Obituary of Clara Hilliard
Clara Florence Knapp-Hilliard, 98 years old
Clara Florence Knapp was born in Albany, MN on October 5, 1920 and lived to be an amazing 98 years old, celebrating her birthday with her two daughters Peg & Joan, son Larry and son-in-law George. Clara passed away surrounded by the love of her family on October 30, 2018.
Her parents were Amalia Hondl and Peter Knapp. She grew up in Albany on the family farm, graduated from St. Mary's School of Nursing and worked at the Mayo Clinic. In 1946 she then moved to Detroit, MI and began her job at Henry Ford Hospital as a nurse, where she met and eventually married Francis Sylvester Hilliard on May 13, 1950. Clara was welcomed into the family by Rob and Ken Hilliard; sons from Frank’s first marriage. Eventually Frank and Clara moved to Utica, MI expanding their family with daughters Peg born in 1952, Joan 2 years later in 1954 and her son Larry in 1960. With family visits highlighted by Clara’s apple pie, molasses cookies, olumpkis, and “Minnesota nice” she made ALL the grandkids feel that she was their Gram. Weekend getaways to the cabin in Walhalla, MI, visiting Frank’s family in Ludington MI and of course back to the farm in Albany, MN had that welcome home feel.
In the Utica years, Clara worked at Mt. Clemens General Hospital (MCGH) as an Emergency Room nurse and as an Operating Room Nurse Supervisor eventually retiring after 28 years of service. She was widely respected by the nursing and medical staff as a woman who understood the complicated processes of surgery, and prioritized the important things that enabled her to be recognized at an Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN) Conference as a “Pioneer in Surgical Counts”. She is also well remembered by her team for her famous “fall-of-the-bone ribs” that she made for the yearly operating room staff picnic and her bowling and softball teams; lovingly named “Hilliard’s Hellions”.
Following her retirement in1985, she was able to get back to her passions of gardening, sewing, needlepoint, cooking, traveling and her most favorite passion of spending quality time with her family. Peg would visit from Colorado, Larry married Leslie Davies from Maryland, and Rob’s family crossed town from Garden City, MI for family reunions. Joan not having to travel much as she always lived close-by and was often teased by her husband George that she never wanted to be farther than a 30 mile radius from her mom. Frank and Clara had many grandchildren between their blended families; with every grandchild feeling her love and touching their lives.
On a personal note, she was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and was part of the Ladies Auxiliary for St. Lawrence Catholic Church. The Apple Fest at St. Lawrence Parish considers her a founding member. The Festival was started in 1992 as a fundraiser for St. Lawrence Church.
She eventually moved to Surprise, AZ with her daughter Joan and won admiration by her peers as she was nominated to be the official BINGO caller. She was also able to reunite more often with her red-hatted Minnesota snowbird younger sister Betty, who migrated to Apache Junction in the fall and back to Minnesota in the spring. In 2014, Clara moved with Joan & George to the northern panhandle of Idaho who both cared for her during her golden years. She lived at Guardian Angel Home in Post Falls ID for the last 2 years of her life and continued to make friends with that Minnesota cleverness, she learned so long ago.
Survivors include her son Larry Hilliard and daughters, Joan Simon and Peg Hilliard as well as her in-laws Leslie Davies-Hilliard and George Simon, her sister Betty Klein, and brother Sylvester Knapp.
She leaves behind five generations of family including three great, great grandchildren.
She was the matriarch and guiding light for so many, and provided a safe and healing place for people to recover their strength. She lived a life of love and service for others in keeping with her Catholic faith. She will be greatly missed but always in our hearts.
Her proudest professional accomplishment was to be a teacher and mentor for new nurses and she contributed significantly to her profession in how nurses are still trained today in operating rooms across the country. It is likely no accident (or maybe divine intervention) that Peter and Amalia bestowed upon her the name of Clara (*) Florence**).
** Florence Nightingale, OM, RRC, DStJ was an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale
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