Our beloved mom, Naomi Hersh Clackum, passed away on August 4, 2020 at UF Health Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville. Born in Trenton, NJ on June 25, 1946, to William and May Mangiere Hersh (and sister JoAnn), mom was raised in Brooklyn, NY, moved to Miami in the late 1950s, and resided at Clackum’s Corner in Bell since 1980.
After graduating in 1965 from Miami Palmetto Senior High, where she was a member of both the Glee Club and Drama Club, Mom worked as a telephone operator with Southern Bell. She met her future husband not too long after – and the guy who would be our dad, a young U.S. Air Force Airman named Larry Clackum. In the 1970s, Mom took advantage of the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. It was tough at times, but she did a terrific job running the household and managing a husband, three young kids and an assorted variety of pets.
In 1975, mom found a great job at Leaf Nursery, Inc. in Miami. There, she was secretary to Walter Gammel, Director of Wholesale and Retail Operations at Leaf Nursery in Miami. She loved it because she got to work with plants, enjoyed meeting with clients, and her boss made her feel like part of his own family. A few years after moving to Bell, she began work with the University of Florida where she spent three years with the Division of Housing, and became a trusted friend and advisor to many of the students residing in the dorms, followed by eight years in the UF Office of Finance and Accounting. She took a hiatus from work to enjoy working on the land, planting flowers, and gardening before returning to work one last time, in the training division at Corrections Corporation of America.
From a young age, Mom was passionate about political and social causes. She often stood up for what she thought was right, regardless of what anyone else thought about it. She always wanted to do more so she utilized her creative writing skills to launch a letter-writing campaign targeting influential individuals, including presidents Kennedy and Johnson urging them to do more to break down racial barriers and end discrimination. Years later, recalling her terrifying childhood experiences with “Duck and Cover” drills during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and afraid for the future of America’s children, she wrote letters to President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov encouraging them to work together to find a mutually agreeable solution to the nuclear arms race. As an expression of support for her fellow Jews and her desire for peace in the Middle East, she wrote to Israeli President Menachem Begin supporting his quest for peace with Lebanon. Over the years, she continued to correspond with members of Congress and other influential individuals whose work inspired her and she thought could make a positive difference in the world. It was just like Mom to skip all the middle men and go right to the top!
Mom had some incredible talents: she could act, draw, sing (like Patsy Cline, no kidding!), and write; she loved the latter most. When she was a teen in the 1960s, she had a chance meeting with Larry King at his radio station in Miami. She had a huge smile on her face every time she told the story of their first meeting. The two of them sat on the steps outside the station and talked for hours about their hopes and dreams. He was kind and supportive and encouraged her to pursue a writing career and asked her to keep in touch with him. Back then, mom was young, energetic, and idealistic. She had every intention of being a writer, but as it happened to many women of her generation, her dreams were sidelined to make way for marriage and family.
But then came the 1980s and Mom had a resurgence of energy and a new desire to write again. Though she was still working, we were in high school and did not require much attention any more so, with a little extra time on her hands, she decided to write (finally!). Dad built her a wooden desk in front of a window nestled between two closets in the master bedroom. On Saturday afternoons that’s where we’d find her. A hot cup of coffee, a cigarette in the ashtray, and the hum of the Olivetti Lettera 36 electric typewriter that her great uncle Doug had given her as a gift a few years earlier. She transitioned from writing letters to writing fiction and non-fiction. Inspired by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling and astronomer Carl Sagan, she delved into science fiction. With inspiration from comedy icons like Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and Erma Bombeck, she took a shot at writing humor. She was successful in both genres, and submitted to a number of magazines. She was disappointed whenever she received a rejection letter but kept writing and submitting. In 1983, she got a break when she began a weekly column in the Gilchrist County Journal. Clackum’s Corner, as it was called, ran for six years and covered a wide variety of topics, including human interest stories, politics, social issues, and humor. Mom was a terrific writer and her best work was pulled directly from what she knew – her life experiences.
Mom loved animals and over the years she and dad planted many trees, shrubs and flowers to support the many different insects, birds, and wildlife that lived at Clackum’s Corner. Thanks to their efforts, the land became a certified wildlife habitat. Mom supported a number of animal and environmental causes dear to her heart including the Audubon Society, World Wildlife Federation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Arbor Day Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Care, and the Lake City Humane Society.
She was preceded in death by our dad, Larry; our grandparents, Bill and May, and Cliff and Louise; her sister, JoAnn; her favorite “Auntie Nina”; three brothers-in-law, Raymond, Kenny, and Mike; and a multitude of beloved family pets: Spotty the Hound, Yogi, Jerry, Chipper & Dale, Freckles, Pebbles & Bambi, Dickie, Lucky, Alley, Samantha, Luther, Ralph Pepperoni, BuddyBean, Bee, Marley May, Peepers, and Baby Kitty.
While Mom was a gifted writer, her best work was her three children whom she sacrificed so much for during her life: Kimberly (Tanya), Jessica (Vincent), and David (Wendy). She always gave us unconditional love and support, much more than we probably deserved at times, but that’s who she was. She was our biggest fan and cheerleader. She taught us love, kindness, compassion, patience, and respect. She gave the very best of herself to us and we are blessed to have had her as our mom.
She also leaves behind her grandson, Will; great-grandson, Brandon; her granddaughter, Elizabeth (Alvaro); and great-granddaughter, Natalia. Though she did not see them very often, they were always in her heart. Her biggest wish for them was peace and happiness, and to never give up on their dreams.
Mom leaves behind her beloved best friend and closest confidante, June Brokaw, whom she has known since Mr. Dowling’s General Math class in the 9th grade at Miami Palmetto Senior High. Of her first memory meeting June, she wrote: “Mr. Dowling said he had too many students and wanted volunteers to go to another class. I noticed this girl a few rows across from me furiously raising her hand to go. She looked at me and motioned me to follow her lead and go, too. What did I know? I did it.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Mom will be missed dearly by her sisters-in-law Annette (Mac) Barnes, Martha Mann, and Judy Clackum of Kennesaw, Georgia; several nieces and nephews; dearest friends Susan Tucker, Eddie Griffis and his mother Jan, Adam Potter, Annie Swilley, Joanne Goswick Tolley, Renee Cohen, Sherri Monroe, Chris Johnson, Lisa Johnson, Brian Corlett, Lisa Flowers, Dana Sullivan, Angel Jones, Alexis Rogers, Shani King, Nicki Santerfeit, Jennifer White, and a multitude of friends in the community, around the country, and abroad.
Any tribute to Mom would not be complete without thanking some other very important people who touched her life in a special way. First, all the EMTs at Gilchrist County Emergency Services. These men and women were always there when she needed them, going above and beyond the call of duty. With them she knew, as did we, that she was in excellent hands. Second, she had a very unique and special relationship with each of her doctors: Dr. James McCauley, Dr. Renata Wajsman, Dr. Sathish George, and Dr. Lucio Gordan. Each of them had a hand in saving her life at one time or another. They are remarkable human beings and the best doctors we’ve ever known. Mom loved and respected them dearly, and considered them a part of her extended family.
Finally, our mom was an amazing person. She was beautiful inside and out. She was good and kind. She was compassionate and caring. Wherever she went, she made friends. She was easy to talk to and never missed an opportunity to strike up a conversation with anyone. Her warm and friendly personality made it easy to like her. Mom used to tell us that someday when she was gone, she just wanted to be remembered. And she surely will be!
A private service was held at Trenton Cemetery on August 5.
To honor her life, consider sending a donation to her favorite cause: Lake City Animal Shelter, 1392 NW Shelter Glen, Lake City FL 32055, https://lakecityhumane.org/donate or if you prefer -- plant a tree, adopt a homeless pet, pick up trash on the side of the road, do something kind for someone in need. Make a difference!