Virginia St. Clair

Loving wife and mother, enthusiastic cook

Virginia Kendrick St. Clair, a longtime Claremont resident, died peacefully on October 28, 2012. She was 86.

Mrs. St. Clair was born in 1925 in Los Angeles to Maude and Harold Kendrick. She grew up on a chicken ranch in La Verne. After graduating from Bonita High School, she attended Chaffey College and later the University of La Verne where she studied biology.

She married Dr. Eugene St. Clair, also of La Verne, in 1947 and they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this year. Together they raised 4 children, Mary Ann, Susan, James and Tom. Mrs. St. Clair spent several years working in the Claremont Unified School District as a special education teaching assistant. Primarily, however, she devoted herself to motherhood, throwing herself into her children’s activities such as Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts.

She loved cookbooks and teaching her family the joys of eating good, home-cooked food. Her culinary enthusiasm kept the family close together with family dinners every night and a sit-down breakfast every morning.  Mrs. St. Clair passed on her love of cooking to her children and many of her recipes have been shared with several family members, who still use them.

“Her boysenberry jam was to die for,” Dr. St. Clair shared of the homemade preserves she made from berries that grew in their backyard.

Mrs. St. Clair’s specialties included turkey chili casserole, zucchini soufflé, beef jerky and butternut squash soup. “Slum,” a version of tamale casserole that made for a warm, hearty meal the whole family enjoyed, was arguably her most popular concoction. “It was always a comfort to me when I found Slum leftovers in the refrigerator,” her son James said. After church on Sunday, the family headed home for a traditional Sunday dinner, with the classical music Mrs. St. Clair loved playing in the background. The family also gathered before church on Christmas Eve each year to savor Mrs. St. Clair’s homemade clam chowder, while New Year’s Day centered around her homemade baked beans.

Along with cooking, Mrs. St. Clair tried to keep the family healthy.  Her son Tom recalls that when, in the ‘70s, butter was declared to be unhealthy, she switched the family to margarine. Knowing how much her family loved butter, however, she slipped a pound of butter into each kid’s stocking at Christmas.

Even while raising 4 children, Mrs. St. Clair managed to find time to sew many outfits for herself plus tailored coats and dresses for her daughters and T-shirts for her sons and husband. She not only sewed her own wedding dress but both of her daughters’ gowns, as well as her own mother-of-the-bride dresses.  Thanks to Mrs. St. Clair’s efforts, the entire cost of the wedding dress for her 1972 wedding was only $12, her daughter Mary Ann marveled.

Along with sewing, Mrs. St. Clair was skilled at needlepoint—beautiful projects turned into colorful pillows or framed decorations on the walls. She also knitted and her son, Tom, said his daughters cherish using a blue-knitted afghan she crafted “because it was made by their grandma and it gives them nice memories.” 

Pilgrim Congregational Church was a big part of Mrs. St. Clair’s life. She was a member of Side by Side, taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, supported the Boys’ Brigade doctor (her husband) on many camping trips and served as rummage sale chairman for 4 years (8 rummage sales), earning her the title “Queen of Rummage.”

Mrs. St. Clair loved camping with her husband in the High Sierras or in the California deserts, and had a particular affinity for the high desert north of Wrightwood. The St. Clairs had a pop-up tent trailer and when they purchased a property in the high desert, they camped in it until they built a house. Considering that the trailer was an Apache model, affectionately dubbed “Totem Tee-Pee” and pulled by a Cherokee Chief car, the piece of property had to be called their “Reservation,” according to family. Mrs. St. Clair loved spending time in their desert getaway, hiking, relaxing and reading the mystery and private eye books she found compelling.

Time at the Reservation was also an opportunity to appreciate nature. Dr. and Mrs. St. Clair made time to feed and watch the various birds, including hummingbirds and California quail, who came to dine. They loved the wildflowers and would often take drives around the area just to enjoy their beauty.

Through many surgeries for her arthritis, Mrs. St. Clair kept a positive attitude, and was always known for her laughing. She had quite a sense of humor, family shared, and once kept a backwards clock on the wall above the kitchen table. The entire family learned to read it and had trouble reading a “regular” clock when the backwards clock stopped working.

“Mom loved to share a good laugh, as well as her chocolate—well, she really wouldn’t share that,” her daughter Susan Shedd joked.

Mrs. St. Clair is survived by her husband, 4 children, 6 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, 2 sisters and 2 brothers.

Donations in her honor may be made to the Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, 1910 Royalty Drive, Pomona, CA 91767.


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