Clara Mae Davis, known to all as “Sissy,” passed away on November 19, 2020, just a few weeks after celebrating her hundredth birthday.
Born to James Wesley Viner and Millie Lou Elizabeth Willingham in Dancy, MS on September 30, 1920, Sissy is survived by her sisters Earlene Irwin and Mike Chiz, as well as two daughters, Kay Young and Daphne Matthews, eight grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her two sons Hayden and Tom. She is also preceded in death by her sisters Gladys Virgina Scott, Louise Lamastus, Mozelle Ellis, and Geneva Viner and her brother James Wesley Viner, Jr., as well as two husbands, C.H. Collier and George T. Davis. Not bad for a hundred years. Some people go through more spouses than that in their twenties.
And it wasn’t for a lack of suitors. Everyone says their mom or grandmother is pretty, but Sissy was truly a showstopper, once catching Erroll Flynn’s attention at a hotel in Flagstaff--so much so he invited her to the set where he was filming, an invitation she turned down to go see John Wayne instead. She was also courted by Lash LaRue, a Western actor who trained Harrison Ford how to use the bullwhip for the Indiana Jones series. Lash tried to take her off to Hollywood, but lucky for the rest of us, though she had the looks and the charm to grace any movie screen, she stayed behind and continued to run the Globe Theater in Drew.
Sissy grew up in an itinerant farming family during the Great Depression. The grit and toughness she developed during those years served her throughout her life. After losing her first husband to a plane crash, Sissy was left to run a movie theater business--all in the 1940’s as a young widow raising young children. Her early life also taught her creativity and frugality. George T. always said her best meals were made when there was nothing in the pantry at all, and her family remembers that she never liked to waste anything. Except for paper towels. She could go through a roll of those in no time flat.
Yet, despite the hard lessons learned from the Depression, Sissy was always generous with what she had. Thousands of people can attest that, back in the day, there was nothing like a party at the Big House. If you’re lucky, you can say you got to play greedy around the big oak table or sang and danced to the guitar and piano playing in the music room.
Much of Sissy’s life was spent in the Delta, but she and George T. put down roots on the Coast as well. 809 Country Club Drive became her home in 1973 the first time. Years after they had returned to the Delta and George T. passed, the Coast became her home once again. The first time around, you could often find her fishing along the seawall with her grandchildren or out shrimping with George T. near the islands. The second time around, you’d find her on the back porch, always with a story to tell, often about George T. and how mad she would get at him. Like the time he filled their kitchen with black soot playing around with balloons and acetylene with Tom. But it was always balanced with how much she loved him, and she often laughed til her eyes filled with tears. Even at a hundred years old, Sissy could tell a story from many years prior with remarkable clarity and always with color.
She lived a good, full, long life, and made such a lasting impression on so many, there is no doubt there will still be stories being told about her a hundred years from now. And those who tell her stories can only hope to have the grace and style Sissy had when they tell them. She faced her final days with the kind of courage and strength that the Greatest Generation is known for, and she never lost her lust for life and living. She will be missed.
Though Sissy herself was not afraid of COVID-19 in the least, due to concerns surrounding the virus, there will be no funeral or memorial service at this time.
RIEMANN FAMILY FUNERAL HOME, Ocean Springs, served the family. Memories may be shared and guestbook may be signed at www.riemannfamily.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Clara Mae Davis, please visit our floral store.