Clara Agnes Cantrell Clemmons, the youngest of 9, was born on January 16, 1920 to the late Rev. Duffy Howard and Clara Camp Cantrell. She was promoted from labor to reward Wednesday, September 8, 2021 at the age of 101.
Her father, a farmer and entrepreneur, passed away when she was 18 months old. During the early 1920s and at the urging of the older brothers, the Cantrell family became a part of the great African American migration north. Ultimately, the Cantrell family settled in Cleveland, OH and Harvey, IL.
Clara was educated in the Harvey school system and then attended the Illinois Institute of Technology where she earned a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in 1941. Her oldest sister, Vera Cantrell Williams, said that Aggie (as she was known to her family) was a born educator. She would teach her nephews, nieces, cousins, playmates, dolls, and whoever else would listen. Therefore, it was not a surprise that she took a teaching position as an elementary school teacher in Robbins, IL and progressed in her field to become the first African American female principal in the Blue Island, IL School District.
She always pushed herself to be a high achiever; and, while working full time, she also completed her Masters of Education from Loyola University in 1952. Then, in July 1954, she obtained a lifetime Illinois State teaching certificate.
Clara was reared in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Her parents were early followers of Bishop Charles Harrison Mason; and, when in Illinois, he was known to stop by the Cantrell house for dinner. Bishop Mason stressed education as a necessity for church growth and leaders and Clara embraced this teaching. She continued this message as her local church’s youth leader and Sunday School teacher, state YPWW secretary, and later as the COGIC National Chairlady of the Youth Dept.
This message was also stressed by her mother and siblings and was the impetus for the Clara Cantrell Scholarship Guild.
During her Harvey years she also served as a Girl Scout troop leader and member of the library board, NAACP, and National Council of Negro Women.
Her life, however, made a drastic turn on June 20, 1969 when she married Rev. Ithiel Clemmons. She retired from the IL school system, moved to Queens, New York, and became a stay-at-home wife and mother to three daughters -- Pamela, Constance, and Debra. She also assumed the position as the co-pastor’s and later pastor’s wife at First COGIC. Then, in 1976, she also became the First Lady of Wells’ Memorial COGIC in Greensboro, NC.
She has said that Ithiel was her great love with whom she spent 30 years until his passing.
In 2011, at the urging of Connie and Debbie, she agreed that maintaining a home alone in Queens was no longer practical and moved into Connie’s home in Albany, NY. She often stated how thankful she was for the daily care that Connie and Tyrone gave her and time with her grandson, Joshua.
Clara gave her life for the betterment and advancement of others. She always stressed purpose, preparation, and prayer and lived a full life worthy of admiration by all. She always said, “Give me my flowers while I am living” and was able to smell her flowers during her 100th birthday celebration for which she was extremely grateful.
Clara leaves to cherish her memory three daughters – Pamela Rosborough (Samuel), Constance Benton (Tyrone), and Debra Quintyne (Clement); five grandchildren – Joshua Benton (Cara), Samona Pasquale, Miriam Rosborough-Tasch (Kevin), Jonathan Rosborough (Karyn), and Timothy Rosborough (Jovani); 3 great-grandchildren – Chloe Tasch, Bradley Rosborough, Jade Rosborough; one brother-in-law – Bishop Joseph Clemmons, Sr. (Fran); five nieces – Doris Howard (Kenneth), Renee Clemmons, Maxine Clemmons, Patience Clemmons-Wilson (Bradford), Angela Clemmons-Morin (Michael); three nephews – Rev. Joseph Clemmons, II (Mary), Minister Maxwell Clemmons, Jr. (Denise), Mark Baker (Diana); a host of great nieces, nephews, godchildren and the Church of God in Christ household of faith.
Donations can be made to:
Clara Cantrell Scholarship Guild
C/O Dawn Brooks Ellis
18410 Stonecreek Drive
Hazel Crest, IL 60429
Or Via PayPal:
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