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Jessie and Molly Clements

Jesse Clements obituary, Kalamazoo, MI


February 16, 2012


Jesse Clements was a man of faith. He believed faith renders itself in service, so challenged church structures to relevant social action. Jesse was a practical adventurer. He was a journeyman carpenter and paid his way through college by travelling 4000 miles from Texas to Anchorage each summer to build houses. Jesse met Mollie at the University of Texas while involved with Wesley Foundation. Both were charter members of the Christian Faith and Life Community. They married in Sweden en route to a Methodist work camp in the Philippines.

Like his mother, Jesse was a fine lookin’ dancer. Even in 2011, Jesse and Mollie, loved dancing with family members and friends. He loved connecting with people. In the last phase of his life, Jesse filled many precious hours reliving with Mollie each conversation when beloved friends and family wrote, called or stopped by. Jesse was a father and grandfather. He and Mollie had five children, three sons and two daughters. Their first son, David, died shortly after his birth. They had Crispin in Austin, Peter and Paul in Dallas and Claire in Hong Kong. Jesse and Mollie have 12 grandchildren, Marilyn and Michelle (the Canadians), Anna and Bridin (the Irish Americans), Amelia and Porter (the New Yorkers) and Kriya, Amani, Muhammed, Isa, Cheyenne and Tiara (the golden ones). Closely knit into the family are Reg, Crispin’s husband, and daughers-in law, Maria Porter (Peter) and Aedin (Paul). Extended family for whom Jesse was father are almost-son, Bevin Innes of India, Fanding Darboe of the Gambia who names him Dad, daughter- niece Karen, niece Rachel, Chui Sing who lived with the family nine months in Hong Kong, and Randhir Culp, foster child in Mumbai.


Jesse was a social worker. Jesse believed that the role of social workers is not only to implement social policies, but to build teams, navigate the system and collaborate to invent social structures to meet human needs. As a United Methodist missionary, he fleshed out those beliefs while building Yang Memorial Social Service Centre, a “social science laboratory”, in Hong Kong in the 1960s and early 70s. In Mumbai, he built Community OutReach Program, a hutment area community development organization, in the late 70s. He started the Church and Community Project in Indianapolis, later part of SEND, a neighborhood housing development agency, in the 80s and 90s. When the tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, as a volunteer from his local church, FUMC of Kalamazoo, Jesse went to Banda Aceh where he was asked by UMCOR to set up their Indonesian agency to rebuild villages. In the last few years, in Kalamazoo, Jesse worked with the team building Center for Transformation, a resident re-entry program. Jesse was a fisherman. Whether in the waters of Hong Kong, Belize, or Asylum Lake, he loved being out with ’em as much as catching ’em.




On Tuesday, January 31st, the home Hospice nurse told us that the doctor asked us to call whatever family would want to come and have last words with Jesse.  Anne, the nurse, said that it was most probably a matter of hours.  Peter and his son, Porter, had just been here for the weekend and were enroute home.  At the call they came back here from Chicago instead of getting on the plane bound for New York and home.  They were soon joined by Peter’s wife Maria and daughter, Amelia.  Crispin and her family, husband Reg and daughters Marilyn and Michelle, arrived from Edmonton the following day.  Two of my brothers arrived shortly–Johnnie from  Washington state and Dick from Texas.  Two of Jesse’s nieces came, Rachel from Boulder where she was temporarily working and Karen from Houston.  Paul and Aedin were here, of course, as was Claire and her family, and Anna and Bridin came from Ann Arbor and New York.


Of course, Jesse did what nurse Anne came to call “a Jesse thing” –he rallied, then rallied more with the infusion of family spirit. He spoke haltingly in a weak voice, but there were times, such as the following Sunday evening when Claire and her six, Kriya, Amani, Muhammad, Isa, Cheyenne and Tara, gathered around the bedside for touching moments of quiet reflection and the words Jesse needed to say to each of them. There were other moments when Jesse would share on the telephone, such as with grand-nephew Ian, “I seem to be half and half in a dream state and a reality state.”  Another day:  “the problem of the global geo-thermal reality is that which doesn’t help my brother, doesn’t help me.”  Nurse Ann remarked that she had never seen one so ill able to analyze and articulate at this level before. The sinking into near death state and emergence from it happened several times.



Then came Thursday, February 16th. He was peaceful now, with no sign of pain. In the evening the family again had prayers together, singing of hymns and ICA and family songs, readings of scripture– all pretty quietly and somberly done.  The family left and I dozed. I awoke later, checking to see if he were breathing.  He was not.



Without the help of Crispin, John and Dick, together at times and individally at others, with me in turning Jesse, assisting  when he was determined to get out of bed when he was physically incapable even of sitting up alone, it would have been impossible to have realized Jesse’s dream of remaining at home until the end.  Claire and Paul also played critical roles enabling this.  We didn’t know until it was happening and the  help all came together that it would be possible.  Jesse had the idea on Peter’s first visit to install a door bell near his bed to be rung for the night help that I required.  Peter installed it and answered those calls whenever he was here.  How can anyone thank another adequately for such ministry?  Loving friends have provided meals along the way so that we could all focus on Jesse and his care.  Numbers of people have come to visit with Jesse or to simply sit by his bedside and hold his hand.  I have felt we have been wrapped in God’s care.



You are part of this beloved community.  You have supported us in so many ways.  We are so very grateful.  I thank God for you. About six weeks ago Jesse wrote this letter, with help from each of his daughers.  It is a touching tribute to me that I share with you because he wished it to be so.  It follows this note. Grace and Peace and Gratitude,

          ~~  Mollie Clements



January 18, 2012. My Community of Family and Friends,

Mollie has greeted me of a morning with a smile, a touch, a kiss.  She’s looked at the bed where I have been lying most of the last 34 months and immediately begun to straighten or untangle the covers.  She could tell at a glance if I was too hot or uncovered somewhere.  “Do you want this cover off?  Do you want a drink?”  “Yes,” I croak. She has lifted a glass of cool water and placed a straw to my lips.  With my throat moistened I could now swallow the 30 mg morphine tablet Mollie dropped in my mouth to stop the chest pain without fear of it sticking to the side of my throat, refusing to move up or down like a leech in the jungle of Mindinao. If I’d had a night sweat Mollie took off my long sleeve cotton shirt, sponged, dried and powdered my back and put on a fresh shirt.  I felt like a new man.  Now-a-days these kinds of experiences bring back to memory an old love song sung by Dolores Keane that has become more and more dear to us:
Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one above you?
You fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.


           Oh, the morning sun in all it’s glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
You fill my life with laughter, you can make it better
Ease my troubles that’s what you do


           There’s a love that’s divine
It’s yours and it’s mine
Like the sun at the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray
To the One, to the One, to the One



Sometimes closeness is manifested in more distant ways.  Mollie was driving alone on the other side of town and she passed our favorite used furniture store.  We liked to pop in because many of our trreasures come from these places.  She spotted a little bed side table that was 20″ x 24″ on the top, the perfect height for me to reach my essentials.  It was not only slightly larger and more stable than the table I had been using, but it also had a drawer and a shelf under that.  The drawer was on ball bearings.  To cap it all, this fine little piece of furniture was made in Vietnam of hard wood, with a fine mahogany finish on it.  Every time I touch or look at that table I am again grateful to Mollie for selecting something so beautiful and functional.


During the past few years, my physical world has been reduced to a smaller and smaller orb.  First it was to the city and the surrounding lakes, then it was to the house and our yard.  With a cane or the walker I could navigate from one end to the other of our ranch style house.  Next I cut off the small office on the west end of the house where my computer sits with its arms embracing 2853 unopened emails.  That left my easy chair in the sunroom where we receive medical personnel and visit with friends.  The last line of defense in this Alamo is our bedroom where I hold court from a double bed enhanced by the handsome all purpose table Mollie delivered to my bedside.
Say, have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one above you?
You fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.

          ~~   From Jesse


November 3, 1934 – March 1, 2020


Rev. Mollie Susan Gee Clements met Jesse, her husband, at the Faith and Life Community at the University of Texas. They were married in Sweden and for their honeymoon worked building a community center in Mindanao, the Philippines. Mollie later attended seminary. Mollie and Jesse worked together in Hong Kong, teaching and in social service to refugees from China, and later in community and economic development in the slums of Bombay. Mollie served as a minister for two decades in Indianapolis, and Mollie and Jesse retired to Kalamazoo, remaining active in work for social justice, in her church community, and helping to establish Justice For Our Neighbors-Kalamazoo, which provides legal aid to immigrants. Mollie was predeceased by her husband, Jesse, son, David, and parents John and Gertrude Gee. She is survived by a love family from all over the world too numerous to count, by brothers John, George and Dick and their families, daughters Crispin (Reg), and Claire, sons Peter (Maria), and Paul (Aedin) and grandchildren Marilyn, Michelle, Amelia, Porter, Anna, Bridin, Kriya, Amani, Muhammad, Isa, Mumtaz and Tiara, and all their loved ones, and great granddaughter Amalia.




Oh, I’m sad today. I’ve learned that Molly Clements is no longer in the world I’m in.  An angel here on earth was Molly.  I am so very grateful she was in my life. We met in the In-kind Office in Management Centrum in the ICA office in Chicago probably about 1978.  She had just come back from India and was probably carrying the effects of illness which she never talked about.  I had been in in-kind for several years and was glad to have a new team member to help.  The joy of it was she became a dear friend, a colleague is the truest sense of the word.  I got to know her beautiful children and her amazing husband.  Each and every one of them was truly a gift.  Molly was quiet but as solid as a rock.  She was thoughtful yet forward thinking.  Always caring about the other.


We stood on the shoulders of Molly and Jesse when we were assigned to Nam Wai, Hong Kong.  Their significant work in Hong Kong  was legendary by the time we arrived in Nam Wai in 1980.  Dear Father Harold Naylor of Wah Yan College became our friend due to Molly and Jesse.  He was a dear friend and pastor to the staff in Nam Wai.  When it was time for our son, Chris, to join the Student House in 1983, we asked Molly and Jesse to be his local parents.  They graciously said yes.  Of course, Jesse took him fishing.


I am thankful for Molly’s great gifts of spirit and love.  She was a model of what our Order was all about.  Peace be with you.

          ~~   Louise and Jack Ballard


Molly was a very special person, I worked with both Molly and Jesse. They were a spirit couple who will always be remembered by our family. The Communion of Saints grows ever onwards. Thanks be for their lives and witness and service. With greetings  from the south land.

          ~~  Isobel Bishop


Molly was a steady strong presence when she and Jesse were assigned to New Orleans. I travelled with Jesse in southern Mississippi doing town meetings in 1979 for a time. I remember her gaze and always tried to live up to her expectations for caring for others.

~~. Diann McCabe, San Marcos, TX


Molly and Jessie were a great symbol of care for the mission & for us when we first met and worked with them in Hong Kong. May the remnants of their caring be forever part of the Universe On Behalf of ALL  Grace & Peace

          ~~   Wanda Holcombe


Molly and Jessie touched my life when I was first assigned to the Bombay House in India in 1977. I soon became aware of their spirit and how it just flowed out of them. I called them the King and Queen of Sankli Street! Of course it was always hot, and the night belonged to the bedbugs!. They were thin, but so was just about everybody else. Mother Theresa’s Ashram was just down the street, and the Methodist guest house was at the end of the street. As I got to know them and see their passion, it was the joy they exuded that always caught me off guard. They were just “home”. They could spend the rest of their lives there. You knew that wherever they landed, a pair of lovers of service walked off the plane. Thank you both for showing that life there, life anywhere, was just joy, bottomless joy.  Journey On, Journey On, my dear Colleagues.

          ~~  Jack Gilles