Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lois E. (Leister) Clemins

Surrounded by her loving family, Lois E. Clemins, age 86, passed away on Tuesday, January 21, 2014, at the Elizabeth Residence. Lois was born in Milwaukee, WI, on January 26, 1927, daughter of the late Tobias and Florence (Nee: Gerloski) Leister.

She was a proud graduate of South Division High School “Class of 1945.” On June 22, 1946, at St. Lawrence Church, Milwaukee, she was united in marriage to James A. Clemins, who preceded her in death on May 2, 2003. Lois was a member of St. Richard Catholic Church and TOPS. She enjoyed her card club, crocheting, and sewing. Always full of life and fun, Lois’s most treasured time was spent with her family. She will be deeply missed.

While raising nine mischievous kids almost by herself while dad worked 2-3 jobs, Mom invented the term “multitasking” and consistently made a “silk purse out of a sow’s ear” for decades all for the sake of the kids. In the mornings she would regularly have the laundry going in the basement, homemade bread dough on the rise, hot oatmeal ready on the stove, 5-7 “sack lunches” packed and waiting on the counter top, and notes to the teachers pinned on our jackets.

She knitted all our mittens, scarfs, slippers and later afghans with any yarn she could find at rummage sales within walking distance. She regularly carried on conversations with us solving our problems or breaking up fights while simultaneously crocheting. After talking through the problem she would hand us that handmade mitten or glove and say, “now try that on for size.” In hindsight, her mittens represented her warm heart on our hands, and her scarfs represented her loving arms wrapped around us as we went out into the cold of winter. She routinely pumped the pedal on her old black Singer sewing machine to make dresses and PJs for the girls and also sew patches onto patches onto patches for the boys’ pants. To feed her tribe she was both resourceful and creative.

To stay within her meager budget we ate more than our share of squash, rutabaga, and “cukes” that she would get from a local farmer. During harvest seasons on a Saturday, we routinely went to farms to pick whatever was in season. She would then can or pickle for weeks on end to fill up the shelves in the basement. She invented (and we loved) a concoction of hand ground Spam and “government” cheese spread onto “day old” hamburger buns broiled in the oven. We affectionately called it “Gook.” Equivalent to a moonshiner, in the '60s she would occasionally take the station wagon on a run down to Waukegan to smuggle Oleo (margarine) back into Wisconsin hiding it under the fold down seat in the back.

Mom taught all of us the meaning of a dollar and taught us that if wanted something, we had to work hard for it. She would never pass a penny on the ground without picking it up and saying “it’s a penny more than I had before.” She never forgot a birthday and would let us reach into “the money jar” to take out a handful of change. Wise as she was, the small opening on the jar acted as a governor so that the smallest child/hand actually got the most.

As a woman of faith, she made sure we went to church on Sundays, catechism on Wednesday nights, and receive all of our sacraments through the Catholic Church. Throughout her life, she routinely prayed to St Anthony to help her find lost items etc. To mom, “Tony” solved many of her problems.

Selflessly, she always took the time to ask people how they were doing and then genuinely listened as they shared their pain or problems. Her hellos and goodbyes always included a hug, which is a trait that most of her children carry on to this day. When given a compliment, she usually responded that she could have done better, or done more. Her legacy will live on through her family and all the people she has touched throughout her lifetime.

Survivors include her nine children, Pati Wolfe of CA, Thomas Clemins of Quemado, New Mexico, Peeker Clemins of FL, Elaine “Sweetie”(George) Linn of Racine, Paul (Jill) Clemins of Racine, June Krekling of CA, Joan Clemins of FL, Barbara (Mark) Butkus of Racine, Colleen (Paul) Hawbaker of Kenosha; 25 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; 10 grand-dogs; sister-in-law, Dorothy Leister of Milwaukee; brothers-in-law, Richard Clemins, Walter (Ann) Clemins, Robert Clemins, all of Milwaukee; nieces, nephews, other relatives and many dear friends.

In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her brothers, Bob (Lorraine) Leister, Jim (Betts) Leister, Donald Leister; and son-in-law, Jerry Wolfe.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday, January 25, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Richard Catholic Church, 1503 Grand Ave., with Rev. Ronald J. Gramza and Rev. Javier Guativa concelebrating. Private interment will be held. Relatives and friends may meet with the family on Friday at the funeral home from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. (Rosary Recited at 7 p.m.) and Saturday at the church from 9:30 a.m. until time of Mass at 10:30 a.m. Memorials to Hospice Alliance or for masses to be said in Lois’s name have been suggested.

803 Main St., Racine    (262) 634-7888

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