Peacefully in her home, with her daughters, Kris and Vikki, and son-in-law Pete at her side, Clara Gilbreath Stewart passed into the loving arms of Jesus in the early hours of Jan. 3, 2018.
Clara was born Feb. 7, 1934, in Selma, to Max and Melva Myers. A few years later, the family moved to Arroyo Grande where she attended Elementary and High School. While at Arroyo Grande High she was a member of Rainbow Girls, active in her church youth group and was a majorette with the marching band. During high school, she met her future husband, Don Nelson. They married and had four children, Kris, Craig, Vikki, and Juli.
Her friendships from high school remained solid throughout her life. Her dearest friends at the time of her death were her best friends from school days. She remained a vital part of the reunion committee for the Arroyo Grande Eagles.
As a progressive woman of the 1950s, she juggled raising children, working full time, and being involved in the Pioneer Players and the Paso Robles Jaycees after moving to Paso Robles in 1953. She also attended night school to continue her education. Clara negotiated to buy the home next door with a $500.00 down payment with a $60.00 per month mortgage.
In 1973 she married her second husband Paul Gilbreath. During this period of her life, she obtained her Real Estate license and started a new career path. In her 20 years as a Realtor, she mentored countless first-time home buyers with the advice “Buy a home, no matter what it may be, just get started!” Her can-do attitude and independent spirit were well suited to a career which requires self- motivation, and focus.
Clara always had a dream of designing and building homes. She had a way of seeing the potential in just about any project or piece of land. Her proudest accomplishment in this field was the Modern Victorian style home on the east side of Atascadero Lake. She was the designer and construction manager on site.
As a widow in 1996, she reconnected with her childhood beau, Glenn Stewart from Arroyo Grande. They married in 1999 and honeymooned for three months in New Zealand. It was one of the most beautiful and inspiring experiences of her life. She felt that time had stood still.
Upon returning home she resumed the work on her last real estate project, the renovation of the Heilmann Country Store and home on Rocky Canyon Road. This became her “Ponderosa” where she felt connected to the community and family.
She was active in the Atascadero Historical Society and honored to receive The E.G. Lewis Award in 2011 for her dedication to the preservation of Atascadero’s interesting past.
She discovered Laker Basketball in 2011 and become an ardent fan, making scrapbooks and throwing out basketball terminology along with coaching suggestions to the TV. She would go looking for the morning edition of the LA Times after a Laker victory for her scrapbook. Kobe’s jersey retirement ceremony was the highlight of the evening and was cause for celebration at her house!
Clara loved to be surrounded by family and friends. You could always expect to be greeted with her magnetic smile, a big hug and the offer of food and drink. She enjoyed music, dancing, and concerts in the parks of Atascadero Lake and Templeton.
As an active member of the Atascadero Elks, Clara volunteered enthusiastically and enjoyed the friendships she had nurtured over her many years of Elk involvement.
In the past few years, some of her fondest memories were with her Bible Study Home Group from Atascadero First Assembly of God. The love they shared with her buoyed her spirit. Several members of the group often have remarked to family members how much they enjoyed her feisty questions and colorful remarks. She truly loved them as a part of her own tribe.
Since 1951, when her husband Don started working for PG&E, a lifetime of relationships with other PG&E families would grow to become an integral part of Clara’s life. The families here in San Luis Obispo County were very close. Vacationing for over 20 years together at Bass Lake, was summer fun at its best.
One of Clara’s passions was her concern for the plight of the homeless population in her community. She was always brainstorming to find solutions to better their lives. This is another example of her caring spirit.
The impact that Clara had on the lives of her friends and family is immeasurable. The memories and lessons that she leaves behind are profoundly full of love, laughter, and sage advice. Her generosity and helping hand made an incredible impact on many lives.
She is survived by her daughters: Kris Vaughn-Hazard (Jim) of Kona, Hi.; Vikki Fortman- Johnson (Pete) of Raleigh, NC. Grandchildren: Jennifer Nelson-Fischer (Justin); Heather Moler-Howes (Shawn); Harmony Zents; Emily Fortman; Mike Vaughn (Allison); Tamara Nelson-Knox; Laura Fortman- Hopkinson (Larry); Clint Nelson (Jackie); Haili Conn; Billy Joe Conn.
Great Grandchildren: Breann Howes-Cardoso (Bruno); Casey Howes; Tyson Fischer; Jaydon Fischer; Jarren Fischer; Lily Vaughn; Jack Vaughn; Robert Schley; Jessica Schley; Natalie Hopkinson; Calvin Nelson.
Clara is also survived by her sister Claudia Mize of Watsonville, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and loving friends.
Clara was preceded in death by her son Craig Nelson and daughter Juli Conn; brothers Bill and Ken Myers; and husbands Paul Gilbreath, then Glenn Stewart.
A Celebration of Life at the Atascadero Elks Lodge on El Camino Real will be held on Feb. 3, 2018, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Private family graveside services will be held.
Arrangements by Chapel of the Roses Atascadero. Please call the chapel for further information.