Throughout its history the Accokeek Foundation has been blessed by the contributions of many extraordinary women. None of them has been more important than Clara Moran, who died earlier this month at the age of 91. Clara’s connection to the Foundation began in our earliest times, in the 1950s, and will continue long into the future.
Clara Spooner Moran was born on her parents’ fruit and vegetable farm in eastern Washington State. Following is an excerpt from notes on an oral history interview conducted with Clara as part of the Accokeek Oral History Project:
Before she was old enough to start school, she liked to go down to the school house and wander around the classroom playing [which was very distracting to the teacher and the students]. The teacher spoke to her father and said that if Clara was going to come to the schoolhouse, she’d have to be a student. So she started first grade when she was 5 years old.
She went to a teacher’s school in Spokane for several years, and got a job teaching near Coolie Dam in Washington State. She lodged with a farmer there, and taught in a one-room schoolhouse for a year.
Although Clara left the farm as a young woman, the lessons of farm life stayed with her and served her well.
She graduated from the University of Minnesota and taught school in North Dakota for two years. During World War II she served in the American Red Cross Military Services, and after the War she served in occupied Japan, where she led sanitation and nutrition programs in Kobe during the rebuilding of the country. There she met and married a U.S. Army officer, William Moran. They moved to Washington, D.C., and then to Accokeek, where they built a glass-walled modern house nestled into the trees and hills of the Hidden Valley section of the Moyaone Reserve. Clara and Bill were engaged in every aspect of Accokeek’s civic life, including the three nonprofit institutions that have contributed so much to the community’s unique nature: the Moyaone Association, the Alice Ferguson Foundation, and the Accokeek Foundation. Clara and Bill were charter members of the Accokeek Foundation’s planned giving program, the Frances Payne Bolton Society, ensuring that their legacy in the community will continue.
In the 1960s Clara commuted from Accokeek to her job as head of the personnel department at Kann’s Department Store, often joining neighbors Martha Mills, Vivian Mills, and Robert Ware Straus at the National Colonial Farm dock, from whence Straus piloted his sporty motorboat to the Southwest Washington waterfront.
Immediately upon retiring from Kann’s in 1975, Clara joined the staff of the Accokeek Foundation. She served in a wide range of capacities between then and her second retirement, in 2006. At the Accokeek Foundation Clara employed many of the skills she learned early in life, including the following jobs members of the current staff have seen her do: pluck a chicken, plant a garden, write and edit a newsletter, identify – and cook – “wild” food plants, organize and catalog a library, lead a tour, and bring a complete silence over a room full of chattering people just by saying “let me tell you about our lunch today.”
In 2006 Clara was honored with a Special Staff Leadership Award at the Accokeek Foundation’s Leadership Salute. She was an extraordinary woman, who will be missed by all who knew her. The Accokeek Foundation is deeply honored to have been a part of her life.
—written by Wilton C. Corkern, Accokeek Foundation President