Gwendolyn Joyce Cleland, age 93, of Mena, Arkansas, died peacefully at her home on September 12, 2014, with her loving family and caregivers by her side. As we approach the one-year anniversary of her death, we’re reminded of why she was so special.
She was born on February 13, 1921, to Arthur Raynold Anderson and Gertrude Rasmussen Anderson in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents were candy makers, and in 1926, the family of four moved from Chicago to Richmond, Illinois, and opened Anderson’s Hand-Made Chocolates, which they operated out of their home. Gwen often worked in the shop after school, cultivating her sweet tooth.
Gwen loved music and sang in the college choir with her future husband and love of her life, Robert Scott Cleland. They were married October 31, 1942, and were fortunate to celebrate 70 years of marriage. They started their married life in San Pedro, California, where Robert, “Bob,” began his naval service during WWII. Meanwhile, Gwen supported the war effort by working on aircraft engines in a local defense plant, and was one of the many women who became known as “Rosie the Riveter.”
After the war, they returned to Chicago, but soon moved to the South with three children in tow, living in Florida, Georgia, and Texas. As Bob once recalled in a family letter, “The five of us, and all our worldly goods were loaded into our ’49 Dodge and a one-wheel trailer and off we went to Gainesville.”
During these years, Gwen taught grade school through high school, largely focusing on Special Education classes. Later, after earning her Masters at University of Houston, she became a Guidance Counselor until her retirement in 1982. Despite all the work and academic demands, Gwen and Bob’s family enjoyed many cross-country camping and fishing adventures over the years, creating memories that will be treasured for years to come.
Gwen found her true passion later in life after buying a quarter horse from a fellow teacher. She started her own horse business, Brookmere Arabians, and later retired with Bob to their horse farm in Northern California. A decade later, they relocated to Mena, Arkansas, which they considered to be the grand prize of all. As Bob later wrote in a love letter, “And here we have privacy and quiet like never before, and no one to bother us except the crows.”
If she couldn’t be with her beloved horses, Gwen, a homebody at heart, was happiest either playing the piano or watching the many beautiful wild birds outside her kitchen window. She once said, “If we should die tomorrow, we have had the most wonderful retirement.”
Gwen was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, Raynold Anderson; and her husband, Robert Scott Cleland.
She is survived by her children: Richard Cleland of Pell Lake, Wisconsin; Margaret Collins of Denver, Colorado; and Janet Cleland and her husband, Jim Grove, of San Anselmo, California. She is also survived by seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and five nieces and nephews.
The family is forever grateful to Gwen’s wonderful caregivers and to Ouachita Regional Hospice.
Arrangements were under the direction of the Beasley-Wood Funeral Home of Mena. A memorial gathering was held July 6, 2015, in Crested Butte, Colorado, at a favorite family vacation spot.
Online obituary: www.beasleywoodfuneralhome.com