A beloved teacher in Mission for more than three decades, Claire Clemo passed away earlier this week. / File Photo

Beloved former teacher passes away

Mission’s Claire Clemo touched the lives of thousands of students

Mission has lost one of its treasured citizens.

Claire Clemo, better known to thousands of former Mission students as Miss Clemo, passed away on Monday. She was 82.

With the exception of the year she taught in Burnaby (1964) and the one she took off to earn her master’s of education (1991), Clemo taught at Mission Central, where she encouraged and motivated multitudes of young minds, guided by her principle: “As I teach I learn, and as I learn, I teach.” She believed that teachers were role models and considered herself “truly fortunate” that she had been “called to do one of the most important jobs in life – teaching the young.”

During Tuesday night’s council meeting, Mission Mayor Randy Hawes spoke about Clemo.

“We lost somebody that’s very valuable to our community, that has a big history in our community – and that’s Miss Claire Clemo, who taught here for decades and decades. Hundreds, thousands of kids were taught by Claire and any of them that you talk to will say she had a profound influence on their lives. She is a model of what a school teacher can be. She was a remarkable person,” said Hawes.

Ester Claire Kathleen Clemo was born July 25, 1934 in Hong Kong to Alfred Bertrum and Daisy Caroline Clemo.

Travelling between Hong Kong and Northern Ireland, Clemo circumnavigated the world by the age of 19. Sponsored by her aunt who lived in Mission, she decided to immigrate to Canada in 1954.

Clemo decided to resume her studies in the 1960s and after graduating with a bachelor of education from UBC in 1964, she embarked upon her remarkable teaching career spanning more than three decades, making her legendary throughout the community.

Her commitment included maintaining contact with many of her former students. She attended their graduation ceremonies and tracked their careers and lives. Clemo’s personal archives include hundreds of cards, letters and photographs from former students – a testament to their utmost respect and affection for their friend and teacher.

Her dedication to teaching and love for her students earned Clemo the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1978 and the Rotary Club Distinguished Service Award in 1991.

During the presentation, Rotarian Ed Betterton stated “in both her personal and professional life, Claire is an excellent example of a person who puts service to others above self. For the 30 years, she taught, cared for, and looked out for her students.”

Her goal “to light the lamp of learning and keep it lit” continues today.

Clemo was also a benefactor at the Mission Community Foundation, creating a scholarship for future teachers and/or nurses. Her goal was to ensure that at least one student could receive her award annually and if there weren’t enough money in the fund on a particular year, she would simply top it up.

Her generosity did not stop with the foundation. Clemo believed that good health was also important and, as such, was a supporter of the Mission Memorial Hospital. She has the honour of holding Sapphire status on their remembrance wall.

In 2013, when Clemo was made a freeman of the city – the highest honour that can be awarded to a citizen by a municipality – she described teaching as the “great love of her life” and encouraged “everyone to keep learning because, regardless of age, there is always more to discover.”

– with files from the Mission Community Archives

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