In Memoriam: Clare McCreary
After 75 years of membership, the oldest member of the Society passes at age 107 — still singing to the end!
an appreciation by Lance Lubin
There are legendary barbershoppers whose names we all know. For every one of those however, there are dozens of heroes who never won a gold medal, but who have served as the glue who have held this artform together, influencing hundreds of lives, inspiring them, educating them, and helping them blossom as artists.
Dr Clare McCreary joined the heavenly choir November 15th, 2023. Clare was not only the oldest member of the Society at 107, he was the oldest competitor to ever cross the contest stage, which he did in Sunshine District, at the ages of 100 and 101, with his quartet, "The Dr. Is In".
Clare was a barbershopper for over 75 years, and there is no telling how many people's lives he touched and how many hearts were lifted, but it was many. In his barbershop life, he was an avid woodshedder, arranger, coach, director, vocal pedagogist, chorus member, and sang in too many quartets to count. One of his most notable was “The Ringmasters” (this was 50+ years before those Swedish kids were even a glimmer in their parent’s eyes). He also wrote and edited the award-winning newsletter, “Scoops and Swipes”.
In 2017, Alex Sturgill produced this delightful video portrait of Clare, then a mere 101 years old.
Clare and his wife June, were married just days after Pearl Harbor. After World War II, they moved to St. Petersburg Florida. Clare was an orthodontist, and he and three dentists formed a quartet, called “The Dentalodians”. The four wives formed a quartet, “The Dental Flossies”. Clare always joked that they had done it in “self-defense”. He joined the St. Petersburg Chorus, which ultimately became the Greater Pinellas Chapter (AKA The Florida Suncoast Chorus), holding many offices as well as Barbershopper of the Year numerous times.
At his recent 107th birthday party, Clare performed in two quartets and sang a solo version of “Young at Heart”. He was indeed young at heart, always welcoming change, enthusiastically supporting “Everyone in Harmony”. What did he want for his 100th birthday? A 3D printer of course. No doubt, to crank out pitch pipes. But into his second century he was still playing tennis three days a week, driving, and wagging his finger at quartet mates who didn’t know their notes and words, or sang “barber-choppy”.
He was a kind man, a loving man, and a role model for many. He and June were a romance for the ages. On a personal note, Clare was my “barbershop dad”, and every blessing I’ve had in my life resulting from barbershop, I owe to him.
A beautiful thing is that Clare was a charter member in the recent rebirth of the St. Petersburg chapter (AKA The Sunshine City Chorus). He started in the St. Petersburg Chapter, and sang his last tag in the St Petersburg Chapter. We were honored to have him.
Dr Clare never won a gold medal, but if you remember that famous speech by Jim Henry about “Gold Medal Moments”, Clare made those gold-medal moments possible for many singers over the years.
As long as there’s a chord to ring, his memory will be a blessing.