Claudia was born on October 10, 1946 in Tooele, Utah to John and Marietta McCullough. Her dad was a career USAF man and she was a true "military brat" moving from assignment to assignment until his retirement in 1963. Her favorite childhood memories were of Honolulu and Satellite Beach, Fl (interesting that both had beaches nearby). Upon his retirement the family (5 siblings) move to Prattville, Alabama where she finished high school.
She attended Troy State University where she demonstrated a keen interest in psychology and made many friends. On impulse, she and her two closest friends interviewed for stewardess positions with United Airlines and were surprised that they were all selected and off they went to their domicile in Chicago. Flying the friendly skies was quite an adventure but required a bit of adjustment from life as a small-town girl in the Deep South to cosmopolitan Chicago. She loved it! Even had a part time gig at the headquarters of Playboy Enterprises that really opened her eyes!
However, she had fallen in love with one of the hometown fellows, John Watkins, and they were married in 1969 while he was in dental school. She found employment as a secretary in the school's student housing department and supported him through the last two years of training. They were broke, but in love, and life was grand! They would be true soulmates for the next 53 years.
Although they were to spend the next 30 years in the USAF, their first tour in Tokyo was to be her favorite. She adored the Japanese people and loved her part time job teaching English to Japanese families near the Grant Hts. housing area where they lived and John worked in the small clinic. When he came home to lunch, he might well find Claudia giving cooking lessons or enjoying ikebana with the ladies while half a dozen preschoolers ran gleefully amok throughout the house. How cute!! So delightful! She was in her element! Her dear daughter, Natalie, was born at Tachikawa AB Hospital (after 15 minutes of labor in the E.R.) just prior to the family's return stateside.
Upon John's retirement they moved back to Colorado Springs (having been based at Peterson AFB 1988-1991). Claudia had always enjoyed traveling whether by Space - A military transport, commercial air, or cruise ship it was all great. She visited over 16 foreign countries and most of the USA. Until retirement she had never lived in any location for more than four years in her whole life. She loved cooking, golfing, playing bridge with friends, and going for long walks in her beautiful neighborhood.
Claudia, aka "LALA" to her grandchildren and siblings during childhood, was effervescent, bubbly, and beyond generous and hospitable to all who were fortunate enough to know her. Always beautiful and put together through the years without ever being vain, she exuded femininity. Her tremendous strength was always present if not as obvious.
She was extremely maternal and a girl could not ask for a better mother. Determined to be positive and optimistic in the face of life's most challenging travails, Claudia's quiet strength paired with a buoyant energy and hospitable spirit set a solid example of love and devotion.
Claudia was truly the "Chief Inspiration Officer" of her family. She may never have had corner office or a 401 K, but she excelled at encouraging others to reach for their dreams and live up to their potential even in the face of obstacles. She believed so fiercely in the people she loved that it was contagious. She could be serious, deep, and spiritual or girly and silly. She was profoundly kind and gentle and had a big smile to greet each day. She has blessed many lives, near and far, and will be deeply missed.
She is mourned by her devoted husband, John Watkins, and loving daughter, Natalie Watkins who were at her bedside when she passed on peacefully. Natalie's family, Ed, Charlie and Xander McCormick of San Antonio and her three sisters will miss her dearly.
In lieu of monetary contributions, please do something kind for a complete stranger. Claudia would have loved that!
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