Clara Pawlak Kunc, the youngest of seven children, was born in Buffalo, New York on August 22, 1911 to Mary and John Pawlak. Clara would often reminisce about the wonderful, abundant times she had with family during her early years: celebrations that were filled with warmth, joie de vivre and love. On April 11, 1942, she married Edward Kunc, who left to fight in World War II, just months after their marriage. Clara wrote to Ed daily and prayed for his safe return.
When Ed returned from the war, they bought their dream house in the suburbs. In September, 1949, Mary, her only child was born and Clara was a devoted wife and doting mother. She baked wonderful apple pies and planted colorful flower gardens. With her nurturing way, she could make a "house" a "home" Her kindness extended far beyond her home life. For several years, Clara and Ed ran a laundry business in a low income neighborhood; all the customers loved her and she made many friends in the neighborhood, some friendships spanned a lifetime. On numerous occasions, Clara would buy a young mother a hot cup of coffee in the cold of winter or give a free wash to someone who was out of work. During Clara's lifetime, she lived through two World Wars, survived the Great Depression and tragically lost her father in an accident on Christmas Eve. No matter what challenges Clara faced, she always had the independence and spirit to bounce back, and never lost her smile, love of life or commitment to family.
At the age of 52, Clara suddenly became a young widow and faced loss and sadness once again. Predictably, her tenacious spirit prevailed; she bounced back and lovingly watched her daughter grow and mature through her teen years and beyond. Not surprisingly, when her daughter married and gave birth to her own daughter, Kathy, Clara took on a role that was beyond a grandmother: she was like a "second mom" to her granddaughter. To help support her daughter and granddaughter, Clara took a job working with the elderly which provided her with satisfaction in reaching out to people that were abandoned and lonely. When Clara retired in 1976, she, her daughter and granddaughter made a permanent move to Los Angeles, where they started a new life. Clara adapted quickly and loved the sun, palm trees and "stars" of L.A.
In 2001 and 2003, Clara stood by and witnessed the miracle of the birth of her two beautiful great-grandsons, Eddie (named after his great-grandfather, Edward) and Rino, who affectionately called her "Bama". Words can't express the bright and wonderful smile on her face whenever the energetic kids came to visit and play with "Bama".
At the age of 95, Clara still enjoyed traveling back to her home town of Buffalo and spending time on the Niagara River in the summer. She also loved the fun and excitement of visiting Las Vegas and playing the slot machines. Often times she would joke with her daughter and say, "I hope all the money pours out, just for you"! If anyone lived life to the fullest and gave her "all" to her family with a loving heart, it was Clara. It wasn't the "outpouring" of money that mattered, but rather the "outpouring" of her love, sincerity, strength, integrity and courage. Those are life's most valuable assets.
As her daughter, I'll use this quote: "To the world, you can be just one person, but to one person, you can be the world". To Clara, her family was her world. She was honest, genuine, humble, independent and loving. I was blessed beyond belief to have her as my mother, mentor and most of all, my friend. I will continue to be blessed with her memory, every time I see the sunrise or get a glimpse of her reflection in the eyes of her great-grandchildren. To me, she was my "world", too.
Shine on, Mom! You're the best!