Tribute to Clarice Elfpha Dennis-Karloweah

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By John T. Woods

Clarice Elpha Dennis-Karloweah, who was born on December 26, 1948 and died on July 8, 2019, will be buried on August 17, 2019. She was the daughter of the late Eugene Henry and Cecelia Gould Dennis, raised by uncle and aunt, Elshmere Tyson and Viola Elpha Comella Woods. Clarice had 13 siblings and many cousins, including six Woods brothers with whom she was raised. Practically, the Woods brothers were also her siblings. She married John William Karloweah II, establishing a family that produced biological and adopted more than 12 offsprings. Many grand children have come from these offspring.

One can understand that Clarice emerged from a circle of family influence, The Dennis, The Davis, The Woods and The Karloweah. This circle of influence molded her character and made her to play the major roles she played not only in the family but in the nation as well. Clarice was the glue that kept all members of the families together. She was a woman of substance, strong in virtue and character, educated and alert, caring, sensitive to the plight of the family members, sociable, highly religious, and patriotic.

She played many critical roles in keeping the family together. I am unable to enumerate all but remember some of the most important ones. She became the daughter/niece of Viola Woods who raised her from the age of 9 years. Clarice was her mother/aunt’s hand bag, placing her in the position of a housewife and mother of the family. Head of the Woods family, E. Tyson Woods died in a plane crash in 1958 and his wife, Viola became afflicted with blindness and dismemberment of one leg. Clarice assumed the role of the functional mother of the Woods family. She received her blessings from the manner she took care of our mother until her death in 1964.

She continued to play her role when our elder brother, Dr. Emile T. Woods, a gynecologist and head of the Maternity Center of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, became ill with stroke and never recovered until death after several years. Sister Clarice assumed the responsibility to retire his mortgage on his house with her own money at the National Housing and Savings Bank, rather than allow the Bank foreclose on the mortgage. By taking this action Sis Clarice was able to move in the house, where she hosted her father E. Henry Dennis, Sr. and Mother, Cecelia Dennis, until their demise in her hand. She again received her blessings from this action.

Clarice’s brother, John Woods, was the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority when the Military Coup occurred in 1980. John was imprisoned with others by the PRC Government. During this period Clarice became concerned and restless. She developed friendship with a PRC stakeholder, Albert Toe and campaigned for the release of her brother, John Woods, who was released on November 7, 1980 and escorted by Albert Toe to his home. This is the time I developed respect, love and loyalty for my sister, Clarice.

Clarice was always there for her family members. I remembered the gallant statement she made against authorities of the United Methodist Church when they unfairly treated her nephew, Victor Dennis. As one of the Methodist pastors, Victor never got the recognition and promotion he deserved from the authorities of the Church.

Sister Clarice was a devout Christian, a characteristic she inherited from her two original families who instilled Christian values and principles in the children. She was an active lay servant in the First United Methodist Church, rising in positions to the level of Head of the Women Auxiliary in their local church and Annual Conference. In that position, Clarice attracted investments in the real property for the Women ie, the GT Bank building on 13th Street in Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia. She maintained a working relationship with other influential women like late Mary Bedell and Comfort Logan. I know she maintained that relationship with Mrs. Eliza D. J. Kronyanh and Rev. Dr. Erlene Perry Thompson of the First Methodist Church until her death.

Another family trait Sister Clarice brought to the table is amicability. She was friendly, open to all and willing to share with anybody what she had. This was why she rose to the rank of a Grand Officer in the Order of Eastern Star. I enjoyed taking her out to places of entertainment because she will not allow me to take the bills alone as her brother even if I insisted. She would claim gender equity for her entitlement to the bill.

Sister Clarice came from two large families, showing love and concerns for her siblings and demonstrating integrity. These are favorable attributes of a good citizen. Such a person has the potential for establishing a strong functioning family. Sister Clarice did not miss the mark. She built a large functioning family unit. She and her husband John started with their younger siblings and the offspring of their less fortunate siblings and wards from the rural areas. Then they began to produce their own offspring ending with the addition of the grandchildren. There were more than a dozen children to feed, clothe, train and educate in her family unit. John Karloweah died earlier leaving Sis. Clarice the burden to raise the family, an obligation which she discharged fully in maintaining a functioning family until her demise.

If I were to grade her for performance in maintaining a functioning family, Sister Clarice would score 99%. One indicator of success is there are no way-ward in her family. Another is the number of educated children that are fully employed in high good paying jobs. Two of the children, Ghoma E. Karloweah and Edward Foster, have held job positions in the UN system, one son, Daniel is in high tech job in the USA, another Lamin served Firestone Company and was honorably retired 2018 while William (Bill) serves in the Health sector in Liberia. Others are yet in schools of good standards in Liberia preparing themselves for a better future.

These are evidences that reasonably suggest that my Sister lived a very successful life within the context of family units that functioned well and produced children that are good citizens of Liberia.

In general, family units make up a nation. Such a family unit consists of a father and a mother who produce, nurture and educate offspring prepared to meaningfully participate in the running of a nation

The stronger, more functional and cohesive the family units, the stronger and faster the nations they make up develop and grow. Liberia at 172 years can be characterized as a nation with somehow weak, malfunctioning and disorganized family units especially in its post war era. This characterization, I believe, has contributed to the snail pace growth and development of the nation.

However, there have been a few strong and functioning family units in Liberia despite this characterization. My late sister, Clarice Elpha Dennis-Karloweah was a part of three strong, functioning and cohesive families.

The Woods was one of the strongest functioning families that ever lived in Liberia. This well-educated family hailed from Urban Montserrado County area and produced five sons. The couple realized that Liberia can achieve its full potential as a nation if the citizens in the interior of the country are as equally educated as those in the urban coastal areas. The Woods family moved to Zorzor District in the Western Province which is known as Lofa County today. Mr. Woods recruited 4 boys from each town in Zorzor District and established the first public school in Ziggida, Lofa County in 1947. It is believed that this was the first time the government of Liberia spent public money to educate citizens of Lofa after 100 years of independence in 1847.

Sister Clarice, you played your role in our family settings for which we are proud of you, we cherish you and we honor you, we will miss you, and wish for you a place in God’s Kingdom. We bid you farewell, and we hope you will meet Uncle Tyson and Aunty Viola, Uncle Henry and Aunty Cecelia. Bro. Emile and E. Henry and all other faithful departed souls.

Rest in perfect peace and may life perpetual shine on you.

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