Toy Fund donors remember mom who was family’s ‘hero'
Claire Loud of Westhampton with her grandson, Grady Childs, pose for a picture in 1994.
Photo Courtesy of Lynn Willard Purchase photo reprints »
Claire Loud, of Westhampton, center, wearing a red shirt, surrounded by most of her children, grandchildren and family in this 2008 picture. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — Christmas was a special joy for the late Claire Loud of Westhampton.
She loved nothing better than to buy gifts for children at Christmas time, so when told by her doctor last year that she had only a few months to live, she kicked into high gear to get ready for Christmas.
“She was going nuts buying for all the kids,” said Lynn Willard, of Westhampton, one of Loud’s daughters. “She loved watching the kids open presents, seeing them all so happy.”
Barbara Lafond, of Florence, another of Loud’s five children, knew the act provided a simple pleasure to her mom.
“When she found out she was going to pass last year in October, she made sure, even while she was sick ... that she had everything for Christmas for all the grandkids and great-grandchildren,” Lafond said. “Christmas was her favorite holiday.”
Despite the progression of her cancer, Loud made sure that her children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, would all have gifts from her under their Christmas tree. She wanted them to have an abundant, if also sad, holiday even after she was gone.
Loud, who served the community in multiple ways, including as a town police officer and dispatcher, died Nov. 29 last year of cancer at age 79.
“She lived long enough to get everything set for Christmas for those kids,” Lafond said. “We knew that was what was keeping her going.”
That is probably not surprising to people who knew her well.
Loud’s love of her community was legendary among the people who knew her best. In addition to serving on the police force, she was a guidance secretary at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton, a Girl Scout leader and a Hampshire County 4-H leader for 19 years. She was active as the Sunday School treasurer, a Mothers Club member, chairwoman of the kindergarten committee and on many committees at the Westhampton Congregational Church.
“She was our hero. We miss her an awful lot,” Lafond said.
And at Christmas time, Loud let her caring nature shine. She made handmade decorations for her home and the homes of her family members. She embroidered ornaments for each of the children. And every year, minus 2011, she had the big Christmas celebration at her house.
“For Christmas she’d go way overboard. You couldn’t put any more decorations in that house even if you wanted to,” Lafond said. “Now we all have her decorations at our houses — and that’s including the 10 grandchildren — all handmade.”
Loud also always gave to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund. This year, her children made donations to the fund in Loud’s name. “She wanted to make sure all the kids had something,” Lafond said.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund provides certificates redeemable at participating local retailers to eligible families who can use them to buy holiday gifts through Dec. 31. Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes certificates worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.
Berkshire Children and Families, located at 220 Russell St., Hadley, verifies the income eligibility of families. Most families who receive assistance are referred by social service agencies. The Gazette covers all costs of the Toy Fund.
The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, Northampton; Deals & Steals, Northampton; Faces, Northampton; F.J. Rogers, Florence; JCPenney, Hadley; Mountain Goat, Northampton; The Toy Box, Amherst; Wilson’s Dept. Store, Greenfield and Target, Hadley.
Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, 115 Conz St., Northampton, 01060 or Gazette offices at 67 Main St., Easthampton, or 9 East Pleasant Street, Amherst.
Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund. To donate to the Toy Fund online, visit toyfund.gazettenet.com.