Clara Ivey Clara Soto Ivey

First post: Oct 14, 2022
Clara Soto Ivey, a beloved church and community leader who inspired thousands of students in her Spanish classes to see the world and who never stopped loving her native Cuba even after becoming an American citizen, died peacefully in her sleep in her beloved Claremont, CA on 6 September 2022. She was 86.

Affectionately known as Señora Ivey and Clarita, Clara Estrella Soto was born while her parents lived in Omaja, Oriente, Cuba on 24 April 1936. Her parents, María de los Angeles Almaguer de Soto and Juan Aurelio Soto (who predeceased her) were devoted Methodists. Her mother was a homemaker, teacher, church leader, and seamstress. Her father was a commanding officer in the Cuban military, pre-Castro.

Young Clara and her older brother Onell benefited from their mother’s seamstress business to attend private schools in Cuba and were taught the value of service and the value of university education. Her brother studied medicine and journalism before becoming an Episcopal priest, a missionary, and eventually a bishop.

Clara studied at the University of Havana and lived in El Hogar Evangelico Universitario, a boarding house for university students. She developed life-long friendships and found her passion for teaching. She taught some missionaries from the United States of America, among them a young Olin Marion Ivey, Jr., who caught her eye.

Falling in love, Clara and Olin married on 10 September 1960. The newlyweds left Cuba on 12 September 1960 with roundtrip tickets, planning on returning to Cuba in a more peaceful future. They never returned to Cuba together. When they left, Clara’s father, Juan, was serving what would eventually be a twelve-year sentence as a political prisoner. Clara not only left him behind, but also her mother, María, who would remain in Cuba until the late 1960s. 

After living in Olin’s native Georgia, they eventually settled in Brooklyn, NY. Just over two years after coming to the United States with limited English, Clara earned a Bachelors of Arts from Long Island University, graduating summa cum laude. Her aptitude for language and grammar along with her dedication and hard work helped her the rest of her life. At the same time, Olin earned his M.Div. and STM from Drew University in Madison, NJ.

Clara taught at Fairleigh-Dickinson University while still living in Brooklyn, NY. Her first son, David Emmanuel Ivey-Soto, was born on 27 November 1964.

Clara, Olin, and David moved to Southern California where Daniel Andrew Ivey-Soto was born on 20 November 1966 in Arcadia, CA. During this time, Olin earned his Ph.D. and Clara earned her M.Ed. from Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University).

Clara, Olin, David, and Daniel moved to Naperville, IL in 1970. There, Clara taught at North Central College while Olin taught at Evangelical Theological Seminary, both in Naperville, for four years before moving to Costa Rica. There, Clara was on the board of three private schools.

Returning to Claremont, CA in 1977, Clara started teaching at Claremont Unified School District. In the Fall of 1978, Sra. Ivey became the first woman to be a full-time faculty member at the Webb School of California. She was supportive of the new Vivian Webb School and the new faculty that joined the campus in the Fall of 1981.

At Webb, she would organize trips to Spain for her students, many of whom became friends and colleagues as adults. She developed life-long friendships with her students, the parents of her advisees, staff, and fellow faculty. She was also known for her delicious Cuban flan, baking them for special occasions and especially for people’s birthdays. Many say they can not eat flan anywhere else because they have been spoiled by her flan-making talent.

In the winter of 1979, following years of efforts by Clara and her brother, Onell, Juan came to the United States and settled in Claremont in 1980, rejoining with his wife, María, whom he had not been with for twenty years.

Clara started teaching at Pomona College in 1979 while simultaneously teaching at Webb. She would stop off to visit her parents on her way to or from teaching assignments. In 1988, she and Olin divorced amicably.

Through the Spring of 1996, she taught at both The Webb Schools and Pomona College. Before retiring from Pomona College in 2007, she began teaching a summer course at Claremont Graduate University, teaching through 2019.

She maintained close relationships with her colleagues at The Claremont Colleges.

Throughout her time in Claremont, she was a national lay leader with the United Methodist Church, particularly with the Board of Global Ministries. She served also on the boards of Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity, David & Margaret Youth and Family Services, as well as serving many other organizations.

She was an active member of Claremont United Methodist Church and volunteered frequently, often focusing her efforts at helping refugees, people who, like her, had to leave a land they loved in a search for freedom.

She enjoyed traveling the world! She traveled to St. Petersburg, Machu Picchu, the Pyramids in Egypt, the Pyramids of Mexico, Buenos Aires, Vietnam, Turkey, Greece, and many, many other destinations. She traveled often with her dear friends Shamsi Katebi, a Webb colleague and Lidia Vasseur Tuttle, a friend from her childhood in Cuba. The three of them saw many wonders of the world together.

Her travels also took her to Alexandria, VA, where her older son, David Ivey-Soto, is a chef and educator, and Albuquerque, NM, where her younger son, Daniel Ivey-Soto, is a state Senator and attorney. 

Sra. Ivey lived at Pilgrim Place for more than ten years becoming a valued part of her community and a beloved neighbor of those also living in New Merritt.

Clara cared for her dear cousin, María Ester Mayo, in her final years.

Arabella Rumbos, one of her dear friends, cared for Clara during her final months. She visited her almost every day at Pilgrim Place Health Services Center. Lidia Tuttle and her daughter, Liana Vasseur, cared for Clara as she was preparing to move to the Pilgrim Place Health Services Center.

She is survived by her sons David Ivey-Soto (Lisa Ivey) and Daniel Ivey-Soto and her granddaughter Olivia Rae Soto; her sister-in-law Nina Soto (predeceased by her husband Onell A. Soto) and their children, Ana María Soto and her daughter Susana, Lidia Soto Harmon (Robert) and their children Tomás and Nina, Onell R. Soto (Robin), Elena Soto-Chapa (Santiago) and their children Cristina, Alicia, and Lucas. She is also survived by cousins Enneris (Mike) Borrego and his family and Franky Cruz and his family.

She is also survived by her former husband, Olin. She loved the Ivey Family and would often travel to Lincolnton, GA to the Ivey Family Homestead on Iveytown Road for the annual Thanksgiving celebration.

Clara played many important roles in her lifetime. Those who had the honor of knowing her will fondly remember her brilliant sense of humor, her endless generosity, her abounding faith, her wise counsel, her enthusiasm for life, and her megawatt smile. Wherever Clara went, she made a family of friends.

Sra. Ivey, Clarita, Clara, Tía, and Mami will always refer to Clara Soto Ivey and remembered as an inspiring educator, church leader, mother, and world traveler. 

Memorial services will be held at Claremont United Methodist Church at 211 West Foothill Boulevard in Claremont, CA 91711 at 2pmPT on Saturday, 15 October 2022. 

Celebration of life services at the Vivian Webb Chapel at 1175 West Base Line Road in Claremont, CA 91711 will be announced at a later time.