In the early hours of Tuesday, November 15, 2022, Claranita McAllister Ernstrom returned to her Heavenly Father after a well-lived life due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease. Over her 83 years, she was much loved and many things to many people: daughter, granddaughter, big sister, cousin, wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, friend and more. But above all else, she was a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ and a doer of His words.
Born July 27, 1939 in Logan, Utah, Claranita was the oldest of DeVere and Ila Cox McAllister’s six children. During her early years of life, as her father served in the Navy, completed his education and began his career, she lived in several places including Logan, Providence, Beaver and St. George, Utah; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Ft. Collins, Colorado; and Ames, Iowa. All of these moves at such a young age taught her to be resilient and taught her to see the best in all people.
Her family eventually settled in Cache Valley, Utah where she graduated from South Cache High School in 1957. As a student at Utah State University, she met her future husband, Wayne Ernstrom, at a Lambda Delta Sigma activity. When Wayne was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she also took the opportunity to serve and was called to the Eastern States Mission where she spent most of her time in upstate New York.
After their missions, she and Wayne married on April 18,1963 in the Logan, Utah temple. Upon finishing her degree at Utah State, she taught mathematics in a Sugar House area junior high school. Wayne’s career with the Veterans Administration then took them to Perry Point, Maryland; Leavenworth, Kansas; Helena, Montana; and finally settling in Martinez, California, where she raised her family and lived for more than 40 years. In each of these places, she looked for opportunities to serve the community.
Education was very important to Claranita and she was actively involved in PTA at Las Juntas Elementary, Martinez Junior High, and Alhambra High Schools in the Martinez School District. She also volunteered time in the classroom, teaching about art to elementary school children and helping with school Christmas programs. She was an avid reader and loved to read to her children and grandchildren using different voices for each character.
She befriended the downtrodden throughout her life and was passionate about helping those with food insecurity. She dedicated many hours to serving those in need at Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa County and served as a board member.
Claranita sold Avon beginning in 1976 in Helena, continuing through the move to Martinez, and for more than 40 years. She liked the product, but mostly she loved the friendships and associations she formed with other Avon representatives and her customers. She would often take extra time and pay special attention to her elderly and shut-in customers or anyone that needed a little extra love.
Her other interests and hobbies included family history; sewing, quilting and needlework; music; word puzzles and games; and traveling the United States. She especially loved to visit her children and grandchildren and share outings and special occasions with them. She was an active member of her local Daughters of the Utah Pioneers chapter and appreciated her heritage and the sacrifices made of her ancestors. She also loved nature and cared about protecting it.
If you knew Claranita at all, you know that she had a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and was never afraid to share it. A life-long active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she served faithfully wherever and in whatever way she was asked, or whenever saw a need. On many Sundays you could find her playing the piano or organ, leading the music, or singing alto in the choir. She loved the scriptures and spoke of them often to all who would listen. She was bold in her faith and convictions and always motivated by the two great commandments: to love God and to love others.
After her children were raised and Wayne retired, they devoted many hours to the Concord and Oakland Family History Centers. They worked passionately on their own family histories and helped others to do the same. They also loved their time as workers in the Oakland temple serving people on both sides of the veil.
She was the driving force behind her and Wayne serving two missions together: one in the California Oakland Mission working with Young Single Adults in the Richmond area, and one in the Nauvoo Temple.
After returning from Nauvoo, Claranita was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, causing her to struggle with tremors, mobility and dexterity, and related dementia. But through it all, she remained upbeat and positive. She always recognized her family and close friends. Over the past couple of years, weekly family video calls became a highlight of her week. Her children take comfort and will always remember some of her last words to them on one of these calls. She said, “Goodbye, my angels,” right before drifting off to sleep just a few weeks before her death.
Claranita is survived by her siblings and their spouses: Francis & Marcia McAllister of Salt Lake City, Utah; Mary & Mark Bold of St. George, Utah; Ray & Juanita McAllister of Derwood, Maryland; Wilford & Zelda McAllister of Taylorsville, Utah; and LeAnne & Craig Loosle of North Logan, Utah and Wayne’s sister Helen Howell of Garland, Utah. She was a cherished aunt to many nieces and nephews.
Her legacy lives on in her five children and their spouses: Eric Ernstrom & Burleigh Kingsley of Oakland, California; Carl & Meg Ernstrom of Orem, Utah; Paula & James Wright of Gainesville, Virginia; Hyrum & Erica Ernstrom of Cypress, Texas; and Edward & Cambria Ernstrom of St. Louis, Missouri; and her fifteen grandchildren.
She was welcomed into the spirit world by those who went there before: her parents; her granddaughter, Elizabeth Ernstrom; and many ancestors and friends.
Her children wish to express their great appreciation to all of those who have served our parents during their mom’s illness, especially in the final weeks of her life, including the members of the Martinez and Pleasant Hill wards.
Services will be held Saturday, November 19 at 2 PM at the Martinez Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 940 Palisade Drive. Friends may call on the family from 6 to 8 pm, Friday, November 18 at Magleby's OAK PARK HILLS CHAPEL, 3111 North Main Street, Walnut Creek and one hour prior to the services on Saturday at the Martinez Chapel. Graveside services will be held at 2 PM at the Providence City Cemetery 925 River Heights Blvd, River Heights, Utah on Monday, November 21. Following the graveside services, friends and family will gather at Providence 5th Ward Chapel at 355 Canyon Road, Providence Utah.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Loaves and Fishes at https://loavesfishescc.org/ or your local food bank.
Loaves and Fishes