Frank Erwin Claycomb 1915-1999

This is the eulogy that was read at the services for Dad in 1999.  He would have been 100 years old this year.

February 2, 1915 Frank Erwin Claycomb was born in Sycamore Illinois on the farm of his Grandfather, for whom he was named.   His father Amos Townsend Claycomb had also been born in Illinois, but his mother Ruth Bressler Claycomb was from a small town in Nebraska.  When Frank was 2 years old, the family moved to Wayne Nebraska where Frank’s maternal grandfather had homesteaded in the 1880’s.  Here the family farmed raising corn, wheat and hay.  Frank had an older brother John, 2 younger brothers, George and Richard, and a sister Barbara.

All the children attended Wayne High School; Frank graduated in 1931.  He then went 2 years to Wayne State Teachers College.

In the mid-1930’s he moved back to Illinois and got a job with the Central Illinois Power & Light Company, beginning his career in the electrical industry.   And more importantly to his children, this is where he met Harriet Duncan.  They were married April 11, 1936, and fec hdc feb 1936acelebrated their 63rd anniversary 3 weeks ago.  At their wedding, Harriet’s sister Helen met Frank’s brother, John.  A few years later Helen Duncan married John Claycomb.

Frank and Harriet lived in several cities when Frank worked for Anaconda Wire & Cable Company.  They moved from St. Louis to Detroit to Hollywood and Pasadena.  This was during World War II when it was patriotic to raise as much of your family food as possible.  Frank built a chicken coop, stocked it with hens that provided eggs.  He joined a neighborhood Victory Garden.  On what was a vacant lot, they produced vegetables for the whole block.  Even in the city, the man from Nebraska never forgot the farm.

He was asked to come to work for Pacific Wholesale Electric Company in downtown San Diego so they moved to North Park.  When he had a chance to buy some acreage in Eucalyptus Hills, he jumped at the opportunity to work the land again.  He not only continued to work downtown, which meant a very long commute in the days without freeways, but it meant more work when he got home from his job.

With the help of his family, he tended the trees – avocado, orange, lemon, grapefruit, apricot, walnut, plum, loquat, pomegranate and more.  He cultivated a garden of corn, lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, squash, carrots and radishes.  He raised turkeys, hens, pigs and helped his children care for their lambs, rabbits and horse.  The children always had a list of chores to do, but they also had pets, fresh fruit, and room to roam in a great rural neighborhood.  Frank and Harriet provided a house full of love, strong role models and a wonderful place for children to grow up.

In 1960 the family moved to a more suburban setting on Vista Camino – less than ½ acre.  But this didn’t stop Frank from planting fruit trees and a garden.  He moved violets from the farm in Nebraska to the yard in Lakeside.  His garden flourished.  Every year we had tomatoes, corn, several kinds of lettuce, squash, beets and whatever else caught his fancy.  Because of his plantings, we will have apricots, boysenberries and asparagus for years to come.
fec picking apricot

Many years ago Frank lost the sight in one eye.  He never complained.  Then about 4 years ago he noticed more trouble with his sight.  He was diagnosed with macular degeneration in what had been his ‘good’ eye.  This curtailed his gardening, but he still tried to get the vegetables planted.  His grandson, Dave, comes out every Thursday to help with the garden and learn from his grandfather.

Though not a formal student, Frank loved history.  He enjoyed local history wherever he was.  He never tired of hearing Doug McClain’s stories of old Lakeside or John Lynton’s Colorado homesteading stories of the land where Frank went hunting.
fec in the 80's bw

He cherished family history.  He saved his father’s diaries and kept his own throughout his life.  He told us stories of his aunts and uncles so that we felt as if we knew them well even though they lived in the midwest.  He passed this love of family history to his children.  Tom collects the photos and household treasures of the past; Donna keeps the letters, diaries and researches the genealogy.  When she was still with us, Jeanie collected family stories and family recipes.  She made copies of these booklets for all of us.

Frank even appreciated the history of the electrical industry in San Diego.  He and Neville Baker gathered the old timers together giving them a chance to reminisce and a chance for the current members to meet their predecessors.  The Old-Timers meetings have become a regular event in San Diego.

fec formalIt was not easy for Frank to express his emotions.  It was easier to plant the roses you see in front of the house on Vista Camino. These roses were picked in celebration of ordinary and extraordinary days.  He sent roses when each of his five grandchildren was born.  He brought one red rose to the memorial service for his daughter Jean who died in 1993.  His garden and his yard were the expression of his feelings and creativity and will be with us for a long time.  We will all remember his love, his laughter, his steadiness and his integrity.

3 thoughts on “Frank Erwin Claycomb 1915-1999

  1. Hello from Sycamore….when Frank was born in 1915, on the farm of his grandfather, was that a farm further outside of town, or was the Claycomb house (now 724 W. State Street) the farmhouse? Now it’s considered in town, but in 1915, maybe it was the farmhouse as many of the surrounding houses would not have been built yet. Just wondering….!

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    • Hi Patti. The Claycomb farm was on the road between Sycamore and DeKalb (near Electric Park). I think an early map shows it in the extreme NW corner of Cortland Township. Dad refused to believe he was born in Cortland and not Sycamore! When I was there 15 years ago, we tried to find the location, but were told that the house was gone – the road goes over it or near it. I don’t know what the State Street house is. Frank Claycomb’s second wife, Vee Shattuck, lived on Alma Street which looks quite close to that State Street address. Several family members are traveling to Sycamore this June – we would love to see the ‘Claycomb House’ – and perhaps you and I could meet for coffee.

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