At 104, She Was Still 'Classy'

Correction Sept. 15, 2009

An earlier version of this story referred to a 2001 interview with Morant, but this interview took place in 2006.

Clarice Morant died at age 104.

hide captionClarice Morant died at 104. In this 2006 picture, she stands outside of her Washington, D.C., home, where she cared for her elderly brother and sister.

Joseph Shapiro/NPR

Clarice Morant made promises — and she kept them. Like the promise she made to keep her brother and sister out of a nursing home. It didn't matter that Clarice Morant — who was better known by her nickname, Classy — was more than 100 years old.

In a 2006 NPR interview, she said the promise kept her going.

"I made a promise to the Lord," she explained. "If he give me the health, the strength, the life to do for them, take care of them, keep them from going in a home, I would do it. And as long as he give it to me, I will give it to them."

So she fed and bathed her brother and sister. She was a tiny woman, but she lifted, pulled and dressed them. There were other caregivers in the brick row house they shared in Washington, D.C. But at nighttime, it was just Morant, her sister — Rozzie Laney, who was bedridden and dying of Alzheimer's — and her brother, Ira Barber, who'd had a stroke and had dementia.

Everett Barber, Clarice Morant's nephew, laughs gently when he remembers another promise: "One of the things that Classy made me promise with her is that she said, 'I will tell you when I am unable to take care of your father or I'm unable for him to stay here, and only then will you do something else.' So that was our agreement."

Morant was 102 when her brother died at the age of 96.

"She was all about providing whatever care they needed and never thought about, really, what her needs were and never complained about it. It was really remarkable," says Monica Thomas, a social worker with the Washington Hospital Center's Medical House Call Program, which provided health care for Morant's brother and sister.

"She had wonderfully, wonderfully expressive eyes — that you could see the determination and will and strength in her eyes," Thomas adds.

When her sister died, on the last day of last year, Morant was 104. Then, in the empty house, she started to wear down. This week, family gathered from around the country for Morant's funeral — and to thank her one more time for keeping her promises.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: