On Monday, November 7, 1977, a very close friend of mine died in Port Angeles at about 4:30 AM. Neah Jarrett died at the age of 43. She had pneumonia, lung problems, and a weak heart. Steve Schenck told me that when they got her to the hospital, they thought the worst of it was over. She got to the hospital Sunday afternoon. It was quite a shock when she died so suddenly.
I had come home on Friday, November 4, for the High School’s last football game of the season. This would be Ronnie’s, Tate’s, Gary and Kimm’s final football game. Our boys took a 20 – 0 lead at halftime. But, Joyce came back to win the game 30 –20 in a very disappointing game. It was the homecoming game, so I went to the dance. The dance was somewhat rowdy, and the band was terrible. Couples were changing partners like crazy. I found out that night that a friend had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. She had obtained an abortion against his wishes. The two had split up over it. Jim Jarrett and Michele are separated. Jim was at the dance with Joi Venske. Michele was in a car accident that night with Ollie Kallappa, Patti Martin in Jim’s red Ventura, the car was a total wreck, but everyone got out of it okay.
For the first time in years, after observing the people at that dance, they were drunk, high or both, for the first time in years I thought Neah Bay just may not be the place for me to live.
Saturday was slow, and I thought I might visit the Jarretts. I didn’t, and I now so wish I did. We watched the Sonics get bombed in Portland. On Sunday we watched Oakland bomb the Seahawks. Our losses were piling up, but the most painful loss was yet to come. After the game, we had a family dinner for Lynn. Monday was her birthday. After we ate, I worked on homework, while Dad changed the tires on the Maverick. Time was going by fast, I was tired and decided to stay and leave the next day.
I woke up early and listened to the rest of the family get ready for the day’s activities. The phone rang, and Mom answered it. I heard her say, “Oh really!” in a very distressing tone. I thought something was wrong, I thought about Neah, I closed my eyes to try to wipe the feeling away. Dad came into the room and told me about Neah. He left, and I began to cry. Mom came in before when went to school When she left I cried myself back to sleep.
When I woke up, I went into the living room to watch TV. I thought about Jim, Jimmy, Raye, Helen and the rest of the family. My heart ached, as it down now. I hurt all over, and I cried, as I am now. I then concentrated on the TV and pulled myself together. Sharon Charles came by to see if I was all right. I assured her I was and she left. I felt so helpless, so all alone, oh how I hurt.
I pulled myself together, so I gave an appearance of being all right when Mom and Mel came home for lunch. Mom told me we would visit the Jarrett’s when she came back from school. I wasn’t sure I was up to it, but I knew I had to see the family.
I drove by the Jarretts house when I went to see Aunt Dorothy. Seeing the family’s cars gathered together at Neah’s home, the reality had shown through, the hurt stabbed deeper.
Mom came home and said the family had gone to PA. She called Jim Cooke, and he told Mom that Neah wanted only a small family service in PA and had asked to be cremated. The thought of cremation turned my stomach, but, since it was her wish, well, what could I say? Another idea struck me, Jim said it was to be a family service, might I be left out? This thought scared me, not seeing Neah again, ever. My fears were relieved when Mom, Jim and I visited Big Jim at his house. He told us of Neah’s wishes and that the family had decided to follow them. But Jim said to me that the only two people who would be exceptions for the family services were Bob Buckingham, and I. Helen told me that they would meet me there. I shook hands with Jim; hugged Helen and we left.
I decided to stay the week because I didn’t want to be alone. I was scared and hurt, and sorry, and I wanted so much to see Neah again. To hear her voice, to hug her, to tell her how much I really loved her. To let her know I prayed for her as I pray for the family now, to tell her I miss her, but it all seemed so useless, so unreal, but the pain was so real. I comforted myself with the thought that Neah was once again with Ethel. We miss them both, oh so dearly.
My thoughts drifted over my many memories of Neah. The volleyball nights, the community league, our many talks after these activities at the gym or in her car. The many trips, her love for sports her family took part in, especially Jimmy’s participation. She talked about Jimmy often. Her family was so close, and she was the main reason for this. The love between family members, their closeness, was all so beautiful. – And because of Neah, I was brought into this family. I cherished her friendship. We talked many, many times. We had dinner together, we saw movies together, and she was so good to me. She helped me in so many ways. I love her so much; she was a very, very special friend. The day will come when we will meet again; I look forward to that day. I will be ready.
Thursday was the day of the service. I rode into Port Angeles with Bob and Betsy. I walked into the funeral home and saw Jim, Steve, Raye, and the Dannels. I saw all the flowers and Neah’s casket. I was sick, sad, the pain, the hurt, the sorrow. I sat down by myself, alone, I felt so alone. The service was reassuring, beautiful. It came time to see Neah for the last time. Most of the Claplanhoo family had walked by already, Helen went up and broke, and Moe was sitting in my aisle, but wouldn’t go forward. I stepped by him and walked forward to where Neah lay. She looked so good, at peace, beautiful in her eternal rest. Seeing her brought me to tears, Kibby came to me, supported me and walked me away as I took my last look. I sat down and continued crying, but the tears couldn’t wash the pain away. I sat, out of sight from where Neah lay. I didn’t see Jim, Jimmy or Raye go forward, but I heard Jim break. I felt so helpless; I wanted to help him, but how? Jimmy and Raye looked very good. I had not seen either of them all week. My heart cried out to them. Their pain was more considerable than mine was.
We all left for a gathering at Haguewoods. We ate together, and Nora sang for us as she had at the service. After we ate members of the group spoke, and finally members of the family spoke. This custom helped a lot, eating together, sharing our thoughts, it all helped. Kibby was so kind to me; she helped me so much.
Finally, it ended; everyone went through to shake hands with the family. I hugged Helen, gave her my support. She told me, “It’s up to me to carry on Neah’s work; I’ll need your help.” I told her anytime, anything and went to see Jim, Jimmy, and Raye. Jim’s niece was sitting with him. He introduced me to her as Neah’s exceptional friend. I was glad to hear those words they helped. I shook his hand, Jimmy’s hand and hugged Raye. Jimmy had an expression on his face that was very painful. You could see his hurt. I walked away. Steve said a few words to me, but I felt alone like I was no longer part of the family. My closest links, Neah and Ethel, are gone. I don’t think they’d want me to stay away from their family. I will try to stay as close as I can.
Neah, I loved you. I miss you. The hurt is deep. I will remember you always. I will stay close to your family forever. That’s what you would have wanted. Your family is mine. I will love them as much as I loved you. Neah, I loved you so much. Watch over us, you will remain in my heart forever. Neah, I love you, I love you Neah.
I rode home with Moe.
Today my heart still aches. It is said that time heals all wounds. My wound is large the pain runs deep. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. I have Jimmy’s picture in front of me. She gave me this picture for Christmas a few years ago. I can see Neah in Jimmy’s face. The love for her son and daughter was great. They will miss her so, as I will. My heart, my prayers, my thought are with and for her family. How can the pain ever heal? By remembering her with love and through the gracious memories she leaves with us. She meant so much to me, so much. She helped me grow in many ways in a difficult time in my life.
The Community League, High School Sports, the Whalers, her family, I, just won’t be the same without her. She gave so much to her family, to her community, to me. We must pick up where she left off. Her burden was heavy. No one could replace her. It will take all of us to continue her work. Neah is gone; no it’s not true. But it is true, I saw her, thank God she looked so well. I hope she did not have too much pain. I pray to God, I must believe, to be comforted by the thought that she is with Ethel now. Someday we will be together again, all of us, so that it may be like the old times.