The Grand Dame of Klickitat Street has passed away.
Mrs. Beverly Atlee Bunn Cleary died at age of 104 on March 25, 2021. She was best known for writing children’s books. Ramona Quimby was easily her best known character even the young child started as a secondary character, Beatrice’s younger sister, but like the pest she was, Ramona stuck around. Born to staunchly religious parents in pioneer Oregon so being good growing up was the only way she was allowed. Mrs. Cleary has said she did not identify with the pesky Ramona because she was an only child and did not grow up in a large neighborhood of children. Her mother Mable, a school teacher, emphasized to her daughter the importance of reading. It took some extra work but the young Beverly’s reading skills improved and she decided to become a librarian when she grew up. She later was accepted at the University of California, Berkeley where she received her degree in library science and met her husband, Clarence, whom her Presbyterian parents disapproved of because of his Catholicism. Mrs. Cleary was quoted as saying (about her college experience and meeting her future husband,) ” (Those were) two of the most interesting years of my life.” After struggling to find books for children that were both suitable and enjoyable, Mrs. Cleary realized she was going to take upon herself to write those particular books. She wanted the young readers who asked her “where are the books about us?’ to be able to find them and more importantly, to read them! Using ordinary life experiences helped her create and cultivate such characters as Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy, sisters Beezus and Ramona Quimby, awkward Ellen Tebbits, mischievous Otis Spofford, lonely Leigh Botts and countless others. Mrs. Cleary also penned two memoirs, A Girl from Yamill, and My Own Two Feet. Besides being a prolific writer, Mrs. Cleary was a devoted wife of 40 years and a mother to twins, Malcolm and Marianne who were born in 1955.
When I told a friend Beverly Cleary passed away, her reaction was “How terrible! Your hero but definitely someone to emulate!” I could not agree more.
Beverly Cleary, you will be missed but your spirit will live on.