Mary Frances Clemmons

Jun 4, 1920 – Feb 19, 2017

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Mary Frances (Smith) Clemmons (1920 – 2017) 

Mary Clemmons passed away peacefully on February 19, 2017, in the skilled nursing facility attached to Wesley Homes in Des Moines, Washington. 

Mary Frances Smith was born June 4th, 1920, in Marionville, Missouri, to James Roy Smith and Yota Roberta Pelton.  Her life got off to a rough start.  Her mother died when Mary Frances was 3, and her step-mother died when she was 13.  An older brother and sister had already left home.  So, as the family endured the depths of the depression, Mary Frances became the family “homemaker.”  She cooked meals, and cared for her two younger sisters, even sewing some of the clothes that they wore.  Still, in 1938 she graduated as valedictorian of Sperry (Oklahoma) High School.

After high school Mary Frances took some business classes in Tulsa, and got a job in a small hotel in nearby Skiatook.  An illness (viral meningitis) caused the hotel’s staff and residents to be quarantined for a period.  During their confinement Mary Frances met Amos Clemmons.  After a few months of dating they were married (September 22, 1939).  Soon after, they traveled by train to Amos’ home state of Wisconsin.  From then on, she was no longer Mary Frances, but simply Mary.  Throughout WWII they lived in Milwaukee.  Amos worked second shift in a defense related factory.  Richard was born in 1942, and his sister Yota in 1945.  After WWII the young family moved to Chetek, a small town in northwestern Wisconsin where Amos grew up and his parents still lived.  Dennis was born there in March of 1947. 

Only four months later the family of five squeezed with a few belongings into a Model-A Ford and headed for Seattle.  They moved into  their small Burien home on the day before Christmas.  Later bedroom and living room additions eliminated the hide-a-bed in the living room, and made the house their comfortable home for a total of 52 years.

Amos had found work at Boeing, but it did not last very long, The aero-mechanics union went on a strike that lasted over six months.  Unable to survive without income for that long, Amos went looking for another job.  He worked at a series of other places before eventually becoming a painter for King County Housing, a job which lasted until his retirement. 

Mary’s home. and especially her kitchen, became the gathering place for multigeneration extended Clemmons clan gatherings.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered indoors and out for most major holidays and life milestones.  Later, grandchildren joined the happy crowd.  Mary organized the events and provided sumptuous spreads – traditional meals with great bread, cakes and pies (plus hand-cranked ice cream in the summer).

Mary and Amos were among the first members of the fledgling Highline Methodist Church.  At first the congregation met in what eventually became the church’s basement.  Mary taught Sunday school.  She and Amos were active in women’s and men’s groups.  Most of their long-term family friends were first met at Highline.

Mary supported her children’s school and music activities, and strongly encouraged college as a target.  All three later attended the University of Washington

Mary’s creative talents decorated the home and helped clothe the family.  It was only natural that she also found part-time work in a Burien fabric store.  Contacts made at the store led to additional seamstress opportunities.

Working within her home she altered fancy and expensive gowns of candidates for Miss Seafair and Miss Washington.  Those projects were a lot riskier than working with the scraps of cloth she used to make her sisters’ dresses in the 1930s.   

Amos retired from King County Housing in 1975. Mary continued only a little longer with work she enjoyed in a small jewelry shop in “Old Burien.”  She had fun working with the owner (a friend from church), appreciated the social contact with clients from the community, and continually learning something new. 

Mary and Amos enjoyed their retirement.  They made two auto trips to visit relatives still living in the Mid-West.  With dear friends they had fun on two  cruises - to Alaska and then through the Panama Canal.  Amos had a wander lust, but Mary was more of a home body and they were still needed at home.  During multiple school years Amos’ and Mary’s house became home base for grandchildren before and after school.

About 1982 quilting turned into Mary’s major hobby.  It continued throughout her years in Wesley Terrace.  With an eye for color, pattern and detail she created scores of meticulously hand-stitched wall hangings and quilts (sized from baby cribs to queen beds).  All became gifts, some to charities, but most to commemorate family events: births, graduations, weddings, retirements, significant birthdays, etc.  Twice Mary enjoyed road trips with other quilters to non-juried shows in Sisters, Oregon. After years of refusing to enter her quilts in competition, her quilting group finally convinced her to join them in entering quilts at the Puyallup Fair.  She brought home ribbons.   

In late 1999 Mary and Amos left their Burien home of 52 years and moved into a retirement home, Wesley Terrace in Des Moines, WA.  They appreciated the company of a new set of friends at Wesley.  At first they continued their allegiance to Highline Methodist, but when they stopped driving they switched to Des Moines Methodist.

Love and devotion to family and friends were central throughout Mary’s life.  In 2009 she and Amos celebrated their 70th anniversary!  Eleven months later, after a short illness, Amos passed away.  A memorial service was held in Wesley Terrace to celebrate Amos’ life of 97 years. 

After a series of falls in 2014 Mary moved into Wesley’s skilled nursing facility, the Health Center.  Despite the care she received there for two plus years, her health steadily declined.  After 96 years the homemaker’s heart simply wore out. 

The family has greatly appreciated the support Amos and Mary received within Wesley Homes, and the care Mary received while in the Health Center.

Mary was the last of her generation in the Clemmons and Smith families.

She is survived by her three children, their spouses, and their descendants:

                 Richard & Joyce Clemmons of Redmond, WA

                 Yota & Ron DeSilva of Renton, WA

                 Dennis & Mary Lou Clemmons of Leavenworth, WA

plus 5 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren


A private family service will be held.

For those wishing to make a remembrance the family recommends a donation to Wesley Homes Foundation (the Greatest Need Fund) or another charity of your choice, 

Wesley Homes Foundation            

          815 South 216th Street                      (206) 870-1334

          Des Moines, WA  98198                      a 501 (c)(3) organization



Enclosed photos display:

1931 Right to left – Mary with younger sisters Darleen and Wanda

1935 Mary Frances in early high school

1939 Mary and Amos shortly after their wedding

1964 Mary and Amos - 25th Anniversary with their Children

1967 Mary and Amos

1975 Mary and Amos and their Children

1989 Mary and Amos - 50th Anniversary with church friends

2004 Mary and Amos living at Wesley Homes

2009 Mary and Amos - 70th Anniversary with their 3 “kids”

2012 Mary with one of her last quilts


Dede Haberling
Burien, Wa
Apr 3, 2017

Mary was very special, in so many ways and to a newly member of Highline in 1952 was greatly appreciated.. Being new in the church and knowing few people she opened her home for circle, choir, group meeting and served delicious cookies, and pies. Mary along with being a charter member of Highline vhurch, she also was also a Charter member of the Women's Society of Christian service now know as the United Methodist Women. .

Also when trying to learn how to quilt, she helped us make small pillows, which I continue to use today. She always had a smile and helped the women in many sewing projects.

A wonderful Lady/

Always will be a member here at Highline. God Bless

Fabio and Ann Fantozzi
Kent, WA
Mar 10, 2017

Dear Dick and Joyce, Yota and Ron, & Dennis and Mary Lou,

We are all so saddened to hear the news about your dear mother, passing away on what I believe was your birthday, Yota. How very special your family has been to all us Hesses through the years, and especially as our parents' friendship grew in their retirement years. So many wonderful memories!

Our hearts go out to you with love and our deepest sympathy.

with love from Bill, Carol and Mike, Ann and Fabio

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