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Community remembers McClure

by on February 21, 2013 1:13 PM

STATE COLLEGE — Family, friends, community leaders and colleagues paused to remember Jim McClure this week.

McClure, the man behind ClearWater Conservancy, died on Monday at The Fairways in State College. He was 85.

His daughter, Laurel McClure, remembered him as a father, first and foremost.

“He was a great guy. I have great memories of him. He taught me how to hit a Whiffle ball in the backyard and how to paddle a canoe,” she said. “One time, he bought everyone in the house cross country skis. He loved doing things outdoors. He was happy as long as he was outside.”

His life reflected that.

McClure was born on July 16, 1927 in Decatur, Ill. He attended Cass Technical High in Detroit, where he studied art and design. He furthered his education at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He came to State College and worked for the College of Agriculture, where he was the art editor for Ag Publications.

He will be remembered, though, for being a founding member of the ClearWater Conservancy, which is dedicated to protecting the local watershed. McClure was the organization's first president.

“My memories of Jim go back 20 years when I started working for ClearWater and he really took me under his wing. That's really when I started to get to know him,” said Jennifer Shuey, executive director of the ClearWater Conservancy. “He really stressed the importance of water resources. He wanted everyone to take an active role in the community.”

McClure led by example. In addition to his active role at ClearWater Conservancy, he served on the State College Borough Council for eight years. According to his daughter, he was passionate about art and design, political and civic engagement, especially on the local level. His passion, though, was environmental advocacy.

Scot Chambers, a close family friend of the McClures, remembered Jim as a man who was passionate about protecting the community where we reside.

“He was always involved in one way or another. He started the ClearWater Conservancy for a number of reasons — most of which had an environmental angle. Everyone had a huge amount of respect for Jim,” Chambers said.

In addition to being a great family man and a champion of the environment, McClure also loved animals.

According to Laurel, he always had one of his huskies with him — even at work.

“Some of the earliest pictures I have are from when I'm 2- or 3-years-old and I'm just surrounded by husky puppies. It seemed he always had litters of puppies,” she said with a laugh. “He took them with him everywhere, even when he went to work on campus. People used to tell stories that the dogs would to go the Creamery to beg for ice cream and then find their way back to his office.”

His dogs — Lobo and Juba — were just one of his many passions.

He loved to draw and began to sketch as a hobby. Some of his satirical cartoons — most of which had an environmental theme — made the pages of the local newspaper. He was instrumental in the development of the borough's sign ordinance and helped create and maintain the Centre Area Transportation Authority.

He helped design the orange and white color scheme that CATA still employs today.

“When I think about it, he must have loved orange,” Laurel said, “because our house on Hamilton (Avenue) had a bright orange door.”

According to Chambers, McClure was easy to spot.

“He was 6-foot-3, a real beanpole type … he'd wear wide-brimmed cowboy hats, ride his bike and run his huskies through town. He was well-known and was a wonderful representative of our community,” Chambers said.

The ClearWater Conservancy broke new ground by fighting a group who was surreptitiously dumping garbage in a region in Franklin Township along Spruce Creek, spurring McClure to pen a cartoon with the caption “We're All in the Same Bathtub,” a reference to involvement in illegal rural dumping.

His impact is still being felt today, according to State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.

“He had an appreciation of our natural resources and he wanted to protect them. He showed his support of our community in so many different ways. He will be missed,” Goreham said.

After retiring from Penn State and stepping away from the ClearWater Conservancy, McClure spent his latter years living in a farmhouse near Millbrook Marsh. He loved walking his dogs, according to Laurel.

“He had inherited a couple of golden retrievers and he spent time with them at Millbrook Marsh,” she recalled. “He loved telling stories. He had a deep, resonant voice … he was a great story teller. He just loved nature and wanted to make the world a more livable place.”

In accordance with McClure's wishes, there will be no funeral service. According to Laurel, the family hopes to arrange a memorial service to take place in early summer. In lieu of flowers, contributions in McClure's memory may be made to ClearWater Conservancy, 2555 N. Atherton St., State College, PA 16803.

Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.
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