Stevens, Clarence Nelson
Stevens, Clarence Nelson
September 11, 1927 — August 2, 2020
Clarence Nelson Stevens passed away suddenly on August 2, 2020. He was 92 years old and lived a long and interesting life. Born September 11, 1927 to Nelson and Anna Stevens in Flint Michigan, he was the oldest of 4 kids.
Clarence left home in 1944 to join the Navy, where he served for 5 years. He didn’t talk much about his time in the Navy, except to say that he signed up to train to be a paratrooper for the war effort - but the very day he was to begin training was June 6, 1944 (D Day), and they cancelled his unit's paratrooper training. He lamented that loss for 70 years until finally at 86 he had the opportunity to jump out of a plane, skydiving with one of his grandchildren!
While in the Navy he met a beauty named Lois. In 1946 they got married and began a beautiful family in Missouri. Four children kept them busy and he loved to take them on adventures whenever he had the opportunity. The kids remember trips from The Grand Canyon to Niagara Falls, and everywhere in between. Traveling was a passion that Clarence shared with his family, and passed on to his grandchildren. They would often drive in the car for several hours, and when it got dark they would pitch a tent wherever they ended up. Once they found a nice field to sleep in, and the next morning were awakened by a couple offering them a pot of coffee. When he came out of the tent, he realized he had pitched their tent in someone’s front yard!
Clarence had a variety of jobs in his life. He worked in manufacturing, was briefly a bellboy at a hotel in Michigan, where he once met The Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry, was a telegraph operator for the railroad, nearly a jack of all trades. It seemed he could do anything he put his mind to. He was also self-employed and achieved a stellar reputation as a wallpaper hanger, painter and remodeler, and was highly sought after by local Kansas City designers. Carpentry was a hobby and also a sideline business at times. In 1952 he joined the Kansas City Fire Department and eventually became the front driver of the hook and ladder truck. He often served as Acting Captain at his station house. This was his favorite career of all. He had some thrilling stories to tell you, and some lessons that he learned along the way. Best of all was the brotherhood that was built inside the walls of the fire house. He lit up talking about mealtimes at the station house, and the camaraderie the men shared. He retired from the fire department in 1977 after 25 years of service. After he retired from the department, his love of carpentry came in handy and he began to do jobs around the Kansas City area, including building the window displays for Tivol on the Plaza.
Scouting was another very important part of Clarence’s life. His sons Ron (Honorary Mic-O-Say) and Rusty (Hard-Way Mic-O-Say) participated in the program as youths, and after they were grown Clarence continued to work and engage with the scouts and the scout camp. His scouting career began in 1975 as a counselor and mentor, and he was given the title of Honorary Warrior. In the early 80’s Clarence joined the Maintenance Committee at H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation. He would continue to volunteer there for the rest of his life. Never driven by reward for himself, Clarence (Sagamore Smoky Fire) quietly grew through the ranks of the Mic-O-Say tribe. He achieved Sachem in 1985, Sagamore in 2000, and Silver Coup in 2004. He made the commitment to become a Founder Tribal Guardian in 2017. Friends from the scout camp relay stories of friendship, conversation, ingenuity, problem solving and accomplishment. He was a known fixture around the camp and both leaders and kids looked forward to interacting with him. He easily ran work crews at the camp, teaching countless boys and men how to paint cabins and many other tasks. One friend recalls when the camp needed to repaint leaders cabins but they had no paint excepts buckets of bright colors. Clarence mixed all of the paints together to make a uniform brown color, and then they used that brown color to paint the cabins! He spent his winters making beautiful rustic cedar signs that are posted all over camp. He helped build buildings, move cabins, or create statues. He once again created a family of friends that were dear to him for so many years.
Clarence had a cabin down on the Sac-Osage River. He loved to fish and could often be seen on the river fishing alone or with friends. He enjoyed being closer to the scout camp, and spent much time at camp in those years. He enjoyed spending time in nature and would sit on the porch for hours, enjoying good books and God’s nature. He built and sustained a colony of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds that he loved to watch and show off! Once, when a tornado ripped through the area, he was instrumental in clearing roads of downed trees, and helping his neighbors with their needs. Those neighbors all thought fondly of him and were sad when he sold his cabin to spend his time closer to family.
His time at the cabin really taught him to slow down and enjoy those around him. After his bride of 63 years passed in 2009, Clarence moved to be closer to his family. He has a very large family that loved him very much. On any given day he would have a house full of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He really focused on supporting his family and built such deep and sweet relationships with his grandchildren. Full of wisdom, insight, and an encouraging word, Grandpa always had time for a conversation and was a wonderful listener. While he would often say that he didn’t have an answer for a particular problem, he would just as often share the lessons he learned in life in hopes that we would choose more wisely. He was available on a moment’s notice for a visit, and really wanted to help in any way he could to support his 10 grandchildren. He could frequently be found out to dinner with one of his children, or having a campfire in the yard with several of his family.
In his last years, Clarence was a willing party to all sorts of shenanigans. As previously mentioned, 70 years after losing out on his chance to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, his dream came true when one of his grandkids invited him on a skydiving adventure! Other family members can tell stories of shopping trips, trips to the symphony, and even a particularly entertaining triangle solo at a homeschool band concert! He became a connoisseur of foreign foods, had a passion for listening to classical music, and buying high end hats that made him look so very dapper. Everyone knew of his recent fascination with tea, and going on adventures to specialty markets to find teas, teapots, and other accessories. If you came by for a visit, he would offer you tea from his beautiful tea set to sit and sip along with easy conversation and the feeling of deep love and compassion.
While not ever wanting to be the center of attention, Clarence was nevertheless often the life of the party, and could be seen making faces at the youngest family members, laughing with everyone, and even the occasional cannonball into the pool! While he often got overwhelmed with large crowds, he would move from person to person and have interactions with them, making sure he caught up with those he missed or didn’t see often. He charmed everyone he visited with and had a large and faithful following of devoted family members and friends. He often told stories of his travel adventures, his time as a firefighter, scouting stories, and growing up with his 3 sisters Dorothy, Phyllis, and Bernie.
He also found one last brotherhood in the men who gathered in downtown Pleasant Hill at Big Creek Café. “A meeting of the minds” he called it. He looked forward to his days with his new friends at the cafe. He said they solved the world’s problems and had a time of sharing of stories. He brightened when he talked about his friends, and was so grateful to be counted among them as a friend. He missed this activity so much when Covid intruded in our lives.
Now to mention all of those family members he impacted and that made his life sweeter:
Clarence was preceded in death by his parents Nelson Keely and Anna (Parcells) Stevens, his wife of 63 years, Lois M. Stevens, and his beloved great granddaughter, Charlotte Grace Elliott.
He is survived and lovingly remembered by his sisters Dorothy Pollock of Williamston, MI, Phyllis Cline of Davenport, FL, and Berniece Wolfgang of St. Louis, MI; children Ron (Linda) Stevens, Sharon Biven, Debbie (Larry) Elliott, and Richard “Rusty” Stevens; grandchildren who adored him, Richard (Mary) Kimball, Jennifer (Mark) Meyer, Jake (Andi) Elliott, Shelbi (Jasmond) Heenan, Kimberly (Matt) McNary, Marlee (Nathan) Boen, Megan (Jeremiah) Gibson, Kelsie (Gavin) Hodges, Amber (Darin) Strutton, and Nick (Laurie) Harris; and 34 great grandchildren who have been blessed to know him.
And while he hated it when attention was on him, these words are meant to honor this man who meant so much to so many; to offer a balm to the grieving souls whose lives he impacted across his long and storied life. Clarence’s life reached so many lives and generations, his kindness and wisdom will impact generations to come. Due to his wishes of privacy, a private celebration of life will be held by his family.
Due to his wishes of privacy, a private celebration of life will be held by his family. Contributions in lieu of flowers to Boy Scouts of America, Heart of America Council.