Clara Agnes Haas Downey Mann, 94, died Oct. 5, 2014. After many years of declining health, she is now safely in the arms of the Lord and has been reunited with her loving husband, Bob, her parents, and all of her siblings.
Clara was born on March 31, 1920, in the family farm home in Winchester (Mooney Creek), Kan., the ninth of eleven children born to John Anthony Haas and Helen Leoba “Ella” Noll Haas. She graduated from Winchester High School in 1939 and decided that milking cows and gathering eggs wasn’t her style. Following the footsteps of an older sister, Clara was accepted at St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing in Kansas City. She was completing her pediatric rotation in St. Louis and mixing infant formula when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.
After graduation in 1942, Clara was a private duty post-operation nurse, and rode the streetcars to work. In 1946, she married the cousin of one of her roommates, Dr. James Downey, and then continued working until their son was born. After her two children were in school, Clara was a volunteer at St. Mary’s Hospital, a Boy Scout den mother, a Girl Scout Brownie leader, and was on the Woman’s Auxiliary at the hospital. That marriage ended in 1972; in 1974 Clara went back to work as head nurse in the orthopedic wing at the old Menorah Hospital until she retired in 1982. In 1975, a friend fixed her up on a blind date with Bob Mann. They dated until 1984 when they were married (didn’t want to rush into it) and they had a wonderful 20 years together until his death in 1995.
Clara loved to travel, golf, play bridge, cribbage and other card games. She was an avid Chiefs and Notre Dame football fan. Clara was a dedicated mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was a good Catholic and never missed a weekly Mass until she couldn’t attend due to health problems. She used her rosary beads as long as she could hold them, and was a firm believer in the Prayer to St. Jude. There is great peace in knowing that Clara and Bob are celebrating and dancing in Heaven, being reunited after so long.
Clara is survived by her son, Mike Downey (Lelain), KC, Mo.; her daughter, Karen Downey, KC, Mo.; three grandsons: Jason Tirk (Jenny), KC, Kan.; Kevin Downey (Kathy), Elkhart, Ind.; and Ben Downey (Lindsey), South Bend, Ind.; and eleven great-grandchildren: Alex, Sarah, Brooklyn, Dallas, Emily, Dawson, Joseph, Avery, Grace, Andrew and Claire.
Visitation will be held at the Longview Funeral Home, 12700 S. Raytown Road, Kansas City, Mo., from 10 to 11:00 a.m. on Fri., Oct. 10, followed by an 11 a.m. memorial service in the chapel. Burial will be at Rose Hill Cemetery, 69th and Troost. Immediately after the burial, a reception will be held for friends and family at District Pour House + Kitchen (formerly Romanelli Grill/The Gaf), 7122 Wornall Road, KC, Mo. In lieu of flowers, it was Clara’s request that memorial contributions be made in her name to Ozanam or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Eulogy for Clara Haas Downey Mann
by Mike Downey
Lived 94 years, 34,522 days – most of them good.
Born March 31, 1920, in a snowstorm. She was put in a drawer to keep warm.
4 brothers and 6 sisters on a 240-acre farm by Moony Creek, Kansas. Only a Catholic church, elementary school and cemetery. No stores, no houses. Population was about 3 – if you count the priest and 2 nuns and nobody in the cemetery. It’s near Winchester, which is near Leavenworth. Lots of gravel roads.
Her mom, who lived to be 97, worked hard: getting up at 3am to turn chicken eggs in the attic so more would hatch. Granny wouldn’t let the young children help out in the attic until they were old enough to not break the eggs. The goal was to have steady chickens to lay eggs and to eat by the fourth of July.
While the boys worked the farm, the girls helped with cooking, planting and weeding the garden, picking the fruits and vegetables, canning the vegetables and making jams and jellies to store in the root cellar, milking cows, gathering eggs.
My mom Clara walked a mile to school. She fell into a manure spreader at 10 and missed months of school with infection and scars, and fears she’d never walk again.
Summer’s big event was threshing machines working the wheat harvest from Canada through Kansas. Granny and all the girls would put out a huge spread in the yard for the harvesters to eat during the heat of the day. 15 chickens and huge side dishes and many loaves of bread. Clara said the crews would time it so they’d have more meals at the Haas farm, with 6 sisters cooking good food.
Mom told of dust storms so fierce that wet towels would be put around windows, and they’d be black with dust.
Christmas: If it had been a good year on the farm, the girls would all get a doll, the boys would get a toy truck. The kids only got one orange in their stocking. Oranges were a luxury and granny only bought them for Christmas.
As soon as Clara could get off the farm, she did. Graduated nursing school in 1941. Lived at the Ponce De Leon Apartments on the Plaza, below the top floor where airline pilots had good parties. She and her roommates shared rationed food and for a real splurge, ate at Winsteads.
A member of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation who coped with the Great Depression, Dust Bowl days, and WWII…
At the Playmore Ballroom she danced with soldiers traveling through Union Station to go to war.
She met Dr. Downey, and thought him to be obnoxious and loud, until he returned from the war and they married. They used to play cards and wait for the phone to ring so my father could go on a house call and make money. They traveled to New Orleans, I asked why – she said for the music, the food, drinking and dancing. Some things don’t change.
Karen and I are lucky to be here: Clara had several miscarriages before, between and after we were born.
In our family, the biggest day of the year was Thanksgiving. The boys and men would hunt rabbits, squirrels and quail on the Haas farm.
The women would gossip and cook feasts. And the children would get older.
Christmas: If it had been a good year on the farm, the girls would all get a doll, then boys would get a toy truck.
But this was the Depression Dust Bowl Days, some years were no toys. The kids only got one orange in their stocking. Oranges were a luxury and granny only bought them for Christmas.
She described dropping me off at Notre Dame, and weeping when her boy walked away, dwarfed by the large buildings, and never looked back.
Mom loved golf, but suspected a couple ladies were not counting all their strokes, so she used a watch with 2 buttons to tally both her and her competitor’s strokes. They stopped cheating.
When home I played golf with her. I’d hit it far, but on the wrong fairway. She’d hit straight down the middle 150 yards, every time, and we’d meet on the green. We’d play for a pitcher of beer at Shakey’s Pizza, and the match was often decided on the last put. She was the better putter.
I remember one time drinking until dawn with her, when she was sad because of a divorce from my father. Once she got so mad she locked him in the basement.
For several years she lived alone and returned to nursing. She studied very hard to learn all the new drugs and procedures that had changed in 26 years. Eventually she became head nurse in the orthopedic wing.
Then she met Bob Mann, the Carpet Man, dated him for a decade, and was married for 11 years. Some very good days. They rode camels by the pyramids—she hated how dirty camels were, how they spit and bit and had to be hit with a whip. They took cruises, played golf, ate at new restaurants, and enjoyed grandkids. Season tickets at the Royals and some theaters, and they often danced. However, she would never give out a recipe, not even one clipped from a newspaper – fearing someone would mess it up and she’d get a bad reputation as a cook.
Bob Mann got sick, and mom nursed him at home for as long as she could – even longer. She hurt her back picking him up after 200+ falls (everyone lost count).
After he died, she enjoyed grandkids and great-grandkids, the Chiefs, and Notre Dame football. I once suggested she get a dog for company and safety. She referred to Doc Downey when she said: “I lived with a dog for 25 years – I don’t need another one.”
She almost died several times. In 1984, an emergency operation removed 2 feet of her colon. In 2,000 her heart stopped, she was given CPR, revived and got a pacemaker. In 2008, she fell, cracked her head and almost bled to death. Reaching for a cashew on the floor caused a broken foot. Yet she kept her sense of humor, her curiosity, her appetite. But she would never eat another cashew – even though I offered her one several times. Her last smiles were for Tom Watson; the Chiefs and Royals and Notre Dame winning on the same day; her favorite pale orange Tropicana roses that I borrowed from Loose Park. Bob Mann grew the first ones at their home, and he’d pick one and leave it for her before he left for work. The same color roses are on her casket. She did enjoy the Royals in the playoffs, and having a great grandchild named after her. She really enjoyed looking two times at these same photos. How many of us will get to see our own funeral slide shows?
A week before she died, mom was told by her nurse Silvia that it was OK for her to go. That her work on earth was done. That she had raised two good children, Karen and me, and that her 3 grandsons were good people. That a father and a mother both raise kids, but the mother is more important because she is there all the time. Her work was done because her kids and grandkids were doing fine, and that her great-grandkids would therefore be OK, too.
St. Joseph is the patron saint of the good death. He had Jesus and Mary at his side. Mom wasn’t so lucky – she had Karen, Jason and me. We told her that that it was OK for her to go, that Bob Mann was waiting for her. She went peacefully a couple minutes later.
I want to thank 3 nursing sisters who cared for mom at home for many years: Silvia, Norma, and Argelia. You showed so much patience and care that my mom was truly blessed. You are angels among us. Silvia said Clara was very special, never complaining or resisting. The best patient Silvia has had (this includes George Brett’s grandmother). Mom was always a lady, a class act.
So, Clara Haas Downey Mann. The baby born in a snowstorm, warmed in a drawer, became a nurse, married, had kids, a golden age time with Bob Mann, lots of great-grandkids. And now she goes out in thunderstorms. 34,522 days were lived – Most of the days were good.