Tillie Clapp, flanked by her daughters Elisha and Jody, in the lush backyard that their husband and father, Earl, planted and landscaped. Story, page 11. DON RICKERS

The community gathers to celebrate the life of Earl Clapp

It was an afternoon of celebration on Centre Street in Fenwick last Saturday, as Tillie Clapp, alongside her daughters Elisha and Jody, hosted a family tribute to her late husband, Earl, whose life was taken in a senseless robbery attempt almost two years ago.

Tillie, who was overwhelmed by the support of friends and strangers alike during the difficult time that followed Earl’s death, was pleased at the dozens of well-wishers who attended the memorial gathering. She is convinced that a big part of the community rallying around her family in distress was due to a sense of violation that all in Pelham felt, given the violent circumstances of Earl’s death.

A sentencing hearing for Jason Lusted, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his part in Earl’s death, will occur in August.

With border restrictions now relaxed after the pandemic, Elisha is able to leave her home near Buffalo to visit her mother and sister in Niagara with greater regularity.

“It’s been tough being separated,” she said. “My kids have especially missed their grandma. It’s been an ordeal, but we are all doing better, now that we are back together.”

They say that time heals all wounds, but Jody attributes her family’s support from friends in the community as the real tonic, helping them move forward with their lives.

“Seeing my sister has been awesome,” said Jody, “and when her kids come to visit, their laughter just changes the whole atmosphere.”

Tillie spoke to the Voice while sitting in Earl’s favorite chair beside the house, where he routinely enjoyed a morning coffee watching the sunrise, and a glass of wine as the sun set in the west behind the treeline.

“People have asked me if I’m planning to move,” said Tillie. “But I truly feel Earl’s spirit as I gaze out at the garden. It’s a beautiful place, and I’ve decided that I want to hang on to it as long as I can — hopefully for at least the next 10 years — to share it with my daughters and grandkids.”

Pointing to a wooden area on the property, Tillie said, “There’s a tree house down there that the grandkids built with Earl. And it wasn’t that he built it and they watched. He had them pick the trees, measure, go to the lumber yard, carry the lumber, and taught them how to hammer and use a power drill. Earl was an extraordinary grandfather. I get the angriest when I think that I had him for 58 years, and the grandkids should have been able to have him for longer.”

Tillie looked around and continued after a pause.

“I can hear Earl telling me, ‘My life got cut short, but you still have one, so go and enjoy it with those grandchildren. So last summer I took them to the cottage, and we did some fishing. The kids wouldn’t put the worms on the hooks, which is a job Earl always did. So I ended up putting the worms on the hooks,” she said with a smile.