Clara L. Bush, passed away on Tuesday, August 8, at St. John’s Hospital, Jackson, Wyoming. She was 88 years old.
On March 13, 1935, Clara was born in St. John’s hospital to Lester and Melba May. Shewas the second of 5 siblings (Lanny, Clara, Mary, Dick, and Bob) all born within less than 5 years of each other. Her parents bought their first ranch in 1941 (the Jim Budge place on Mormon Row) and their second ranch in 1942 (the Parthenia Stinnett place), just east of the first ranch. That gave them 600 acres at the south end of Mormon Row.
Clara’s family raised cows, horses, pigs, and chickens, and had a dog named “Old Brownie.” Elk meat and bottled vegetables and fruits were staples for Clara’s family. They rarely went to town unless someone got sick or was having a baby.
Clara loved flowers and birds. As a kid, she wanted magpies, so her little brother Bob took two babies from a nest and brought them to the house. Clara and Mary, raised the magpies and taught them to say, “Hello Jack!”
As the granddaughter of Thomas Alma and Lucile Moulton, Clara talked about running around in her grandparents’ famously photographed barn, now part of the Mormon Row Historic District in Grand Teton National Park. Like many families on the Row, the Mays eventually sold their ranch to John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s Snake River Land Company in 1951. Clara loved Mormon Row and visited every summer, including her last visit a week before she died.
After selling the Mormon Row ranch, Lester bought the Bill Wells’ ranch, now the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club area. Three years later, they sold it, bought a dry farm on Porcupine Creek, and moved to town.
One of Clara’s first memories of her husband, Louie Bush, was as a kid “taggin’ along with his dad, Guy Bush, and three brothers—Joe, Roy, and Roche—when they’d come up Kelly Road to our ranch on Mormon Row to buy grain and hay for their animals.” During Clara’s freshman year at Jackson-Wilson High School, she and Louie became high school sweethearts; their love for each other never ended. After graduating, Clara attended a year of cosmetology school in Salt Lake while Louie served 2 years in the Army. On November 3, 1956, they were married in Lester and Melba’s home on the corner of Cache St. and Simpson Ave.
Under the picture of Clara May in her senior yearbook, it reads, “She will go far in life with her sweet personality and friendliness.” And Clara did go far.
As a licensed cosmetologist, she worked 3 months for Valerie Smith at the Gai-Mode Beauty Salon next to the Jackson State Bank before Valerie decided to sell the salon. (Gail Moore, the original owner, named it the “Gai-Mode,” meaning “happy style” in French.) At age 19, Clara went with her dad to the bank to get a loan for $3,000. But banker Felix Buchenroth, said, “No way am I lending any money to a girl one year out of high school!”
So Clara asked both her grandparents for a loan; both turned her down. Great Grandma May wanted nothing to do with buying a risqué business! Out of the blue, Clara’s Uncle Wayne May loaned her the money, which jump-started Clara’s 52-year career as a hairdresser and business owner.
Two years after they married, Louie and Clara had a son, Eric. Five years later, in 1963, Clara gave birth to identical twins, Sarah and Laura. With 3 children and a growing business, going back and forth from their home on Glenwood St. became too difficult, so Louie bought a commercial trailer in Idaho Falls, and put it next to their home. The trailer had 2 booths, a tiny waiting room, a restroom, and a room in the back with 4 hairdryers and 2 manicure tables.
Fifty-two years later, Clara had grown her business beyond anything she had imagined. Her brother Lanny, a carpenter, built on several additions to make space for more hairdressers, services, and retail products. Over 5 decades, Clara hired and mentored countless numbers of women (and one man). She expanded the number of Gai-Mode customers one friendly smile and one relationship at a time, all while doing much of the cleaning, bookkeeping, snow shoveling, laundry washing, flower planting, and grass watering on her own. As her 4 children grew, they worked at the shop. Louie fixed anything broken, and in winter, he kept the parking lot ploughed. He also worked beside Lanny to build additions to their home.
In 1991, Louie suddenly passed away at 56. Heartbroken, Clara carried on without him, but nothing was ever the same. Fortunately, her youngest daughter, Anna, lived at home, worked at the shop, and became her mom’s best friend.
Clara closed the Gai-Mode in 2006. Two years later, she began hosting “Klassy Lassies,” a monthly LDS church social for women held in the “poppy room” of her former business. Clara, Anna, and Cindy Stillson had fun buying dollar-store holiday decorations for each event. Marge Ryan created the monthly menu and gave or assigned someone the “thought” to start each
As Clara’s memories began to fade, Anna became her primary caretaker. With weekly
assistance and meals delivered by the Senior Center, Clara was able to live at home until she
Clara is survived by daughters Anna Bush, Laura Bush, Sarah Bush Lloyd, Sarah’s husband, Duggins Wroe, and by her brother, Bob May. She was preceded in death by her husband, Guy “Louie” Bush; son, Eric; and siblings Lanny May, Mary Linnell, and Dick May. Services will be held at the LDS Church: Viewing on Aug 17, 6-7:30 p.m. and on Aug 18, 10-10:45 a.m. Memorial Service on Aug 18, 11 a.m. to noon; then dedication at Aspen Hill Cemetery, followed by lunch at 1:00 p.m. back at the LDS Church.
The family suggests donations to the Senior Center of Jackson Hole for all their compassionate care. Clara loved flowers, especially those designed by Jeanie Johnson of Briar Rose.