Co-founder of Chernobyl Children’s Project
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 3:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 3:15 p.m.
An activist and humanitarian, Constance McClain was passionately involved in both political causes and helping others. She helped improve the lives of thousands of children through the Chernobyl Children’s Project, which she co-founded with her husband, Clifford McClain, in the 1990s.
Mrs. McClain died on Feb. 17, 2013 at the age of 92.
Born in Philadelphia, Penn., Mrs. McClain’s family moved to southern California in 1933. She majored in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and after her sophomore year, delayed studies to enlist in the Marine Corps. During World War II, she served with military Intelligence and sang with the Marine Corp Choir.
She returned to school after the war, and met her husband Clifford McClain. They were married after graduation and have been together for 65 years.
Mrs. McClain was active in political causes and in supporting various politicians. Once, she was arrested protesting with Caesar Chavez.
In 1974, they completed work on their new home in Petaluma, which became McClain’s Holiday Farm. On the thriving Christmas tree farm they raised livestock, fruits and berries for public picking, and hosted bus loads of school children each year to picnic on the grass.
The McClains took a year-long trip to Europe in ‘66 and ‘67, and later went to Africa, China, New Zeeland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Middle East — often during times of political unrest.
While in the Soviet Union in 1990, they witnessed the plight of people affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In response, they founded the Chernobyl Children’s Project, an effort to offer a respite to the children suffering from the effects of living in a radiated environment. The organization brought dozens of children each year from 1991 to 2008 to spend six weeks with North Bay families for a summertime exchange program.
Mrs. McClain served on the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Committee, was involved with Helping Hands and was active with the Petaluma United Methodist Woman’s group and Marriage Encounter. She also planted the Petaluma Peace Garden in 1988 outside Petaluma City Hall.
Mrs. McClain is survived by her husband, Clifford McClain; children, Shirley Ingram of Penngrove, Steve McClain of Eugene, Ore., Craig McClain of Petaluma, Candice Van Beek of Greenville, Mo, and Paul McClain of Kentfield; grandchildren; step-grandchildren; and great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life was held earlier this week.
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