Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Beautiful Life: Julius (Jules) Clavadetscher

POLSON — Julius (Jules) Clavadetscher,  former automotive executive, one-time mayor of Polson, and a loving husband and devoted father, died Dec. 15 from complications of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and Parkinson's syndrome. Montana has lost a dignified, thoughtful citizen but his family and friends will forever have him as a role model.
Jules was born May 3, 1943, to Herman and Ruth (O'Malley) Clavadetscher in Billings, their third and youngest son. After attending Billings Senior High School, he followed in the footsteps of his oldest brother, Greg, and his middle brother, David, to Georgetown University.               
After graduation he attended Columbia University in New York where he received a master's degree in business administration. Then on to his next life adventure, as an enlisted U.S. Army soldier serving his country in Vietnam. He served valiantly and talked little about his time in Vietnam.
When he returned to the United States he set out to find a job and marry the Billings teacher he had met on an arranged blind date. His union with Ann Murdo lasted more than 50 years. They celebrated their 50th anniversary on Sept. 6 in Polson, where they have lived since 2001.
Jules worked for Ford Motor Co. in New Jersey, where his and Ann's first three children -- Laura, John, and Karen -- were born, and in Michigan, where Mike and James rounded out the family.
In the 1980s Jules moved into executive offices at Nissan American Motor Co. With Nissan, the family moved to Irvine, California, then to the Boston, Massachusetts suburbs, before returning to Nissan's then-headquarters in Southern California. The family lived in Palos Verdes before Jules received an assignment in Northern California (Danville), where he was named a Nissan Vice President. From Danville, Jules and Ann moved to Polson, where they built a home in the Mission Bay subdivision.
Jules believed in building and serving communities. He joined the Polson Rotary Club, and he and Ann volunteered at the local food bank. He was a key member of the Greater Polson Community Foundation.
In 2004 Jules was appointed to the Polson City Council and later became mayor of Polson in 2006- a task he took like a duck to water. One of the most satisfying accomplishments as Mayor was working with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to reconfigure the pier and parking area at Point Salish Park.
He and Ann cheered on the Griz, the Hoyas, the Wildcats, the Ducks, and numerous sports teams of all colors and stripes.
For the past six years, Jules suffered from Parkinson's disease and related conditions, gradually losing mobility and his voice but never his sense of humor. He participated in a medical trial in San Francisco with the hope of helping to find a cure for future generations. He has donated his brain to medical science in the hope that scientists can better understand the disease and find a cure.
Jules leaves behind his wife, Ann, his children Laura Dravenstott (Rob), John (Carol), Karen, Mike (Pam), and James (Molly) plus grandchildren Aden, William and Daniel Dravenstott of Colorado, Julia, Sean, and Audrey Clavadetscher of Chicago, Michael (Mac), Joey, Tommy, and Mae Clavadetscher of Marshfield, Massachusetts, and Jack, Benjamin, and Connor Clavadetscher of Petaluma, California. Also surviving are his brother, Greg (Martha), brother-in-law Bob (Marlene) Murdo and sisters-in-law Kay Clavadetscher and Pat Murdo. He also leaves behind numerous nieces, nephews and longtime friends from Billings and newer friends from Polson.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, David, and two nephews. The family would like to thank Partners in Home Health for assistance in the past months.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will be held this coming summer. Donations may be made to the Polson Loaves and Fish Pantry, to the Greater Polson Community Foundation, to the CurePSP Foundation, or a charity of the donor’s choice.
*     *     *

Monday, December 16, 2019

He Touched the Face of God

"On the wings of powerful love and prayer, he burst into glory on his new birthday."
- Father Costello, St. Ignatius of Loyola

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings..."
- From "High Flight," by John Gillespie Magee

On Sunday, December 15, at 12:40am, I woke from an unsettled rest as my brother James flicked on the lights and said, "Dad is gone." The bed was barely warm; we had only left my parents' room an hour before, after a sacramental day spent praying, telling stories and laughing amidst our tears. Throughout that day Dad's breathing changed from rapid, shallow breaths to spurts of shallow breathing followed by long pauses that gradually extended in duration and caused us all to turn and watch him with our own held breath. During these pauses, Mom placed her hand on his chest and leaned forward to see if he was still with us.

Miraculously, he did stay with us as all five children arrived throughout the day Friday and Saturday on flights from Los Angeles, Boston, Denver and Chicago. As each person entered the room, my sister, Karen, would update Dad, who seemed to grasp her message and move a little closer to heaven with each arrival. Though afraid of the unknown - none of us, including Mom, had ever witnessed a death - our love for Dad and our family flowed around the room as we encircled the bed, each of us holding on to Dad wherever we could reach a hand, a foot, an arm. He was warm with the effort of his breathing, and  not fully conscious, but his strong spirit held him to the room as we all waited together.

Dad had been ill for years, plagued by PSP (para supranuclear palsy), most likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange during his year in Vietnam with the US Army. Thanks to the careful, dedicated nursing of my mom, his quality of life and his life itself extended long past the deadline predicted by his physicians.  Adjusted as we were to his gradual decline, no one knew when to expect the rallying cry, "Come."  We may have even missed the moment - it came so quickly at the end - were it not for my brother, Michael, whose co-worker approached him a week ago to ask how Dad was doing.

"Not well," said Mike, and his friend urged him to go see Dad without delay. "You have to go now," she said, "You won't regret it."

Mike called my mother, determined that Dad was worse, the hospice nurse had started daily visits and had started Dad on morphine. My brother sent out the alert that time was short and the remaining four siblings made immediate plans to come from around the country, scheduling flights and cars and coordinating with my aunt and uncle in Montana to get to Dad as quickly as possible.  Anxiety settled like angry hedgehogs in all stomachs as we waited for late flights, prayed for the snow to stop and the roads to clear.

The anxiety and fear diminished for me upon arrival as I joined the circle around Dad, reliving childhood adventures with an intrepid father who perpetually urged us to scale mountains both literal and figurative. We took turns reading the Prayer of St. Francis, praying the rosary, and weeping as we assured Dad that his work on Earth was done and that it was okay to go.

My mother channeled a spiritual strength that astonished us, leading both prayers and reassurances to Dad. After boxes of tissues were handed around we again resumed our story-telling and laughter, keeping one eye on the clock as we waited for our last sibling to arrive. Karen kept updating my father, letting him know that John was coming, he was almost there.

John arrived at 9pm with my aunt after navigating a snowstorm and icy roads, and in time to share the circle of laughter and love. My mom sent us off to rest after 11 and James stayed with her and my father, lying on the floor next to Dad and timing the pauses between his breaths in that dark and peaceful room. In a beautiful counterpoint to childbirth, where contractions speed up in frequency and duration, the spaces between Dad's breaths increased and gave way to long periods of pause as his body struggled to release his spirit and give birth to his new life. When he left us and James called everyone for the final goodbye, his spirit lingered in the room while we consoled each other and celebrated the beautiful manner in which he left.

Standing so near the veil between the known life and the great unknown has both blessed and shaken us. In a short time we have grown and changed immensely in a sacramental manner that has further bonded us to one another. We are grateful for Dad's beautiful passage and for this new bond, his final earthly gift to us all.