Cleone Whynema Elwell Hambright, 91 years old, passed away peacefully at the Pioneers' Home in Fairbanks on May 4, 2014, with her family by her side.
Cleone was born June 21, 1922, in Calumet, Oklahoma. The youngest of seven children, she grew up during Oklahoma's Dust Bowl days. She had fond memories of the family's farm animals, including her favorite pony, Black Beauty, which brought her joy during challenging times.
With the support of her beloved elder sister, Mary, she completed her bachelor of science in home economics at Oklahoma A&M College in 1944. After graduation she traveled to Portland, Oregon, to do her part for the war effort, teaching in the Kaiser Shipyards Nursery School. Though she loved Portland, she returned to Oklahoma the next year to care for her mother.
In 1946, she met and married Albert "Al" Hambright, a fellow Oklahoman who gained his education through Roosevelt's New Deal. She continued her teaching career while starting a family. When Al secured a job with BLM in the Alaska Territory in 1958, they packed up their young family and headed north on the Alaska Highway to a new life in Alaska.
Cleone and Al shared a keen belief in the transformative power of education. She was especially proud of the years she spent teaching home economics, imparting invaluable life skills to many of Oklahoma's young people. She also took pride in teaching the first Head Start program in Alaska. She taught kindergarten for nine years in Fairbanks and seven years in Anchorage. Both of Cleone's children followed in her footsteps, teaching elementary school for decades in the Fairbanks area.
Cleone and Al retired in 1974 and moved to Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, where Al passed away in 1985. She later fulfilled a lifelong dream to travel, venturing to Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. She returned to Fairbanks in 2002 to be closer to her children.
She was beloved and admired by her family for her many skills, talents and accomplishments, including her lifelong passion for fitness, culminating in 2010 when she received the Lifetime Fitness Award from the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
She shared her abilities generously with her family and friends, including her sewing and exceptional talent for pie baking - a tradition carried on by her grandchildren.
Cleone was preceded in death by her husband of 39 years, Al; her six elder sisters and brothers; and her granddaughter, Kimberly (Hall) Sledgister.
She is survived by her children, Claudia Hall (Burnie), of Fairbanks; Randy Hambright (Tammy), of Fairbanks; her grandchildren, Alyssa Hambright, Jocelyn Hairston, Carmen Lobsinger and Diana Hall; and six great-grandchildren.
The family is grateful for the love and recent support from the many people whose lives she touched, including the Pioneers' Home Staff and wonderful friends too numerous to mention.
Plans for a celebration of her life are pending.
Her family would love to hear from people whose lives Cleone touched, including her former students; please address correspondence to Claudia Hall, 1443 Holy Cross Dr., Fairbanks, AK, 99709.
Arrangements are entrusted to Fairbanks Funeral Home.
Published by Daily News-Miner on May 12, 2014.