Claire Lee passed away peacefully on October 25, 2022. She was born Clara Helen Likowsky to Russian immigrant parents John and Katie (Katya) (Selasko) Likowsky in Sioux City, Iowa on April 14th, 1923.
Clara was an athlete all through school. She said she “had to keep up with her two athletic brothers”. She was the Captain of the girls’ Basketball and Volleyball teams and President of her Home Rooms. In her 1941 senior yearbook her nickname was Lake, and stated she was “Born with Dancing Grace”.
With the onset of World War II, Clara followed her brother Stan to Los Angeles to help in the war effort after seeing Pearl Harbor newsreels in a Sioux City movie theater. She joined Lockheed Aircraft and became an original ‘Rosie the Riveter’ helping build the famous P38 Bomber. She is listed in the Rosie the Riveter Hall of Fame. When her parents and younger brother also moved to California, they changed Likowsky to Lake, Claire’s high school nickname. At this point she modernized her name to Claire.
Claire met the love of her life, Jack Lee, while working at Lockheed. Jack had moved to California from Osseo, WI after Pearl Harbor. He was a supervisor at Lockheed. Jack and Claire were married, had Nancy their first child, and eventually moved back Osseo. Their second daughter, Patty and then their son John were born there.
The family settled in Black River Falls to raise their family. When all the kids had left home, they purchased a smaller house outside of town. This gave Claire the chance to garden on a large scale, and shared produce and flowers with friends and neighbors every summer. When Jack became ill, she cared for him at home during his extended illness until he passed away in March of 1980.
In 1986, when Claire was 63 years old, she took a hiatus from her job and enlisted in the Peace Corp. She spent her 2-year tour with a medical team in Honduras as a ‘mom’ helping new mothers. Claire turned 65 living in a dirt floor hut in the mountain jungles. She loved it!
Claire ended her long and varied working career with the Jackson County Department of Disabilities, helping clients with job coaching and assimilation into independent living.
In 2002, Claire retired and moved to the southern part of the state to be closer to family. She continued to be active and engaged until well into her 90’s. She enjoyed seeing and visiting with her family, especially the great grandchildren. How lucky those grandkids are to have had a “really great” great grandmother.
Claire is preceded in death by her parents, John and Katya, her older brother Stanley Likwosky, and her younger brother Robert (Likwosky) Lake. Her infant son, Joseph Lee, her loving and funny husband John (Jack) Lee, her daughter Patricia Claire (Lee) Rumppe, and her son John Elvin Lee.
She is survived by her daughter Nancy (Lee) Wilhelm and son-in-law James Wilhelm. Grandson James John Wilhelm and wife Jane, great granddaughter Audrey (Wilhelm) Rice and husband Zach Rice. Grandson Carl Wilhelm and wife Maggie Knight and great granddaughters Madeline and Katharine. Grandson Jason Rumppe and wife Heather, great granddaughter Jordan and great grandson Sawyer. Grandson Joe Rumppe, great grandson Josh and great great granddaughter Birdie. Granddaughter Nicky Rumppe, great granddaughter Kayla Wickey and great grandson Colin Wickey. Daughter-in-law Maya Lee, granddaughter Angi Lee, great granddaughter Aubrianna Willard-Lee and great grandson Armond Lee. Granddaughter Jennifer Lee and great granddaughter Heaven Lee Hayes. And her niece Linda (Lake) Wilberger.
The family of Claire Lee invite friends and former coworkers to a Celebration of Life on April 14, what would have been her 100th birthday! The Celebration and luncheon will be held at the Skyline Golf Course from 11:00 until 1:30, with interment following at the Riverside Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Peace Corp, The Rosie the Riveter Trust or the Alice Baker Memorial Library for their Memory Café.
The Buswell Funeral Home of Black River Falls is assisting the family with arrangements.