Alathea Denslow Clymer
Feb. 19, 1936 – May 16, 2022
After wrestling with Alzheimer’s disease for over a decade, Alathea Clymer, 86, gently passed away with the full moon on Monday, May 16, 2022 at the Long Term Care facility of South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Alathea was the daughter of two talented teachers who fostered her lifelong love of art, nature, music, science and swimming. Joyful childhood summers were spent at a lakeside cabin in New Jersey where she learned to swim like a fish. She became an accomplished synchronized swimmer, which explains her very precise backstroke technique to those fellow evening lap swimmers at the Homer pool. She was actively involved in Girl Scouts and went on to share her love of nature and campfire songs as a leader of several scout and mariner troops in New York and Oregon. After earning a bachelor of science from State University of New York, she moved west to Oregon and began her teaching career. She was selected to participate in the National Science Foundation teacher training institute, which led to a master of science in General Science with a minor in science education from Oregon State University. She taught school in Oregon and Alaska, ranging from elementary choir to high school biology and everything in between.
In 1962, Alathea married James Clymer, a handsome young teacher who was working at the same school as her father in New York City. That marked the beginning of many adventures for “Jim and Al” as they were affectionately known. They purchased half a homestead at Fritz Creek on their honeymoon to Alaska and returned in 1964, where they settled and raised three children. Teaching jobs in Homer were not forthcoming, so after living in Anchor Point, Ninilchik, Moose Pass and Healy, Jim and Al started Fritz Creek Studios. Together they owned and operated this small commercial print shop for about 30 years, with Alathea as the graphic artist and Jim running the presses. She transitioned over the years from setting lead type for rubber stamps and hand letterpress wedding invitations to bound community cookbooks and full four-color brochures. For several years they printed the Homer Weekly News, which featured the boat sketch masthead that she designed. She also mastered the original clip art, drawing whatever produce needed to be featured in the grocery store ads each week, plus a few seagulls here and there.
In her later years, Alathea combined her botany background with her artistic creativity to design a notecard series featuring Alaska wildflowers, berries, and scenic local sketches, peddling them and her illustrated calligraphy quotes at arts and craft fairs all over the state. Her carefully documented native plant collection from the 1970s is now housed in the collections at the Pratt Museum. A self-described compulsive doodler, she was never found without a stubby pencil tucked in her tidy bun and a small notepad within reach, jotting down her thoughts, prayers, interesting quotes, field sketches, or working away at a sudoku puzzle.
Alathea was inquisitive, methodical, tenacious and loved to read. She could expound at length about a variety of topics, from the Pleistocene era to the latest in brain research, from the poetry of Emily Dickinson to the scientific names of local plants. Although she took pride in never formally learning to read music, she spent her whole life singing, finding both friendships and joy. As an original member of the Sweet Adelines group that eventually became known as the Seaside Singers, Alathea was part of a circle of women who shared that passion. They showed up in costume, singing a cappella harmonies at events all over the community for nearly 40 years.
Alathea’s positive attitude and grateful heart shone through her entire life. Even when she could no longer walk or talk, she communicated, sometimes with the lift of a single eyebrow. Her caregivers during the final years were compassionate, wonderful, kind and many knew “You Are My Sunshine” by heart. Her amazing spirit will be remembered and cherished by many.
Alathea was preceded in death by her parents, Christine and Cornelius Denslow, and her beloved twin brother Lathrop “Dan” Denslow.
She is survived by her husband of 60 years, James Clymer; sister Abra Palumbo (and Bob); sister-in-law, Joyce Denslow; three children, Julia Clymer (and Karl), Emily Lokken (and Dave), and Walter Clymer; plus nieces Corie, Robynn, Forest, Anna (and their growing families), and a few lovingly “adopted” grandchildren along the way.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2022, at the Homer United Methodist Church in Homer, Alaska. In lieu of cut flowers, the family suggests donations to Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska, Homer Council on the Arts or a local organization helping those in need. Otherwise, if you are so inclined, plant some extra flowers this spring for Alathea — she would love that.