BRANDON — She grew up in something close to poverty, on a family farm in Alabama, where the kids were expected to pitch in and work hard. That, Loretta Clements' daughter said, set the tone for her life.
"That's where she got her work ethic," LaMor Silas said. "She was the fourth of six kids, and they all had to work on the farm. They didn't have TV or radio, so she developed a gift for occupying herself with projects."
As an adult, she held significant jobs and raised her two daughters. But somehow she still found time to create beautifully-ornate quilts, to become a certified master gardener and to preside over the Junior Woman's Club of Brandon. She also helped found the Brandon Hospital Auxiliary and serve as treasurer of the President's Roundtable.
"She was always doing something," said her close friend Betsye Gorman. "Even when she did sit down, she always had something in her hands. She was always knitting or quilting or crocheting."
Mrs. Clements passed away Jan. 25 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was 73.
In a life full of accomplishments, her daughter said, one stood out. Mrs. Clements was twice named mayor of Brandon. She's the only person who has ever served two terms in that post.
"She was very proud of that, even though it was an honorary position," Silas said.
In her consecutive terms, which ran from 1969-1971, Mrs. Clements represented Brandon in ceremonial duties. But more significantly, she had input into projects that helped shape her burgeoning community.
"She kind of set the tone for Brandon," her daughter said.
Mrs. Clements came to Florida with her family when she was still a young girl. They settled first in Dade City, where she attended high school. She married and moved to Brandon in 1963.
Although she had held several jobs, her first real career was as an assistant to Dr. Edward Gorman, one of Brandon's first full-time dentists. She worked with Dr. Gorman for 20 years.
She later worked as a fundraiser and event coordinator in the early days of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.
But when people remember Mrs. Clements, they recall not her career but her avocations.
She loved quilting and would spend months creating personalized quilts for family members.
Her most ornate quilt took six years to complete. She took it with her as she traveled around Europe and wrote the quilt's history on the back.
She loved gardening and was an active member of the Herb Society of America. A couple of years ago, National Public Radio wanted to profile an herb gardener and asked the society to recommend someone. The society tapped Mrs. Clements and one other gardener.
Though she was accomplished in an array of creative fields, Mrs. Clements was always hungry to take on new challenges. In recent months, she had been taking a class to learn how to write her life history. She got the final chapter back from her teacher shortly before she died.
She considered herself a student, but friends and family saw her somewhat differently.
"She always talked about how much she learned from other people," her daughter said. "But I don't think she realized how much people learned from her. She taught us about life and how to live it properly."
Besides Silas, Mrs. Clements is survived by her daughter Renee Stewart, her sisters Pat Williams and Joy Macon and three grandchildren.
Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.