She began her life in the small town of Whigham, Georgia being born on 11-23-1935 and was named Clara Mae Blakes. Her parents became known as Grandma Pauline (Pauline Neal) and Grandpa Flimmie Birkins and Great Grandpa Neal (Ed Neal). Growing up, being the sister of Bettie and James, whom the family call Auntie Bettie and Uncle Bro, it was evident she had certain traits which would continue with her throughout her life. Among these was her Christian-based beliefs, her love of family, her deep affection for children, and her warm, self sacrificing nature. She was beautiful inside and out she always had a big smile for everyone.
These qualities eventually caught the attention of young Joseph Pender, Sr. and they married in Miami in 1952. Together they bore and shared in raising: Joey Pender [Francine], Peter Pender [Benita], Timothy Pender (Timmy) [Jackie], Michael Pender (deceased), Gaye McDugle, Bridget DePass (deceased)[Desmond], Joseph Pender, Jr. [Isis] and Darlene Cordero The family continued to grow after they each remarried and resided within close proximity of one another allowing the kids to stay close.
Clara married English Gilbert in 1966. Between the “his”, “her’s”, and the “ours”, the family became a blended family to include: Denise Young, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Yvette Gilbert. Eventually it became a blended family which would total 16 children from these parents: Joseph & Clara Mae Pender, Joseph & Clara Pender [2nd marriage](deceased), Joseph & Martha Pender [3rd marriage], and English & Blanche Gilbert [1st marriage](deceased), English & Clara Gilbert [2nd marriage](both now deceased): Joey, Peter, Denise (Emmanuel aka Vince), Joann (Robert), Timothy, Michael, Melvin (Violet), Gay, Bridget, Joseph Jr., Darlene, Cynthia, Liz, Yvette, Nanette (deceased)[Darryon], and Tanya (Carlos).
Mama has 30 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. She was a survivor, having outlived her parents, two of her children, her brother, and even her grandchild. At 4:15 AM on Sunday, 12-04-2022, having given all she could to those she loved, Clara took her last breath. Her request was that she be laid to rest where her brother lies. Coming full circle, she ends where she began, in her hometown of Whigham, Ga. Having left an indelible mark on the hearts on those whom she has left behind, she is a soul who will truly be missed - her joyful laughter, her genuine hugs, and her constant open nature about speaking of God. John 11:11 tells us that when Jesus Christ’s dear friend Lazarus became sick and died, Jesus told his apostles “Lazarus our friend has fallen asleep, but I am traveling there to awaken him.” When he arrived in the town he brought his friend back to life, he woke him up. We look forward to the joyous time when Jesus will awaken our dead loved ones, not the least of which is Clara. For now, may she rest in peace.
We thank God for assigning Clara Mae Birkins to be our mother. “Hello beautiful lady” was her favorite saying. So we can say of her “RIP, Beautiful Lady. We love you. You are the greatest Mom in the world. Job well done, Mom.” Dr. Clara Mae Gilbert, Degree in Parenting - 1953-2022
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