GREENFIELD — There were tears of sorrow but mostly laughter and warm memories as family and friends of the late Keith McClarnon, Greenfield’s longest-serving mayor, gathered Tuesday for a memorial service.
McClarnon, 84, died Thursday. At the service, each of his five children shared some of their memories of their father, a gifted civic leader who never forgot a name.
As the memorial service ended, church bells rang in tribute to the man who dedicated much of his life to serving the city.
Then, a long precession made its way through downtown Greenfield on the way to Park Cemetery. The route was fitting: As mayor for 20 years starting after his election in 1975, McClarnon is credited with helping transform the city into a vibrant community.
Along the route, many citizens and city workers, police officers and firefighters lined the sidewalks and stood at attention as the procession made its way along Main Street, past the city building that bears his name, and turning south onto State Street.
The memorial service was held at McClarnon’s beloved Bradley United Methodist Church, where he and fellow congregation member and political colleague Beverly Gard worshipped together.
“He was elected mayor the same year I was elected to the city council,” Gard said Tuesday as she marveled at her friend’s political career. “I served 13 years before I left for the Senate, and he went on to serve 20 years.”
She will remember the late mayor as a people person who always was thinking about the city and its residents.
“He always wanted what was best for the community,” she said.
The same sentiment permeated the memorial service, as the McClarnon children took turns reflecting on their father’s life.
His firstborn child, Marciann McClarnon Miller, said the political bug hit her father hard, but he was a man with many titles – not just mayor.
“Being mayor brought him joy every day,” she said. “He had certainly found his fate, but I think the roles he cherished most of all were the ones he did well every day: daddy, pawpaw, paw, husband and uncle.”
McClarnon’s oldest son, Kevin McClarnon, said his dad had no regrets other than maybe throwing a rock at the head of Kevin’s uncle Russell – one of McClarnon’s brothers.
The comment prompted the audience to erupt in laughter as Kevin shared the humorous story and other thoughts about his father.
“He loved his job, and he loved you,” Kevin said. “If God could have created a person of more apt fit for his vocation, it would be my father.”
Karry Kathleen Book sang a song in tribute to her father. She said he was blessed with many passions, including a great love for his church and his special seat by the stained glass window.
“What made him love the church was the people in the church,” she said. “It was all about people with Daddy.”
However, she noted, despite being a successful businessman and politician, his biggest passion was his grandchildren and children. In addition to his five children, he is survived by 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Son Keith McClarnon said the memorial service was a time to shift from sadness to joy.
“I really haven’t stopped smiling since Thursday,” Keith said. “Dad is at peace, and he is reunited with the absolute love of his life and the love of all of our lives, my mom (Joanne McClarnon, who died in 1997).”
His youngest son, Kelly, who followed his father into politics – he served on the city council and now is a member of the city’s board of works – said his parents blessed him and his siblings with great examples of how to live their lives.
He said his father was a kind, generous, genuine and loving man.
“He had a good life, and we were fortunate enough to live it with him and share it with him,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart we will never, ever be able to thank all of you here for being a part of his life.”