Every Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. I loaded two coolers for Meals on Wheels deliveries. My favorite stop was 505 Diamond Street. The first time I approached the door, I saw scattering cats everywhere. After knocking, I walked in and saw a cat-loving lady watching Family Feud. When I greeted her, she immediately turned down her show and asked how my day was. After we talked about my summer job and my age, she said, “Would you like a mint for your way out?” Walking out with a smile, I decided that I have met some great people and found someone I really wanted to get to know. Her name is Cleo McCleerey.
When we met up for the interview, I found Cleo mastering a crossword while listening to Sunday morning worship on the radio. After I was made comfortable in her home, Cleo began her life’s tale. “I lived on this exact street my whole life, but it was made of gravel before. It was kind of like I was a little ‘pioneer.’” While traveling back in time, she recalled her love of playing cops and robbers, football with the big boys, and ice skating. Her love for skating began when she got a job helping the customers put on their skates. “I didn’t mind it. By doing it every day, I was able to skate for free and got a pop out of it,” said Cleo. The owner would give her a quarter every night and she saved up enough to buy her own pair of $11 canvas skates.
Cleo’s high school years were equally as memorable. She was a part of the band, president of the pep club, nominated as homecoming queen, and was a majorette. But most importantly, her high school sweetheart and later husband, Duane, was always by her side.
After graduation, Cleo attended Wayne State College to become a general teacher. She began teaching west of Bancroft, Nebraska, but Duane’s air force career led them all over the country. Cleo held a variety of jobs in Nebraska, Kansas, and Illinois. She held a local job for fourteen years at the creamery where she helped lab test for milk and butter. Even though she works hard, Cleo finds time for hobbies. She enjoys crosswords, having coffee with friends, and collecting many different birdhouses.
When reflecting on her successes, Cleo stated she is most proud of getting married, building a farm south of Lyons that remains standing, renting land, riding horses, attending horse shows, and living as long as she has.
Lastly, I asked for her advice. She simply stated, “I’m not sure I have any. You seem like you are doing well.” After hearing that response, I realized she already gave advice. It was in the way she conducts herself, the way she treats others, and her work ethic. My friend, Cleo, has led by example in how to be a kind-hearted, hard-working woman that I will strive to be like as I grow older.