Included in the large Fraleigh Collection at Historic Red Hook is the extraordinary work and years of research on the Fraleigh, Curtis, Losee families by Clara Weller Losee. These boxes of handwritten notes, letters to family members, sketches of properties, and reconstructed family trees provided an invaluable foundation for this project. The project team is indebted to her dedication to document these families.
Biography of Clara Weller Losee
Written by her granddaughter, Sarah K. Hermans
Clara Rosella Weller was born 30 September 1917 in Bangor, Franklin County, NY, to Clement Weller and Maude Kelly. She grew up poor and one of nine children, five of which did not live to adulthood. She came south to Dutchess County in the 1940’s and worked for Gordon Voorhis as his secretary at Voorhis-Tiebout in Red Hook. Her boss and John Losee were fishing companions and according to John, when Voorhis couldn’t come fishing, “sometimes his secretary did.” In 1944, they were married. They had three children: John Harvey (1945-2000), Mary Elizabeth (1947-1990), and Martha Ann (1952) who married John L. Hermans of Milan. The Losees lived for 30 years in the old “Slam Bang Academy” school house near the intersection of 199 and 308 in Rock City. They were members of St. John’s Reformed Church of Upper Red Hook, where John’s family had been members for generations.
Clara served as the vice-president of the Dutchess County Historical Society in the 1970’s and was the Town of Milan Historian from about 1974 to 1984 (after her best friend, Bobby Thompson). She sat on the Tivoli/Red Hook bicentennial committee. She and John were instrumental in the founding of the Elmendorf and famously rescued the Teal papers from oblivion where they were hidden in a chicken coop. She served in various capacities in the Egbert Benson Historical Society (now Historic Red Hook), being given a Heritage award in 1988 for Senior Leadership in Historic Research. In that same year she also received a certificate of appreciation from the Dutchess County Genealogical Society for Devoted and Invaluable Services Rendered. The Rock City Grange gave her a Community Citizen Award in 1978. She donated countless books, journals, photos, and documents pertaining to the history of Northern Dutchess County to local historical societies, and collections bear her name in the holdings of Historic Red Hook and the Dutchess County Historical Society. John and Clara published Death Notices of Dutchess & Columbia County, NY 1859-1918 which can be found in most local libraries. It was Clara who made sure that all the Losee, Fraleigh, Curtis, etc. family photographs and Daguerreotypes were labeled before those who could identify them were gone.
After John died in 1983, Clara moved to Millerton with her daughter Martha’s family and took a year or so off, but was soon involved in the historical community once again. John and Clara had been married 39 years and the transition to widowhood was hard for her. She volunteered at the Millerton Free Library in the 1980’s and had a great friendship with Town of Northeast Historian, Chet Eisenhuth.
In letters to Clara, Dutchess County Historian Joyce Ghee said “...we really need you. People with your knowledge, experience, and scholarship are not easily replaced...” and she thanked her for her “...many and valuable contributions to the history and culture of this area.” Clara was a sweet lady and was dearly missed when she died 27 September 1997, as she was loved by everyone she knew.