Date Honored: September 2016
I don't know where to begin.
Grandma was so many things to all of us, an example of faith, someone we knew who always loved us, someone who would always make us feel welcome, someone who always cared about us. A stubborn old bird who knew how to work things to get her way or to get out of doing something she didn't want to do. A fiercely independent woman who demanded to live her life on her terms as best she could. She loved her family – all of us even with our misdeeds, mistakes and lifestyles that she disagreed with, through all of that she loved us and was immensely proud of all that her family is. She told me very often how proud she was of her girls and the families they have and of her grandchildren and how we all loved each other.
She promised me when I lived in Colorado and she was going through a battle with the cancer that she would not die until I was married. At that point in time, marriage was not on the horizon and I took it that she would live for many many more years. Which being the strong stubborn woman she was, she did. Not only did she live to see me get married but she saw me become a father and the joy in her eyes at the sight of my son still brings me to tears, for I know she loved him very much as she loved me very much. In a perfect world, he would have had more time to know her but I am thankful that she had the time she did to know him.
I miss her phone calls just to chat, the arguments about her eating and Publisher Clearing House magazines. I miss her calling me after a storm and saying, "Chris, this is Grandma, just making sure you are ok." No one calls to check up on me anymore. I miss the lady that would give my brother and I half sticks of gum at church. I miss the lady who would get onto me as I tried to climb under the pew to sit in the front with my great grandmother. I miss her telling me that I give the best hugs. So many things I miss about her but I miss the way she made me feel, from frustrated to content, to special to just another grandkid to dote about. I miss her loving me.
I don't miss the pain she endured and how she felt that all of her old friends had moved on. I don't miss that she felt she had to depend on others for everything. I don't miss the look in her eyes as she lay there in her final days asking me to make it better or to help her and that helplessness. I wanted to fix her and keep her with me but I also wanted the suffering to end.
Now she joins my grandfather and together they dance again, she missed him every day. I look forward to the day when by God's grace I will see her for the first in her perfect form, free from scars and pain and give her the biggest hug. Until then I know I truly have at least one angel watching over me and every Christmas her light will burn bright at my house.
~ Christopher Patrick, grandson
Momma never met a stranger. She loved her Senior Center and the "girls" that went there. Bingo never had a bigger fan. She loved her family and always told it the way it was. I can easily say she was the toughest lady I ever met and made me laugh almost every day. I miss her smile. I miss her talks. I miss her telling me she loved me and miss her bringing me paper towels.
~ Julie Brock, daughter
Claire Elaine Rocha was born in Oakland, California to Ernest and Julia Martin Rocha who were of Portuguese descent. She was the youngest of nine children and adored by her older siblings. She met the love of her life, John Carroll Payne (Johnny) on a blind date when she was almost 16 and he was 18. He had recently moved with his family from Arkansas to the Oakland area. They continued dating for seven plus years. She loyally waited for his return from the Korean War and they married shortly thereafter, eloping to Sparks, Nevada. Thirteen months later they became parents of what would be the first of four daughters. A year later they moved with Johnny’s family to Tucson, Arizona but were only there for six months when they decided to return to northwest Arkansas.
They remained in Arkansas and raised their family in the beautiful Ozark Mountains in the town of Harrison, Arkansas. At first, Claire felt out of place in a rural small town after growing up a city girl, but she soon adapted and came to love everything about it. Johnny and Claire quickly made some dear couples friends and those friendships endured until Claire passed away, almost 58 years later. Johnny and Claire enjoyed a variety of activities together in addition to their daughters, including boating, fly fishing, shooting, horses, traveling, Bingo, and church activities.
Claire became a member of the Church of Christ when daughter Cheryl was about five years old. Cheryl recalls her baptism in a creek near Mountain Home, Arkansas and the congregation singing, “Oh Happy Day!” Claire enjoyed reading her Bible and listening to it on recordings as she got older. Her family gathered around her hospice bed the Sunday before she died and sang hymns for several hours. Claire would smile and occasionally her mouth would move as she was singing in her heart with them.
Claire was a teller for many years at First National Bank in Harrison. All who met her said she had the most beautiful smile they’d ever seen. She was also known for her four daughters and the strong genes she passed to them as everyone says they all look alike. She was a hard worker, raising four girls in a small house without the luxury of a clothes dryer or a dishwasher. She taught her girls to take care of their families, their homes, and their possessions.
Claire was an amazing cook, making almost everything from scratch. She made all types of pies, cakes, breads, great soups, etc. Her main dish specialties were spaghetti sauce, smothered steak, and Portuguese Beans. And everyone loved her Portuguese sweet bread! While the family couldn’t afford fancy meals, Claire knew how to make everything delicious. She taught her daughters to cook at an early age and they and their families are grateful for these lessons and for her recipes that have now been passed to her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Claire didn’t have a vegetable garden but she loved having a pretty yard and pretty flowers, and she enjoyed watching birds. Claire loved her family unconditionally. As others have said, you knew she loved you even if she let you know she didn’t like some choice you made or something you were doing.
She was such a tough lady, surviving two major car accidents and multiple battles with cancer and several complications. She never let it get her down, always had a positive, optimistic, fighting attitude and would say, “There are so many people so much worse than I am.” She survived much longer than any of her doctors believed possible and was hanging onto her life with her family every moment she could.
In her later years, Claire continued her passion for playing Bingo. She loved her friends at the Harrison Senior Center, played Bingo with them there and they traveled to nearby areas to play every chance they could. When her family went with her, they were amazed at how many cards she could play at one time and how serious she was about it! Claire loved to party with her friends and family, but when it came to Bingo she expected everyone to stay focused on each game. In addition to Bingo, she enjoyed seeing her great-grandchildren and her friends whenever she could and playing Bunco with her friends.
She also liked to gamble – just a little. She won a slot jackpot when she and Daddy were visiting the Bahamas and she so wanted to recreate that moment! While visiting Cheryl and her husband Bill in Colorado, they couldn’t keep up with her flitting about from one slot machine to another. She also enjoyed her video poker game and wore out several of them over the years. She was picky about the game being just the right type so Cheryl and Bill often had to get several for her to choose from to replace the ones she had worn out.
She was known to all of us as Claire, Mommy, Mom, Momma, Grandma, Granny, Grandma Claire, and GiGi. She left a legacy of family bonds in her unique relationships with all of us. While I love thinking of her being with the Lord, no longer sick and hurting, reunited with Daddy and other loved ones, I miss her. I miss taking care of her, honoring her as she aged, and letting her still be the Mom whenever I could as it always thrilled her. I miss thinking of what I could do to ease her pain, increase her comfort. I miss wondering about what to get for her birthday, Mothers Day, Christmas, etc. I miss calling her when I’m traveling to let her know I’m OK because she worried so much about all of us. I miss her calling to check on us when she heard something she thought might affect us. I miss her telling me she’s proud of me. I miss having a Momma.
~ Cheryl Laramore, daughter