On Wednesday, January 18, 2023, Huldah Claude, wife, mother of three, nurse, artist and author slipped away one month before her 95th birthday.
Huldah was born on February 16, 1928, to Ernest and Gertrude Gehman, the oldest of five siblings in a tight knit Mennonite community in Harrisonburg, VA. She loved the arts from an early age, and studied to become an RN where she quickly realized that psychiatric medicine best suited her interest and skills.
On July 28, 1957, she married the love of her life, John Claude of La Chaux-de- Fonds, Switzerland. On their first date, he remarked in his best English, “The tree he is tall.” Upon their marriage and move to Switzerland, she was particularly excited to live in a country where she could eat fresh crusty bread and cold unsalted butter for breakfast every morning.
Huldah and John raised three daughters, Colette, Claire and Denise, and were joined closely in friendship and marriage for 60 years until John passed away at the age of 87 on June 8, 2018. Among the many things Huldah and John shared, their faith was a cornerstone in their lives. Her daughters are grateful for the legacy of love and goodness their parents grew and nurtured.
During her marriage, Huldah was always up for change, supporting John’s desire for adventure, even as they emigrated to the US in 1960. From 1965-1968, they lived in the Congo where Huldah took care of the family while John worked as assistant supervisor of a relief warehouse on behalf of Mennonite Central Committee.
On returning to the US, Huldah supported the family while John—formerly an electrician— earned an undergraduate degree in sociology followed by a master’s degree in social work. In 1975, John and Huldah were each offered positions in a new psychiatric department at Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, WV, where they then lived for 25 years.
They loved to travel overseas, and frequently returned to Switzerland for doses of family, majestic scenery and fresh crusty bread. After retirement, they quickly settled in Wilmington, NC, two doors down from their daughter, Claire, where they thoroughly enjoyed helping to raise their only grandchild, Ryan, who was six months old when they arrived.
After John passed away, once again it became apparent that Huldah, despite her grief, was ready to start another adventure. Even before retirement, she had belonged to painting and carving clubs. Newly widowed, she turned to painting vignettes on Kindness Rocks which she hid in parks and playgrounds for people to find.
In 2022, Huldah published an interesting and detailed memoir written over a three year period. She called it “Mom, You Gotta Write This Down!” Over the next months, she felt immense satisfaction in hearing from friends and family who were enjoying her book.
Tired of the responsibility of home ownership and feeling too physically unstable to live alone, in 2020 Huldah checked herself into The Kempton at Brightmore in Wilmington, NC. She blossomed once again, frequently expressing gratitude for the care she received there.
After her book signing at The Kempton last September, Huldah was again touched by the responses of residents and staff. Rather than always sitting at the same table at mealtimes, she would choose different tables happy to listen to her new friends’ histories. Huldah remained curious and openminded to her last day.
Huldah loved to send Christmas letters every year, mostly so that she could hear back from friends and family all over the world. She leaves behind many old friendships in the many corners of the world where she and John lived.
Huldah is preceded in death by her parents, Gertrude and Ernest Gehman, brothers Daniel and David, and by her husband John Claude. She is survived by her daughters, Colette Claude, Claire Claude (McFall), and Denise/Jack Whittington, as well as by her grandson Ryan/ Breanne McFall. She is also survived by sister Rachel/James Metzler, and brother John/Joy Gehman, and in-laws Jacqueline/Bob Myers and Christian/Floriane Amsler, as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 2:00pm Saturday, February 25, 2023, at Pine Valley Methodist Church.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Samaritan’s Purse or Pine Valley Methodist Church, Wilmington, NC.
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Wilmington Funeral & Cremation 1535 S. 41st Street, Wilmington, NC 28403. 910-791-9099