Claridge, Lois W.
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91, passed away quietly on May 4, 2013 at her home in Safford, Arizona. Born in the Scandinavian farming community of Paxton, Illinois, to Anton and Ellen Pearson Wesslund, she moved to Chicago with her parents and brother Richard when 12 years old. She attended North Park Junior College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Northwestern University and a diploma in Nursing from Evanston Hospital, serving these last two institutions as an instructor in Medical and Surgical Nursing during World War II. For health reasons and in search of a climate that would be an improvement over Chicago's blustery, cold winters she moved to Safford in 1946, employed as a nurse by Dr. F.W. Knight. While working there she met and was courted by local Gila Valley pioneer family rancher Samuel Ray Claridge. They married in 1948. She resigned from Dr. Knight's office in 1950 to assist Ray in operating their Bonita Creek Ranch and begin a family. Lois served as the Safford School Nurse from 1954 to 1965. In 1965 she began a new career with Arizona Department of Public Welfare in Graham County from which she retired in 1983 as Office Supervisor of Food Stamps and Office Coordinator. Throughout her lifetime she served on many local, state, and national boards and organizations, affiliated with professional, political, civic, community and ranching interests. Too numerous to recount in full, a few examples are the Safford Woman's Club, the Safford-Graham County Public Library Board, the Arizona Nurses Association, and the Arizona Community College Board. One of her proudest accomplishments was development of the emergency 911 system in Graham County in 1977, through work with the Graham-Greenlee Health Planning Council. She served as the 11th president of the American National Cowbelles, elected in 1962. Lois loved to entertain. She was a gracious hostess at weekly Sunday dinners in her home and at large parties at the ranch where she prepared Dutch oven dinners. Lois was delighted to accept when asked to hostess community events or to assist with teas, wedding receptions and other socia gatherings. Lois was preceded in death by her husband Ray, her parents, her brother Richard, and her daughter-in-law Connie. She is survived by her son, Cliff, twin daughters Lynne and Lois Ann, 10 grandchildren, and 15 great grandchildren. The family will receive friends Friday evening, May 17th, from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Vining Funeral Home. Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Safford. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to either the Friends of the Graham County-Safford Library or the First United Methodist Church-United Methodist Women in Safford. Online condolences may be offered at viniingfuneralhome.com. Arrangements are entrusted to Vining Funeral Home of Safford.
Published in The Arizona Republic on May 12, 2013