustomed.
Claire, you are missed now, in the future, and beyond. Thank you for your years of contribution, loyalty to your readers, and staying with the Seaside Signal even in the roughest of times. We are forever grateful and in your debt.