Lela Belle's Story
PARIS, Ill. - Lela Belle Ewbank Clapp, 88, of Paris, passed away at 4:31 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, at the Paris Community Hospital. She was an elementary school teacher and a farmer's wife and lived most of her life on Dolson Prairie in Clark County.
Lela Belle was born on July 12, 1929, in Champaign County, to Lloyd Francis Ewbank and Lela Sara Edington Ewbank. She married Wayne D. Clapp on June 24, 1951. Both her parents and her husband preceded her in death.
She will be sadly missed by two daughters and two sons-in-law, Janet and John Hasten and Angie and Foster Propst, all of Marshall; four granddaughters and two grandsons-in-law, Holly and David Jarovsky of Lake in the Hills, Sarah Propst, Heather and Bryan Swan, and Leslie Propst, all of Marshall; and three great-granddaughters and one great-grandson, Abby and Kate Jarovsky of Lake in the Hills, and Charlotte and JJ Swan of Marshall.
She was the third of nine children. Surviving siblings include Wayne Ewbank, Lois Smith, Darrell Ewbank, Carol Lycan, and Karen Propst. She was also Aunt Deede to a host of nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews and many cousins.
She was also preceded in death by sisters, Evelyn Melton and Mary Jo Stogsdill; and a brother, Richard Ewbank.
When she was five years old, they moved to the "Davison place" in Dolson Township in Clark County. Her father farmed the land for Mr. Davison until he could save up enough money to buy his own farm in Auburn Township. Lela Belle was a grown up and married before this occurred, however. The Davison place was the only childhood home that she remembered.
Lela Belle was born during the depression and that fact shaped many aspects of her personality. She didn't waste anything; she "recycled" things long before that term came into vogue; and she and her family personified the idea of "sustainability", once again before that term became a popular buzzword. Her family had dairy cows to provide milk and butter for their large family. They also raised beef cattle, pigs, and chickens for meat and eggs. They had a large vegetable garden, some fruit trees, and went to the woods to pick berries. Her mother taught her how to cook and how to can to preserve food for the winter.
They didn't have money, but there was joy and happiness in their home growing up. In a large family, there was always someone to play with, and they were creative in their play. Their paper dolls were cut out of the Sears and Roebuck catalogs. She and her sister Mary had whole families of paper dolls and used old shoe boxes as houses for their "dollies". One of their favorite places to "play house" was under the front porch of the "Davison place". It was dry and cool and they could create as many rooms for their dollies as they wanted.
Church was an important part of life for Lela Belle. When she was little, they attended church at Shiloh which was just across the road from the Davison place. Later, when it closed, they drove to Westfield and attended the Free Methodist Church. When her older sister Evelyn could drive, the kids started attending youth activities at Clarksville Baptist Church. It was here at a youth meeting led by Brother Jack Bennett that Lela Belle accepted Christ as her personal Savior and Lord. When she attended college in Carbondale, she joined the Walnut Street Baptist Church and transferred her membership to Clarksville when she returned home after college. She remained a faithful member of Clarksville Baptist Church for the rest of her life. She and her husband led a youth group when they were first married. She also taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School for a number of years. She and her husband were members of the Willing Workers Sunday school class and enjoyed many activities with the life-long friends that were part of that class. In later years, she joined the Gleaners Sunday school class and attended that class until her passing. She was also a faithful member of the Viola Circle mission group which supported missions activities at home and abroad.
Lela Belle had a quiet and shy demeanor, but in reality she was very courageous. No one taught her how to drive her family's stick shift vehicle. Back in her day bus transportation was not provided for students. She and her siblings walked to West Liberty for grade school. But, when it was time for high school, they had to provide their own transportation. Lela Belle was fine with that as long as her older brother drove, but when he graduated, how was she to get to high school? She asked her dad if he was going to take her. He replied, "No, there's a car over there under the shed. Get in it and drive yourself." She asked her mom how to shift the gears and then climbed in and started it up. She crept all the way to school, but she made it. She did this day after day through dry roads and muddy tracks and usually transported some of the kids from neighboring families too.
Lela Belle was an excellent student and graduated as valedictorian of the Class of 1947. This honor earned her a scholarship to Southern Illinois University where she double majored in elementary and secondary education. Her parents' goal was for each of their children to graduate from high school, but they didn't have the resources to send their children to college. Lela Belle paid for her own room and board, books, and transportation expenses. No one in her family had ever been to college before. It took courage to learn how this goal could be accomplished, and then to have the faith and fortitude to carry out her plan. But she did it, and because of her example, seven of her eight siblings chose to further their education after high school. Her older brother said, "I could never have done it if Deede hadn't shown me the way."
Lela Belle taught first at Grandview, and then at Clarksville. At these two schools, she taught three grades in one classroom. Most of her teaching career was spent in the Martinsville School District. She taught third and fourth grades in the same room at North Center and then at Orange Township. She finished out her career in fourth grade at City Elementary. After retirement, she spent a few years as a reading tutor at North Elementary in Marshall. Lela Belle loved teaching and she loved children. Reading was one of her favorite subjects to teach with social studies being a close second. She liked putting on plays for all the special holidays, and especially enjoyed having her students perform at the monthly community meetings held at the country schools.
Lela Belle showed another example of her courage when she chose to remain living on the family farm after the passing of her husband, Wayne D. She loved living on the farm and she enjoyed being a farmer's wife. When the discussion arose about a possible move to town, she said, "But I couldn't look back west and see the sunset, and I'd miss the view of the south pasture." She remained on the farm until she suffered a stroke in 2015 and could no longer live on her own.
Lela Belle was a wonderful example of faith, courage, and devotion to family. Her lasting legacy will be lived out in the lives of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who loved and admired this quiet, soft spoken, but strong lady, as well as the hundreds of children that passed through Mrs. Clapp's classroom through the years. She will be sadly missed by many.
For those who wish, the family suggests that memorials be made to the Clarksville Baptist Church Bell Tower Fund.
Published on February 18, 2018