Toledo Irish: Clarise Burkard, The Sunshine Lady

Toledo Irish: Clarise Burkard, The Sunshine Lady
by Maury Collins

Clarise Burkard was the original sunshine lady.  She would send me names to put on the Hibernian Prayerrequest page and always ask me to let her know if one of the Lucas County Hibernians was sick so she could send a “get well” card.  She would also send out “Happy Birthday” cards. 

Clarise would send me pages of jokes, many of which I have used in my newsletters or on my Facebook page.  As I started gathering information for my column this month, I realized that today is Clarises’ birthday.  Happy Birthday in Heaven.
Clarise May Burkard was born on July 1, 1930 at home, 321 Lake Street, Akron, Ohio to Anna (Walsh) and Richard Smith.  She was six when her next sibling was born, and 18 when the last sibling (finally a sister) was born, seven children in all.

She lived in the family car until 1946, because her father was a carpenter and they would travel from place to place where ever he could find work.  In 1946 they moved to Toledo, and she finally got a place to call home
For her 16th  birthday, Clarise got a Philco radio her family still has it!

Clarise met Thomas Burkard in December 1954 at a Shell Gas Station in Trilby; he serviced her Plymouth car.  He was 21 and she 24.  They were engaged in February 1955 and married on June 9, 1956 at Sr. Clement Church in Toledo.  When they first met, Clarise always took her two younger brothers and one sister with her, because her mother went blind in December 1939.

Their first date was dinner at the Secor Grill.  They loved to round and square dance.  Clarise worked as a secretary for Strautzenberger College until she retired in 1988.  A devout Catholic, Clarise was a member of St. Richard Parish in Swanton, Ohio and its Altar-Rosary Society.  She was a member of the Swanton American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and the Swanton Senior Center. 

She loved playing card games, especially Bunko and Pinochle.  The Swanton Senior Center held events, such a Roaring 20’s days, which Clarisse attended in a “flapper” dress.  They held a “Western” day; Clarise arrived in a “Cow-girl” outfit, riding a wood horse she borrowed from a grandchild.

Clarise was proud of her Irish heritage, claimed from her Mother, Anna Walsh.  I’m told that the Walsh family holds a family reunion every summer.  If the other family members are anything like Clarise, the reunions must be wonderful.
In 1990, Clarise went to Ireland with her daughters Ann and Jean and Ann’s husband John.  She had to get a Birth Certificate made, with help from Marcy Kaptur, because she was born at home and her birth certificate said girl smith.

Clarise honored her Irish heritage by becoming a member of the Mother McAuley Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (Lucas County), along with her daughters, Ann Dollman and Charlene Blankenship.  Her Granddaughter, Sarah Dollman, has also joined. Clarise was always selling raffle tickets on rosary afghans to raise money for supplies to make rosaries.

In 2011, Clarise was awarded the “Hibernian of the Year;”  the award was presented to her by her daughter, Ann Dollman, President of the division.  Clarise went to Hibernian State and National Conventions with her daughter, Ann, who held state board positions, include State President.  Clarise is remembered for her gracious and welcoming smile and her wonderful; sense of humor.

Clarise and Tom were parents to three sons, Thomas, Joseph and John, (who died as an infant) and three daughters, Ann Dollman, Charlene Blankenship and Jean Gillen. Tom passed away on December 28, 2013. Tom and Clarise were married for 57 years.  Clarise passed away on December 19, 2017 at home, surrounded by her loving family.  She was 87 years old.  Her Mass of Resurrection was held on December 23, 2017 at St. Richard Church.  The Hibernian ceremony was held just before the Mass led by the LAOH chaplain, Sister Ann McManus. 

Thank you to Charlene Blankenship for her help with this column,

*Maury Collins is a Charter Member and past president of the John P. Kelly Division AOH.       
Contact him at [email protected]  Web

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