PALM HARBOR — Claire Flaherty Reilly and her first husband liked Clearwater so much during a 1958 vacation, they decided to move there. They sold the gas station in Connecticut, loaded their four sons in the car and started over without a job waiting and without connections.
Mrs. Reilly quickly put down roots, especially after moving to Indian Rocks Beach, where she attended city meetings and helped start a library.
"From her bedroom window we could watch the porpoises jumping," said Marcelle Conrad of Fairfield, Conn., her sister.
Claire and Joseph Flaherty bought the Mamac Apartments within a few months of moving to Clearwater. With her husband in sales, Mrs. Reilly ran the property single-handedly as a motel.
The Mamac put out the welcome mat with monthly sing-alongs long before karaoke, with accompaniment by guitar-strumming guests. In the early 1970s, the couple sold the motel and moved to Indian Rocks Beach.
For 27 years, you could find her in the Indian Rocks Beach Library, acquiring books, dusting their covers or checking them out to patrons. Mrs. Reilly was among the volunteers who opened the library in 1974. The work kept her in touch with the travel books, biographies and detective yarns she loved.
Claire Bouchard was born in Burlington, Vt., and grew up in Bridgeport, Conn., the product of French ancestors who landed in Quebec in 1675. She was famous for apple pies, and for singeing the air in French if a crust fell apart.
The family enjoyed a 36-foot boat in Connecticut, where Mrs. Reilly became one of the first women in the country to pass a boat maintenance and safety course offered by the United States Power Squadrons.
She went to Mass regularly and stressed a clear-cut morality.
"You did not lie," said Daniel Flaherty, her son. "The repercussions for lying were much worse than telling the truth, no matter how bad that was."
When grandchildren came along, she sat on the floor with them and taught them the French songs of her childhood
She and Joseph pulled a trailer each year up the East Coast. They went all the way to Nova Scotia, leaving in May and returning in October, camping out and meeting old friends along the way.
Then her husband of 43 years died of a heart attack in 1989. Two years later she married retired insurance man Charles Reilly, with whom she traveled to Europe several times.
Reilly died in 2003. Mrs. Reilly moved into St. Mark Village, where she enjoyed playing cards with other residents. She became bedridden and unable to speak four years ago, but an operation to relieve fluid on the brain restored her to health.
Mrs. Reilly died in her sleep Aug. 4. She was 90.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]