Margaret Ellen McClear, a lifelong educator and retired professor of Spanish and Latin American studies at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce), died March 25, 2012, in Greenville following a lengthy convalescence. She was 91.
Dr. McClear was beloved by her many extended family members and friends as well as her students. With her affinity for the color red and her devotion to her favorite literary figure, Don Quixote, she was a vibrant teacher whose classes were among the most popular at East Texas State where she taught for 21 years. Students who gathered often at her Commerce home sought her counsel and friendship throughout their lives.
A broad thinker who was known for her impish sense of humor, generosity and fierce independence, she won many accolades and awards for her teaching and scholarship, which also included positions at St. Louis University and Catholic schools in Peru and in Michigan.
She was a noted expert on the Popol Vuh, the earliest known literary document of the Americas, a volume Dr. McClear described as “a combination of odyssey, epic and Bible” that describes the Mayan history and beliefs.
Born Dec. 10, 1920, into a large family in Royal Oak, Mich., she became a voracious reader who delighted in dance and dynamism, and who grew into the epitome of a strong, self-sufficient woman.
Her diverse background included two decades in religious life as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Nazareth, Mich.
She graduated in Spanish from Nazareth College, and received her master’s degree from Notre Dame University, where she and other Catholic nuns were enrolled before it was officially co-educational. She wrote her thesis on feminism in the poetry of Gabriela Mistral, ultimately meeting and befriending the Nobel Laureate, her long-time idol.
After leaving the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1959, she taught in Peru for two
She received a prestigious Fulbright award to research the ancient Mayans and traveled the highlands of Guatemala from 1964 to 1966 meeting the indigenous people. She returned to St. Louis University where she received her Ph.D. in 1969, publishing her book on the Popol Vuh. That year she moved to Commerce to teach.
Despite a lifetime of illnesses, Dr. McClear remained a dynamic presence, her lively spirit defying the toll of poor health and pain.
She was deeply committed to her Roman Catholic faith and was an inspiration to her health-caregivers and all who met her. She lived her life, in her words, “not in conformity with what our world calls success but rather in conformity with what my faith commitment demands.”
The seventh of 12 children born to Leo Herbert McClear and Agnes Robb McClear, Dr. McClear was predeceased by her parents and her siblings Maurice, Herbert, Angela, William, Gertrude, James, Patricia and Donald.
She is survived by her siblings, Leonilla Hones of Rochester, N.Y., Catherine Balhoff of Baton Rouge, La., and Robert McClear of Avon Lake, Ohio, as well as numerous nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass is set for 10:30 a.m., April 3, at St. Joseph Church, 2207 Monroe Street, Commerce.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in her name to the Saint Louis University Women’s Council Scholarship Fund, 22l North Grand Boulevard, Room 359, St. Louis, Mo 63103. Contact Mary Bruemmer (314) 977-2212
Visit and sign a guest book at www.commercejournal.com.
Published on  March 30, 2012