By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent
At 85, Theda West can still remember the day she met her husband, Clyde, now 88, just like it was yesterday.
“It was at Portales High School. I knew one of his friends and was talking to him in the hall and he (the friend) had his hand on my shoulders,” she said, pointing to Clyde.
“He comes up to us and says to his friend, ‘Take your hand off my girl.’ Those were the first words he ever said to me,” Theda recalled.
But, for every story, there’s a beginning and an end. Now, a full 69 years later, the Wests are bracing themselves for the inevitable by parting with some of their dearest possessions.
The Clovis couple, in their 66th year of marriage, decided early on not to have children.
“Now, we can see how having children, how it would be good to have them around to take care of us,” said Clyde, who then laughed. “But most of them that I’ve seen are mighty unhappy to take care of mom and dad.
“We are the last for both sides of our families,” he added.
“We say we outlived them all,”chimed in Theda, who also laughed.
But the Wests do have a progeny.
The east-side Clovis house, which Clyde built by himself more than 50 years ago, is filled with ceramics that the Wests have decorated, repeatedly fired in a kiln, glazed and then put on display — in the living room, in the basement, in the bathroom and in a glass cabinet located in the kitchen.
Recently, the Wests sold 150 pieces to the Main Street Crafters Mall in Clovis. At the store, a vivid panorama of light blue, lavender, pink, light green, ivory, black and amber pieces are on sale along with a reminder of where the ceramic creations were brought to life.
According to Theda, it was in 1978 when she and her husband, in an effort to do something together as a hobby, started to make ceramic vases and urns.
When Clyde retired from the railroad in 1981, the couple began producing a prodigious amount of work.
Eventually, two 4-foot-high kilns were used by the Wests as part of their burgeoning hobby, and everything from ceramic swans and boots to cowboys, rams and cats were the result.
In a room on one side of the house, the Wests have displayed a wall full of hand-painted Indian faces they did by themselves.
“When he retired in ’81, then we just did it all the time,” Theda recalled.
Clyde frankly admitted that the main reason part of their collection was sold to the Clovis store was for money. He reasoned that the money from the sale could be invested and do the couple more good than seeing the artwork on a shelf at home.
Don’t get the idea that Clyde isn’t sentimental, however. Asked how he felt selling off a large chunk of his collection, he said, “Awful. I used to go sit on the stairs (leading to the basement) and I was just awed at the beauty.”
“I think they’re gorgeous. And people have really been impressed with them,” said Anna Southard of the Main Street Crafters Mall. “He came to us to see if we would buy some of these pieces. It was sad for them, and it was sad for us, because this was something they did together and because these were just like their children.”
Clyde West has been to the Main Street store to see how his former pieces are being displayed.
Wheelchair-bound Theda, however, said she couldn’t bring herself — physically or mentally — to do the same.
“I told him he could go down there if he wanted to,” she said. “I don’t think I can see them. I don’t think I could look at them.”
But there are plenty of pieces remaining at home for the Wests, and Clyde, admitting he has been looking at various retirement homes for the future, still entertains thoughts of being able to stay in the home he built back in the early 1950s.
“My wife and I, we’ve been around to the different places, but we haven’t found the right one yet,” Clyde West said. “Possibly, we might be able to hire someone — if an honest person can be found — to come stay with us.”