The Clara Project: A joyful update.

This makes me so incredibly happy …

When the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a cover feature on The Clara Project in today’s Food section, I hoped that someone who knows Clara Shenefelt Williams (in the 1930s, Clara compiled the collection of recipe cards that I discovered last year in an antique shop) would see the story and get in touch with me.

It happened. This morning, I had a lovely e-mail from Clara and Roy Williams’s daughter, Jan. Her note nearly brought me to tears:

I am Claire Williams’ daughter, her only child. She & Roy lived in Hamilton from 1966 to 2009 when they both moved to Mt. Pleasant Retirement Village and celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary on August 21, 2009. Dad died a few months later at the age of 96. While in Hamilton, they were both elders in The Presbyterian Church and very active in the community. After my dad retired they took 3-month assignments in Asia for IESC, living in Sri Lanka (2 times), Bangkok, Manila, & Jakarta … all while in their 70′s.  Even into their 80s they walked several miles every day to stay in shape.  When they reached their late 80s I quit my job in Atlanta and moved up here so that they could stay in their home for the rest of their lives … but they lived too long for that.

Those recipe cards were sold by me at auction on May 20, 2012 when I had their estate sale. There was so much I wanted to keep … but my house is small and I had to pull out the treasures that I thought my son & grandkids might like someday. (BTW, the house was featured in Better Homes & Gardens one time because it was their BHG 1950 House of the Year floor plan, a plan my mom cut out & saved when they lived in New Castle PA.)

Mom majored in Home Economics at Penn State (Class of ’37) and had planned to become a hospital dietician, so she was always very interested in food & entertaining.  I did not inherit those skills. Roy was a chemistry major at Penn State (’35) who ended up plant manager of an American Cyanamid (now Cytec) plant in Hamilton. They both loved playing bridge… cut-throat duplicate bridge at the senior center until 2009.

I loved seeing her handwriting & recipes in the paper—what a lovely tribute. I called my son (their only grandchild) who lives in Destin, FL, about the article this morning—I told him I am still shaking all over from seeing the story.  What a thrill for me … and for him since he spent every summer up here with his grandparents. We are a close family.

Claire Williams celebrates her 98th birthday on Monday, and Jan plans to take her to lunch. Here’s a photo that Jan sent of her parents on their wedding day in August 1937.

1937 - Roy & Claire Williams - August 21, 1937

And here’s a photo of Claire and Roy on their 70th wedding anniversary in 2007. What a lovely, loving couple.

2007 - 08-21 - Mom & Dad at Home - adj

Read more about The Clara Project and see the recipes from her collection. Here’s the article from today’s newspaper.

Enquirer Food cover

Enquirer Food 1

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.37.21 PM

How wonderful to add these photos and details to the picture of Clara “Claire” Shenefelt Williams that I’ve been painting in my mind ever since I found her recipes.

Just, wow.

33 thoughts on “The Clara Project: A joyful update.

  1. Wow is right. What a wonderful story. And so nice that Jan knew that her Mom’s recipes had moved on. What an extraordinary thing that you were the destination!

  2. This is fantastic! You have to be thrilled. And I’m thrilled for you. I’m so proud of you and what you’ve done with the Clara Project. And so proud to be your friend. Good going.

  3. This is so awesome, Bryn!

    — Alisa Bonsignore +1-408-691-1777

    On Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 10:03 AM, writes4food | recipes and wisdom from a

  4. What a sweet story! I love reading about your adventures with the Clara Project. It’s inspired me to dig out some of my great-grandmother’s recipes and give them a try.

  5. I am taking a copy of the newspaper story and am printing out all your comments to take to the nursing home to show my mom (Claire/Clara) tomorrow. In response to my email of the article, have received replies from family & friends from all over the country to show her… and at 98 she will be thrilled with your love, finding out that someone is enjoying her treasured recipes. She knows I am a lousy cook, so they were wasted on me…. ;-)

  6. To Jan….this is very cool! I’m so glad that I was able to know her daughter (you!) and be a witness to all this. The story is one you’ll have to save for the grandchildren to pass along.

  7. Jan: Your parents seemed to have all the right ingredients not just for the kitchen but for a good life as well! So great! Vicki

  8. Hi, Bryn: Alice posted a link to your article on FB. I haven’t had a chance to look at the Enquirer today, but I’m going to pull it out right now!–Megan’s mom

    • Awww … thanks, Mom!

      And thanks to everyone who’s commented on the Enquirer story and the follow-up conversation with Claire Williams’s daughter, Jan. Good food brings people together, always.

  9. What a wonderful story about Clara and how it all turned out. One can meet the nicest people in the unlikeliest of ways. And, thanks to the news I can follow your blog and recipes!

  10. Oh my! This is my kind of story! I absolutely loved seeing those vintage recipe cards. I collect cookbooks and am looking forward to following your blog. Thank you for sharing!

  11. This is a wonderful story, heartwarming & fun to read! It was timely for me, since I recently found some old handwritten recipes from my grandmother who passed away almost 30 years ago when she was in her 80′s. The recipes were tucked in the back of one of my mother’s old cookbooks, who is 80 herself now! My grandmother was a very good cook and made a wonderful ham loaf, which I believe was a German recipe. It was one of the recipes that I found and I estimate it was probably hand written approximately 50+ years ago.

  12. This is so much like my cookbook series! I have both of my grandmother’s cookbooks and my great grandmother’s cookbook (Gram’s Cookbook). That series of posts was interupted and I am planning on getting back to it soon but in the mean time, I’ve just aquired my grandmother’s cookbook and have started a Hermena’s cookbook series. It’s fun and interesting – I feel like I’m reconnecting with my family even though they have all passed. Clara’s family is lucky to have found you to chronicle their treasure!

  13. As a food lover I found this story to be just incredible. My Grandmother came from Malta and married my Grandfather during the Second World War. Just now am I trying to recreate dishes that she made, from Hobz (Maltese Bread) to Totlea, a soup she would make us as kids.
    You can’t beat the old recipes. I sometimes think that people have forgotten what real taste is. Too many foods are just a cumulation of chemicals and additives.

  14. Thanks for the good cry. In a sea of mostly meaningless internet bilge, it is awesome to read something so sweet, inspiring and touching. Thanks for the Clara project, Bryn …and thank you Claire!

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  21. what a wonderful story to have come across this rainy mornnig in ireland! My mom died last year at 103…but her sisters are still around and in their nineties !! Please tell me that you are going to publish the cards..in their handwritten form…just as she wrote them!! I have gone through as many of my mom’s books to find her recipes written down….scraps of paper..shopping lists,( those collections of jobs for the day, phone numbers and what to get at the store) precious diaries in list form!

    • Hi, Joan –

      Thanks for the kind comment about the vintage recipe cards and The Clara Project. What a treasure to have your mother’s old handwritten recipes.

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