Claire Reno Allen
February 23, 1925-January 21, 2015
“Our hearts are deeply saddened—almost disbelieving, really, because Claire was such an iconic and significant figure to all who knew her. It was, and still is, hard to imagine that she would not be ‘with us’ forever. Especially is that true among military musicians. To so many she was ‘Mother of the Year,’ but to Army Bands, bandsmen, and bandswomen, she was a mother for the ages. Her consistent, gracious kindness was unparalleled, and always so welcome. Our words are inadequate to express our feelings of sympathy for your loss.”
These condolences epitomize our beloved mother and articulate how deeply we and our father will miss her as she dwells in the house of the Lord forever. Our hearts ache with sadness at our loss yet they sing with joy in knowing her iconic spirit will never leave us. It seems all the more right and poignant now that in 1985 our father composed “You’re Always There” in honor of her selection as American Mothers, Inc.®, District of Columbia Mother of the Year.
Mother of the Year, Arlington National Cemetery Arlington Lady, Army Officers’ Wives’ Club of the Greater Washington Area President, Department of the Army Volunteer Consultant for Army Community Service, member of the team of women who created the family support system for the families of the men and women who deployed to the Persian Gulf War—she was truly a mother and an Army spouse for the ages.
Claire was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest of seven children. While working as a secretary at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, PA, she met Eugene W. Allen, the handsome new enlisted leader of the Valley Forge Army Hospital Band. They married in 1951 and moved their growing family from Army post to Army post as Gene rose through the ranks to become Senior Music Director of the United States Army, and Leader and Commander of The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own) from 1976-1990. She will be particularly remembered for her genuine love and care for the men and women of Pershing’s Own and their families.
We shared her with all who were charmed by her warm, personable nature and extraordinary gift for remembering names and important little details about the innumerable people she encountered. Whether greeting a guest in the receiving line after a concert at Constitution Hall or years later chatting with a caregiver in their assisted living community, she made others feel special and she became special to so many.
She was extra-special to us and we knew we were most special to her. Her devotion to her family—her seven children, her eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and most notable of all to her husband, her true love—was unquestioned, unwavering, right up to her last day. She loved us and our father unconditionally; she was “always there.” We know she would count her progeny as her greatest legacy and it will be our blessing and our honor to keep her memory alive.
We will remember how she loved sailing as “first mate” with Gene on their boat Harmony and spending time fishing and crabbing with her children and grandchildren at their cottage on the Outer Banks. We will recall how she drove the school bus and managed the books to help pay for her children’s early education. We will reminisce about the prom dresses she sewed for us and the inspiration she gave us to find our first jobs and follow our dreams. We will ponder the way she turned every family move into an adventure and admire the adventures she took to faraway places like Germany, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Australia, and the village in Slovakia where her father was born. And we will never forget her humility and empathy, her courage and intelligence, her patriotism and loyalty to family, her beauty and elegance, and her smile that came from her heart.
Claire is survived by her adoring husband of 63 years: Eugene W. Allen; their children: Phyllis (Walter) Harper, Carole (Matthew) Lechleitner, Virginia (Otto-Werner Mueller) Allen, Eugene Allen, Jr., Mary Frances (Stephen) Love, Andrea (Brian) Baker, and Joseph Allen; their grandchildren: Matthew (Brooke) Harper, Gregory (Jennie) Harper, Janet Lechleitner, Sara (Michael) Young, Patrick Love, Derek Love, Laura Baker, and Mark Baker; and great-grandchildren: Peyton Young, Ryan Harper, Nathan Harper, Josephine Harper, James Harper and Fiona Harper. She is also survived by brothers: John Reno and Francis (Jean) Reno and many loving nieces and nephews. Claire was preceded in death by her parents: Michael and Clara (Rossiter) Reno; sisters: Mary Ellen Miller and Roseanne Reno; and brothers: Michael Reno and Andrew Reno.
A funeral service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery were held on Tuesday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts in honor of Claire may be made to Army Emergency Relief at 200 Stovall Street, Room 5S33, Alexandria, VA 22332-0600, or online at http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/Donations/HonoraryorMemorial.aspx.