On Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, Flora “Jean” Werly passed away peacefully at her daughter’s home in Fresno. This last November her family and many friends celebrated her 99th birthday, and a life well lived.
Jean was a great communicator and storyteller. At the age of 93, she realized her biggest personal accomplishment by completing her book “A Tent by the Creek.” She had a deep love for the Sierra, and felt most at home in nature, spending her golden years at the family ranch with the love of her life, Clyde Werly.
Truly an example of the “Greatest Generation,” she followed her heart in all matters, and had the bravery to dare go wherever it led.
Born in Compton, Calif., on Nov. 25, 1919, she grew up a “city girl,” but a trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1939 changed the trajectory of her life forever. There, surrounded by evergreen forests and the majesty of granitic peaks, she met Jess ‘Clyde’ Werly. By the next fall, they were married.
Her love for the mountains was nearly as inevitable as her love for Clyde, and despite her suburban upbringing, she took to it like a trout to a stream. She was at home there, and anyone who visited her and Clyde could see proof that “home is where your heart is,” even if that home was a tiny U.S. Forest Service tent-cabin.
She would live the majority of her life in the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills, first at the Westfall Ranger Station (formerly called Miami Ranger Station), then Mariposa, North Fork and Oakdale, ultimately retiring with Clyde to the Werly family ranch in Bailey Flats near Raymond.
Clyde’s maternal grandparents, Isabel and Fremont Westfall, had homesteaded in the area in 1895, and his parents settled a mile down the road from the ranch where he grew up. The postwar years brought many changes, most welcome of which being the addition of their two daughters to the family. It was important to Jean that both of her girls were born in the very small hospital in Yosemite. Jean was always active in the girls’ lives, as a Brownie Scout and Girl Scout leader, P.T.A. member and room mother.
She was always an active church member. She attended the Community Church in North Fork, the United Methodist Churches in both Oakdale and Mariposa.
After Clyde’s death in 1994, Jean was able to stay on at the ranch with help from family and friends, but she managed to do a large share of the work herself. She fed cattle, delighted in her flower garden and tended after the orange orchard. She sold the yearly crops to neighbors, friends and the local health food store. She laughed at the idea that some local folks referred to her as the “Orange Lady.”
She was preceded in death by her parents, Ralph and Pearl Brown; half brother, Robert Carlisle Brown of Long Beach; and husband Jess ‘Clyde’ Werly Jr. of Raymond.
Survivors include her daughters, Carolyn Werly Wilder of Raymond and Virginia Werly Sharp of Fresno; and grandson, Elijah Werly Klein of Fresno.
Memorial services will be Saturday, March 23 at 11 a.m. at the Mariposa United Methodist Church, 4991 6th St., Mariposa, CA 95338.
In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to Mariposa Museum and History Center, Inc., PO Box 606, Mariposa, CA, 95338-0606. Visit www.mariposamuseum.com. Donations are tax deductible, as the Museum is a 501c3 non-profit.