Arvelle Day McClees

Arvelle Day McClees (1946 – 2010)


Arvelle Mary Day McClees passed away unexpectedly from pneumonia December 17, 2010, falling in her last battle in a larger fight against a rare dementia that took her words and independence; but left her radiant smile and cheerful manner.


Born in Seattle in 1946 to Arville and Delores Day, Arvelle (after her dad) grew up in the country (Cathcart) where her parents instilled in her a love of nature and animals.  They had an acre to raise raspberries, chickens and turkeys.  She and her sister Merrie loved riding a horse boarded on adjacent land and competing in 4-H where both earned blue ribbons.  Arvelle enjoyed tap dancing and attending the local Baptist church.  Her dad, “Happy”, taught her a love of people and her mother taught her faith.  Arvelle was a Snohomish High School graduate.


She began her career at Pacific Northwest Bell in 1966, where her dad then retired, had worked for forty years.  When he died, her mother moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her sisters.  After finishing Everett Community College and selling the house, Arvelle joined her sister and mother in L.A., staying with the phone company.  Soon after, her mother joined her father.


While in Los Angeles, Arvelle she met Alan Freeman, marrying in 1976.  After ten years, their marriage was dissolved, though they remained friends.  She returned to Puget Sound, living in Federal Way, where she joined Christ Lutheran Church.


Outgoing with ready laugh, Arvelle volunteered at Group Health and was drawn to helping the families of young patients.  She saw clowns entertaining the children and inspired, developed a clown persona, choosing “Happy” as her clown name.  What she lacked in juggling ability, she made up for in face-painting and making balloon animals.  She was encouraged by other clowns in the Telephone Pioneers service organization.


With a heart for peace, Arvelle volunteered in 1990 to work as a reception hostess at the 1990 Seattle Goodwill Games.  She greeted athletes from around the world and made them feel at home.


Not having a child, Arvelle prayed that she would meet “an intelligent man with a sense of humor, who enjoyed people, and who had a daughter.”  In 1990, her dear friend (and matchmaker) Harriet introduced Arvelle to Herbert McClees, who was also attending a series of cinema social events.  He was a design engineer at HNTB, with a daughter, Johanna, in primary school.  They went camping together with memories for a lifetime.  Arvelle joined Herb’s church in Kirkland attending bible study, teaching Sunday school, serving as secretary for the Episcopal Church Women, and a caring listener in Stephen Ministry for people in crisis.


Meanwhile, Arvelle continued her education in communications at Seattle Central Community College, learning American Sign Language and being inducted into Phi Theta Kappa an international scholastic order for two-year colleges.


Arvelle and Herb married in 1996 at St. John’s Episcopal in Kirkland, making their home in Juanita.  She loved to garden, laying out a garden scientifically with the Johanna’s help, kept finches and cared for her seventeen year old cat. Herb and Arvelle attended dance performances and took tango and acting improv classes together. Later that year, Arvelle accepted early retirement from the phone company (now US West Communications) after thirty years of service. So in a way, she gained one family and lost another.  After a break, Arvelle resumed working as a temp.  In the community she volunteered at the Multi-Service Center (food bank), Habitat for Humanity, and the library.


About this time an article in the paper showed a boy’s joyful reaction upon receiving a teddy bear from a Minneapolis policeman.   Arvelle contacted the Kirkland police and started collecting and cleaning bears for local children in crisis.  These she photographed, blessed and packaged to be carried in patrol cars and fire trucks.


Around 2002, Arvelle’s difficulties in organizing and communication became apparent to those who knew her well and made temping problematic, forcing her retirement from the business world at 56.


Almost by way of compensation, her creative and craft side blossomed.  Armed with her retirement award camera, Arvelle started taking numerous pictures of the downtown Kirkland area.  Her many pictures were of flowers, children, birds, pets, and sculptures and breathtaking sunsets from their view deck where they now lived. She would cut up the pictures with scalloped scissors, add pieces recycled from other cards and create unique greeting cards, “Crafted by Arvelle Created by God.”   Carrying a bright golfing umbrella, she became a familiar figure in her daily exercise and photo expeditions.


This way of life continued into late 2008 when she could no longer move freely in safety.  In 2009 Arvelle was placed in the loving care of the staff at The Cottages at Mill Creek, Assisted Living for Dementia where her youth and ready smile brightened the place.


She is survived by her sister, Dr. Merrie Day, and adopted in love daughter, Johanna Phillips, of Mill Creek and her husband, Herbert McClees and preceded in death by her parents and her half-brother, George Atland.


A memorial service in celebration of Arvelle’s life will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 105 State St., Kirkland on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 10:00 am with reception to follow.

10 Responses to “Arvelle Day McClees”

  • Lisa Kelly says:

    I feel blessed to have known Arvelle, and wish I had had the chance to know her longer. She was a gentle spirit, with an innocence that few, if any, have as an adult.

  • Don Mackay says:

    It was a joy to have known Arvelle and to have been a part of her life. She was a very creative caring person who loved people and life in a very special way. Her life touched mine and many others and made us all richer for the experience. Her bright countenance and beautiful smile blessed all who knew her.

  • Holly H says:

    To the family of Arvelle, my heart goes out to you all. We’ve never met, but I was touched by reading her story. I too have a mother who is in need of additional care due to the ravages of dementia. I how how heartbreaking it is to watch that dreadful disease take hold of those we love. I hope you can find a measure of comfort found in the promises of a better world where death, pain, and tears will be no more. (Rev. 21:3,4 and Psalms 37:10,11,29) Sincerely Holly Henderson

  • Evy Rosebrook says:

    Arvelle and I were friends from the 6th grade on. I spent several afternoons at her house after school. It was fun to just walk across the street with her. I thought she was so lucky to live so close, while I had to ride a bus to and from school. Unfortunately, we lost contact with one another after graduation. I did not see her again until she attended one of our class reunions. Just recently I found a note she had written offering to put me on her mailing list. For some reason I never heard from her again. I was surprised to hear from Vicki of her death. Putting things together now, I understand why. Rest in peace Arvelle. It looks like you have left an indelible mark in the lives of many.

  • Kayleen Thornton says:

    I graduated with Arvelle, and had not seen her since, however, it sounds like she had a wonderful life,and what a wonderful tribute you wrote. Take comfort in all the years you and your daughter had with her, and hold the memories close in your heart. God Speed.

  • Vicki Mills says:

    Arvelle, you will always be remembered with love and affection. Your classmates from Snohomish High School – Class of 1964.

  • Linda Owens Schrier says:

    Arvelle touched many lives with others coming away much richer for having known her. I remember in HS- she had the courage to wear her headgear, and that took more courage than most possesed.

    I was sitting with her at the last Reunion picnic at the Farm and was happy to catch up with her. She will be missed by her old classmates.

    Merrie, Herb and Johanna, please accept my condolences. May God Bless

  • Susanna (Panchot) Jackson says:

    Please accept our condolences in the loss of Arvelle. I remember her from 8th grade (Cathcart), where I transferred in from a Seattle school. I remember her as a sweet, rather quiet girl. The tribute was precious, and I am happy to know she had a good, fulfilling life. I know you will miss her. God bless you.
    Sincerely, Susie Jackson (SHS, class of 1964)

  • joel says:

    Desde argentina les mando mis condolencias , he leido su historia , y me llego a mi corazon , JESUS es tan inmenso que la tiene en su gloria a ella ,Dios tambien bendiga a sus amigos y familiares quienes tuvieron ese regalo unico de haberla conocido ,mucho amor a ustedes :joel.
    ISAIAH 30:15
    For thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel:
    in returning and rest shall ye be saved;
    in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

  • Camille Fadia says:


    Dear Herb,Johanna, &Dr. Merrie Day:

    I just now found out that Arvelle died. I had been
    thinking of her for years. I was very, very sad to
    learn that she had died. I was born in Nov. 1945 and
    she was born in April, 1946. I am sad that she died so
    young and had dementia. Another close friend of mine,
    died of Alzheimer disease in 2017.

    I met Arvelle in Los Angeles in 1971. We became very,
    very close friends. She was bridesmaid at my wedding and I went to her wedding to Alan. He turned out to
    not to be a very husband. He was unfaithful to her.
    I regretted not telling her to not marry him.

    I am very glad she got her prayers answered and she
    married Herbert. She told me about you,Herb, Johanna,
    and Merrie.

    lost touch with. her after she was seeing you. I knew
    you went to an Episcopal Church.

    We had lots of, memorable together in L.A. We were close
    to each other. And to Ella Prell her aunt.

    My belated condolences to all of you. I will be crying
    now. Arvelle,s death hit me hard.

    Love in Christ,
    Camille Fadia


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