On Jan. 6, 2018, the love and light of my life went out when my beloved wife, Paula McClave, lost a decades-long battle with depression and took her own life.
Paula was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on July 17, 1947. The second oldest of five children, Paula grew up in Manson, Iowa, a small farming community of about 2,000 people. She picked peas and corn in the summers and played competitive women’s basketball in high school, going to the state championship free-throw contest as a senior, where she shot 24 of 25 free throws. Music was a large part of her life from the very beginning, and she sang with two friends in a trio at many venues around the state and at the national Mennonite youth conference in Colorado. She went on to spend two years at Goshen College in Indiana, leaving in 1968 to marry Steve Oswald and move to Colorado. Her beloved son Andy was born in Denver in 1970. She and Steve were divorced in 1974.
I met Paula during her separation from Steve when she was hospitalized at Denver General Hospital after an automobile accident, when I was a medical student on the surgical service. Following her divorce, we began dating, and I fell instantly in love. We were married March 16, 1975, and the following three years we spent in Denver while I finished my residency in internal medicine. Those years were filled with wonderful adventures together — cross-country skiing, backpacking and climbing 14,000 foot mountains, and watching Andy grow and play soccer.
We moved to Billings in August 1978, and I began my medical practice. Our wonderful daughter, Megan, was born a month later in September, and Graham, our second child together, was born in October 1980. The years when our children were young and at home were probably the happiest of her life. Paula loved cooking and for a time, sold freshly baked bagels out of our home, and then made delicious cheesecakes for Juliano’s Restaurant to use as desserts. She made quite a reputation as a cook and at one point was featured in The Billings Gazette.
In 1996, when our youngest son, Graham, entered high school, Paula started her own business, Paula’s Edibles, making caramel covered apples, and a variety of chocolate treats, which she built into a thriving concern, selling it in 2004.
Over the years Paula was a long distance runner, and in fact ran 7 miles a few days before our son Graham was born. She loved music, and couldn’t sit still at a rock concert, to the point where sitting next to her at a concert could be a hazardous experience. She loved dancing and was a natural — one of her disappointments in life was that her husband was rhythmically challenged in that regard. She was a very determined person. She taught herself to play the electric bass, and played as a band member for several shows at the Billings Studio Theater and was one of the founding members of the Midlife Chryslers. She loved singing in the choir at the King of Glory Lutheran Church. During our younger years, Paula was extroverted, and we shared many dinner parties and social gatherings with our friends. Some of my best memories were of trips we shared — to New Orleans where she went crazy dancing to the live music of Dwayne Doopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, and a two-week drive down the Oregon Coast in her beloved fire engine red Mazda Miata, and a float down the upper half of the Grand Canyon, capped by a 9-mile, 4,000 foot climb out of the canyon to return to civilization.
Sadly, after the sale of her business, chronic depression began to take an increasing hold on her. There were several suicide attempts, trips to psychiatrists and trials of many antidepressant medications and even electroshock treatments here and in Denver. As her depression became worse, she began to isolate and lost interest in all of her previous activities. She had two small strokes in the last couple of years and was in an auto accident last summer, suffering a traumatic brain injury, making it difficult for her to spell, write and text. She had chronic headaches which could never be effectively treated. Nothing seemed to break the darkening hold the depression had on her, and she reached the point where she just didn’t want to live any longer.
She is survived by her husband, Charles McClave MD; her oldest son, Andrew Oswald, and his wife, Charmagne; her daughter, Megan Strack, and husband, Jesse; and her son Graham and his wife, Katie, and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13, at King of Glory Lutheran Church. A reception will follow. Donations can be made in her memory to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.