Clara Silva Rabbitt was born on Sept. 13, 1921, to Virginia and Joseph Silva in the farmhouse at T Lane Farm in Chilmark, and died peacefully at her home in Vineyard Haven on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.
Attending Chilmark’s single-room schoolhouse, Clara graduated from Tisbury High School in 1939, and left the farm and moved to town, where she worked as a waitress at Hallowell’s in Vineyard Haven, under what is now Leslie’s Drugstore. She met the handsome Owen Rabbitt (d. 1990), and they married in 1941, with two boys soon to follow; they eventually settled in their house on Franklin Street.
Clara worked in other restaurants in Tisbury, including the Art Cliff Diner when it was a small place with just bar stools. She opened houses in the spring alongside her mother and her crew for Hope Flanders Real Estate, and worked summers at Chappaquonsett for the Philbins and their children for decades.
A great patriot, she never missed a parade, and was a familiar face always with a flag pin on her lapel at the Tisbury polls as a checker for more than 30 years. It was always the more flags the better for her window box at her Vineyard Haven home. Forever proud of her two sons, Owen Rabbitt Jr. (d. 2019) and Richard Rabbitt (d. 1988), who both joined the Coast Guard in the early ’60s, she was quick to visit wherever they were stationed around the world.
Clara’s eyes shone bright when she spoke of her family. With seven grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren, she was always busy knitting. Clara’s uncountable sweaters, bonnets, and afghans, over much of nine decades of needlework, will continue to warm generations of babies to come. She loved flowers, especially daffodils, and took great advantage of her membership with Polly Hill Arboretum and nearby botanical gardens when traveling. Quite the bibliophile, she loved Zane Grey Westerns, and had a voracious appetite for autobiographies, but her favorite read was her Bible in which she would look for God’s truth to always provide a way.
Clara spent many winters visiting her childhood friend Eileen and her husband Walter Caldwell and attending the Orlando Bible Church, and enjoyed all the great attractions in Orlando, Fla. In her later years, she enjoyed the warmer weather on the beaches of Anna Marie Island, and daily outings up and down the West Coast of Florida with Everel Black and other snowbird friends.
In addition to her husband, Owen Sr., and two sons, Owen Jr. and Rick, Clara was met in heaven by her granddaughter, Leslie Rabbitt Felix. Left behind are five grandchildren whom she called her own, and who loved her completely, Melinda Rabbitt DeFeo and her husband Mark, of Edgartown; Terry H. Rabbitt of San Diego, Calif,; Cindy L. Rabbitt of Cape Canaveral, Fla.; Raymond J. Rabbitt of Valdosta, Ga.; and Christine Cardoza and her husband Paul of Edgartown. In addition to her beloved great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, she is survived by Clara’s brother, Elmer Silva of Vineyard Haven; daughter-in-laws Brenda Rabbitt of Fort Pierce, Fla., and Barbara Rabbitt of Mobile, Ala.; and numerous nieces and nephews. Indeed, all who knew Clara will hold her memory close.
A funeral service was held on Saturday, April 17, at Chapman Funerals and Cremations, Edgartown Road, in Oak Bluffs. Her burial was private at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven.
Gifts in Clara’s memory can be made to Interserve USA, c/o International Service Fellowship, P.O. Box 418, Upper Darby, PA 19082-0418, or online at interserveusa.org, or to CRU, c/o CRU Foundation, P.O. Box 628222, Orlando, FL 32862-8222, or online at give.cru.org.