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Willa Jean Peninger Claibourn

July 13, 1921 ~ June 30, 2011

Willa Jean Peninger Claibourn, 86, peacefully passed away in the presence of her family in her home on June 30, 2011. Born July 13, 1924 in Weleetka, OK to Charles and Ella Bush Peninger, she was raised in Oklahoma and later graduated from Collinsville High in 1942. She also attended Art School at the University of Tulsa.


She married her high school sweetheart and love of her life, Jack Claibourn, December 15, 1942 the day before he was deployed for service to his country during the World War II. During the war, Willa Jean was a true life Rosie the Riveter in Douglas Airplane plant in Tulsa where she helped manufacture bombers to support the war effort. She was reunited with her beloved Jack three years later and they began to build their family and were blessed with three children. They moved to Lake Charles from Oklahoma in 1958. In Lake Charles, she later worked for Sears, Mullers, Volpe's and Bailey's Fine Fabrics. Her favorite career was as the Display Manager for Riff's in downtown Lake Charles where she used her artistic abilities to create award winning fashion displays for the store windows. Willa Jean was an accomplished artist and belonged to the Downtown Mall Gallery for many years. She sold and displayed her works in galleries across the state of Louisiana. One of her works was displayed in the State Capitol for many years.


Willa Jean saw God's beauty in nearly everything she encountered. She dearly loved beautiful flowers, music, art, people and attending church service at St. Luke Simpson United Methodist Church. She was so proud of and loved her family dearly. Her best moments were spent with her family by her side laughing and enjoying life together. She and Jack were married for sixty- six years and she missed him so very much after her passed away nearly three years ago.


Mrs. Claibourn was preceded in death by her devoted husband; her parents and two brothers, Millard and Eldon Peninger.


She leaves to cherish her memory, her three children, Cheri Claibourn Whitfield, husband Dick and Terry Claibourn , all of Lake Charles and Elaina Claibourn Snow and husband Austin of Luling, LA; three grandchildren, Cathy Whitfield Hunt, husband Tom and Michael Whitfield of Lake Charles and John Basone of San Antonio, TX; four great- grandchildren, Jessica Hunt, Colton Hunt, Aaron Whitfield and Blaine Whitfield.


Mrs. Claibourns' family wishes to thank the angels on earth who work for Odyssey (Michelle White and staff, especially Pam) and Kim with Home HealthCare for the excellent care during the last days of her life. The family also wishes to thank Reverends Karl Klaus and Henry Bowdon from St. Luke Simpson United Methodist Church for their visits, prayers and support.


A Memorial Service to celebrate her life will be held on July 2, 2011 at 2:00 PM at St. Luke Simpson United Methodist Church in Lake Charles. Arrangements were entrusted to Johnson Funeral Home

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  1. Elaina, Your Mother was such a beautiful lady. She was always kind and graceful, a true southern lady. You will carry her in your heart always. I know she was happy to be reunited with your Dad in heaven. They are both together again.


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