Catholic 02

Claire Carney Loftus

October 13, 2021

Obituary

Claire Carney Loftus, 87, of Carbondale, died Wednesday, October 13, 2021, at the Hospice of the Sacred Heart Inpatient Unit, Dunmore. Her husband, Henry Joseph Loftus, Sr., died in 1998.

Born in Carbondale, daughter of the late Joseph A. and Gertrude H. Judge Carney, she was a graduate of Carbondale’s Benjamin Franklin High School, Class of 1952. She attended Temple University for two years, returning to Carbondale and working with her parents and siblings at Carney Cut Rate (later Carney’s Drug Store), a fixture on Salem Avenue for 53 years. In 1955, the drug store burned to the ground in one of Carbondale’s most devastating fires. Her parents rebuilt the store where she continued to work until her marriage in 1963.

She was a life-long member of Saint Rose of Lima RC Parish, Carbondale. For many years she volunteered at the Dorflinger Glass Museum, White Mills.

She, and her husband Hank, assisted by their children, owned and operated the Big Chief Market in Mayfield from 1974 to 1992. Son Joe recalled that at 6 pm she would tell Hank to go home early since he’d been there all day, and he would tell her to go home early. They’d do that for an hour until the store closed at 7 pm. When they sold the store, she missed the customers, but not the work.

She loved dogs but wasn’t overly fond of cats. She was a Democrat but switched party in the early 1970s to support her brother-in-law Gene Garvey in his campaign for the State Senate (switching back after he lost). She had a strong sense of right and wrong, coupled with a deep sense of social justice. She took things that weren’t fair in the world personally.

She loved news, fictional forensic and real crime television shows. She loved to read mysteries and romance novels and the daily newspapers. She never missed reading the obituaries. Hi Mom!

She shared a wonderful sense of humor with her parents and siblings. When the conditions were right, and two or more of them were together, they would bring each other and any family and friends in the vicinity to tears through laughter. There are many stories to share of her adventures with her sister. We regret that you’ll need to hear them in person as Aunt Nan will be reading this. 

She was a lady who rarely left the house without a touch of lipstick. She also carried a bottle of smelling salts because, “You never know when you or someone around you will feel faint.” Three of her bottles will be available at the viewing and funeral—just in case.

Despite the fact that she did not like to have her photograph taken, she spent more than a decade wanting to pick a photograph. This was a delicate topic as the photo would grace the top of this obituary. Her children hope they have made the right choice. Mom, if you’re reading this, we hope the above photograph meets with your approval. If not, it’s Mary Beth’s fault.

She loved playing slot machines in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Some of her fondest memories were traveling there with her husband and friends Rosemary and Jack Kearney. On a trip to Las Vegas with her son Mark, she went out alone, disappeared for hours, returning to the room in the wee hours of the morning to casually toss a $1,200 jackpot on the bed.

Claire was a strong woman and a beautiful person, both inside and out. After dating Hank Loftus for several years, she asked, “Is ‘this’ going anywhere?” ‘This’ meaning their relationship, with anywhere implying marriage. Caught off guard he told her he couldn’t leave his widowed mother to support her house alone. Not many women begin married life by moving into the home of their mother-in-law. Claire did. Together they raised four children, with ALL of her in-laws in the mix.

When Hank had a heart attack in his early 40s, Claire had to work at the store until he could return to work. Grandma Alice watched the kids while Hank and Claire ran the grocery store.

After 25 years living and raising her family on Dundaff Street, Claire became the primary caregiver for her mother-in-law Alice, followed soon after with the addition of her own mother Gertrude. With help from the family, Claire cared for “the two mothers,” for over two years—one in a hospital bed in the former dining room, the other in the former living room. A visiting nurse accused her of running an unlicensed care home. Claire said, “This is my mother and that is my mother-in-law. If you want to arrest me, go ahead, I could use the break.”

She loved all of her grandchildren. She rented a house each year in Dewey Beach for a family vacation with her kids and grandkids. Seeing how close all of the “cousins” have become would make her proud, just as she would be seeing them mature into young adults. She did have a special bond with her grandson Nick. How could she not when he lived next door. She watched him every day, driving him to and from school.

For someone who thought about death a lot, she wasn’t ready to go—not without a fight. She clung to life. Before her dementia progressed, she said, “I can’t die, I have too many things going on.” Knowing that one of those things involved a long delayed pre-planning session with the family undertaker, her eldest son sarcastically suggested a visit to Brennan and Brennan. Claire’s immediate reply—with full sincerity—“No, I need a dress.”

Because, as any Irish Catholic woman of a certain age knows, you can’t pick out a casket until you know what color dress you’re going to be buried in.

Claire was a beautiful woman. In her early years, she looked like a young Elizabeth Taylor. In later years, she aged gracefully. At a local restaurant her son heard this: “Your Mom was here today. How old is she?” “Seventy-five years old.” “She looks goooood!”

The last few months of her life were not pleasant. Dementia is a terrible disease. Memories slowly disappear. We tried to surround her with love. That never fades. Claire’s primary caregivers were her daughter Mary Beth and her son-in-law “Mushkie.” They made it possible for Claire to stay in her home with some level of comfort as long as possible, even though she did not always know it was her home, or even her daughter. When it became impossible to keep her at home, her ninja abilities made it difficult to find just the right care facility. Not just any 87 year old woman can almost succeed in extricating herself while strapped to a gurney in a moving ambulance. Claire almost made it. Can you say Houdini Museum?

Thanks to the Hospice of the Sacred Heart, its nurses, aides, and social workers, Claire met the end of her life with dignity and peace while in their inpatient unit. This lessened the burden on her caregivers and family.

Claire’s family deeply appreciate all of the dedicated private and public caregivers, aides, nurses, doctors, EMTs, and healthcare professionals who took care of their Mom. Take a moment to reflect on the fact that these overworked and underpaid people will take care of the coming generation of aged. If you’re reading this obituary, you’re probably a part of that generation.

Claire loved ice cream. If there is a bright spot to having dementia, it’s fixing a bowl of ice cream while not remembering that you just had a bowl of ice cream. “Mom, what are you doing?” “I’m getting some ice cream.” “You just had ice cream.” “No, I didn’t.” - How do you argue with that?

Surviving are four children: Henry Loftus, White Mills; Joseph Loftus and wife Laura, Natick, MA; Mary Beth Ohmnacht and husband Jeffrey “Muskhie,” Carbondale; Mark Loftus and long-time partner Dena Lavender, Bear, DE. Grandchildren: Melissa, Adam and Timothy Loftus, Natick MA; Nicholas “Nick” Ohmnacht, Heather Barhight and husband Von, Jeffrey Ohmnacht, Carbondale; Aidan and Nathan “Nate” Loftus, Bear, DE; Jessica, Joseph and Andrew Lavender, Garnet Valley, PA. Great grandchildren: Natalie, Kelton and Auria.

Also surviving are a sister, Catherine Ann Garvey, Duryea; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends and neighbors.

In addition to her parents, her brother Joseph X. Carney preceded her in death. He was her “big brother” and she loved him.

The family would like to thank Mary Laskaris for being such a wonderful caregiver.

They would also like to thank the members of the Geisinger hospital family, especially the caring people at CMC-Geisinger where Claire endured multiple trips to the emergency room—sometimes as many as 3 in 24 hours. It is a credit to any hospital that its people make enough of an impression on a person with advanced dementia that she can say, “Well, we’re here again.”

While the Loftus family has every confidence in Brennan & Brennan, we also know our mother Claire. Rarely, was she on time for Mass. For those members of her family and friends who gather at the church for the funeral service, please expect a slight delay before the arrival of her body. It could be a delay from construction. Or, it could just be for a quick touch up of her lipstick.

The funeral will be Monday, October 18th, from the Brennan & Brennan Funeral Home, Inc., 55 Lincoln Avenue, Carbondale, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 am in Saint Rose of Lima Church, Carbondale. Interment, Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery, Finch Hill. A viewing will take place on Sunday, October 17th from 2 pm to 5 pm. Masks and social distancing are strongly encouraged.

Memorial donations may be made to: Hospice of the Sacred Heart Inpatient Unit, 100 William Street, Dunmore, PA 18512; Geisinger Health Foundation – www.geisinger.org; Carson Corrigan – 5 year old Superhero, https://gofund.me/ed4539f8. Or Carson Corrigan, 1213 County Lake Road, New Market, AL 35761.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Claire, please visit our floral store.


Services

Visitation
Sunday
October 17, 2021

2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Brennan & Brennan Funeral Home, Inc.
55 Lincoln Avenue
Carbondale, PA 18407

Mass of Christian Burial
Monday
October 18, 2021

11:00 AM
St. Rose of Lima Church
6 North Church Street
Carbondale, PA 18407

Interment
Monday
October 18, 2021

Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery
404 State Route 106
Greenfield Twp., PA 18407

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