February 4, 2008

The Asheville Memorial Service - Allen Sisters

Well, I guess it's time to get this posted. It's not easy you know. It means you have to sit down and re-read your notes. Which of course will remind you of all of the thoughts that went into making your part of the memorial REAL for the people that were there. Our job was to tell Deb's story...to tell everyone who she was so that they, too, could share in our celebration of her life. And also so they could share in our unfathomable sadness. This was a dreaded, tearful task. But what's a few more tears in this bucket that has grown into a leaky barrel?

Maybe..as time passes & the rest of our little Asheville memorial group makes it's way through life, you might see their words here too. (just ask MMS!)

There were so many people at the Memorial Celebration, which was held at the NC Arboretum. A peaceful place cradled in the Blue Ridge mountains that Debbie loved so much. Standing room only. 150 seats. People were lining every wall and were spilling out into the hallway by the handfuls. It was said that more of Deb's high school class attended this service than attended their last reunion. That's really no surprise. She had a following before she was born and she probably has one now. Knowing Deb, she's probably teaching Jesus how to catch the best shots in ambient light. Of course, that would only be after she had learned EXACTLY, and on the most profound of levels, just what he thought about the world today.

So here are the notes my sister and I used for Deb's service. My sister's are first. Mine are next. Please understand that we were given one very clear rule, "keep it light".

Kristin's Notes:
The Allens and McClintons first met when Deb and I were in the 5th grade. She and her family had just moved to Fairview from Buffalo.

At first I was not really that fond of Debbie. She was the new kid on the block and everyone seemed drawn to her…imagine that !!! It wasn’t that I was all that popular prior to her arrival but this was Fairview and here is this cute bouncy new girl telling stories about bagels and cream cheese and hoagies made with turkey and provolone. Who had ever heard of such things. Well, I obviously got sucked into this cult and so did Tabby Taylor.

That is when the 3 of us began a journey that still continues today. As Dad and Mr. McClinton always jokingly say, “Those girls grew up in the same bed together”. We were inseparable in those days. Always at one of our “three homes” baking cookies or making fudge or something.

One of our first serious tests of a friendship was in the 6th grade when we decided to enter a talent show at Fairview Elementary. We somehow choreographed a dance number to Michael Jackson’s “Rock with Me”. Tabby helped me to piece the details together the best we could. I knew that at some point… in addition to what we called dancing, Tabby and I did cartwheels but I couldn’t remember what Debbie was doing at that same time. We both concluded that it had to be some sort of back flip or round off or something fancy like that because of course Debbie was the cheerleader of the group. The final piece that I could not remember and maybe for good reason was not that we did not win but what we wore. Remember, this was the late 70’s…We wore white satin shorts with red trim and matching satin shirts. Pretty.

Tabby and I talked and laughed about how we can’t believe we actually had the nerve to do that. I decided it had to be because we were just too young back then to know any better.

The next great measurement of my friendship with Deb was when her on again off again boyfriend at the time, Ronnie Fisher, asked me to the 6th grade dance instead of her. During one of their off again times of course. Deb and I never skipped a beat. We were fine and eventually she and Ronnie were “on again”. And in hind sight….Debbie really didn’t have a thing to worry about. Maybe somehow she already knew that.

Then we moved on into middle and high school. Always riding around town in the finest of luxury vehicles. The 3 of us could often be seen in the Hay wagon. This lovely station wagon was used primarily to transport us and often hay and feed for Rusty and Flicka, the family horses that Debbie insisted on riding despite her severe asthma. Then there was Dad’s, eventually to be mine, Carolina Blue Ford Pinto… with a luxury rack. Another fine ride. Somewhere in there was what would later become affectionately known as the grocery-go-getter and many other impressive generations of automobiles. Until finally…the Red Rabbit !!!! Salvation had arrived .. that is until Jana burned out the clutch one night as we all drove home from a Reynolds Football game. She was supposed to be the responsible adult taking care of us.. Yea right….

Which brings me to my final story….We call it…”The Duck Hunt” It was 10th grade. Deb and I planned a weekend trip to Appalachian State University to visit Jana. My first college life experience. Can’t be certain it was Deb’s. First order of business when we arrived was to “fill the cooler” so to speak. Well, the University is in Watauga county..which at that time was a dry county. So the three of us and Jana’s roommate jump into her Sunshine yellow VW bug. She had obviously moved up in the car food chain at that point. We drove one county over to Blowing Rock, bought some beverages and promptly returned to campus. Jana’s dorm was situated around a pond. On this pond there were reported to be ducks…Debbie in all her wisdom and several wine coolers later, not necessarily in that order, decided that we should go in search of these ducks. The 4 of us bundled up as it was the winter and cold. Like a fine tuned military reconnaissance team we cautiously and quietly approached the pond. We did not want to startle the ducks or Campus police. As we moved around the pond it became clear that one of our team was missing. We quickly retraced our steps and followed the cackling to find Deb literally stuck up in a tree draped over a limb like a proud leopard with her prized gazelle. We managed to coax Debbie out of that tree and somehow found our way back to the dorm. But…we never did find those ducks……

I don’t really know how to close this little mini tribute cleanly. And maybe that is because it doesn’t need closing. When I first got the news about Debbie I immediately went to the Internet to see if I could find out anything mostly because there was no way I could have had an actual conversation with anyone at that point. What I found amazed me. Google Debra McClinton and see what you find. Her name is all over the Web. She touched so many lives in so many ways. The tribute to Deb will live on forever. Deb was and still is the brightest ray of light that I have ever encountered aside from my own mother. Her boundless joy and spirit will live on in me forever. I have been blessed to have had her in my life. I love you Deb.

In Loving Memory

Kristin (Kristi) Allen

Jana Allen Childress's Notes:

Deb hated mayonnaise

She hated corned beef hash.

She was a school bus driver when she was in high school
…so were her friend Stacy & I.
Can you believe that our fine state let 16 year old high school students drive our children around?

Deb was a cheerleader for the Reynolds Rockets…
And she was their 1986 Homecoming Queen

She earned a degree from UNC Chapel Hill. Go Tarheels!!!

However, I am sorry to report…
she never graduated to a B-cup bra.

These are just a few of the things that made Debbie grow into an amusing, kindhearted & creative adult. These very traits, combined with what Kristi and Holly just said, made her a successful photographer, not for its technical aspects but because she brought an element of humanness to her work that was so real.

She had the ability to wrangle Charlie Sheen’s wedding party into playful photographs…

His new bride should’ve seen the writing on the wall that very day though...because Charlie was cutting a rug with his photographer by the end of the evening. Who could resist our Deb?

She had the sheer…iron…will to turn down Robert Redford when he needed a photographer…no time in her schedule?

And it was just another day for her when she photographed Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House and again with Alice Walker, author of the Color Purple

She compassionately captured images of a woman that had suffered the ravages of chemotherapy. And her finesse made this frail, delicate woman feel beautiful again

Deb photographed billionaires & the homeless,
top models AND the delightfully rotund
all with her signature style and grace

It seemed that every time I visited Debbie in San Fran, she felt it was her duty to remind me that I loved to be behind the lens of a camera too and that I shouldn’t let that that passion fade. She made a point to include me on photo shoots almost every time I visited.

And so it was with Amy Tan. Author of The Joy Luck Club and several other books.

This shoot lasted about 4 hours….that’s with Deb & two assistants schlepping tons of photo equipment up the 67 steps to Amy Tan’s home, finding a suitable location, setting up each shot, checking lighting, taking polaroids,

But I need to tell you. Deb was amazing with the Chinese-born Ms. Tan. She was unassuming and modest….and wasn’t even going to mention her own months in China until I said something about it.

She was content to compliment her on her exquisite silk outfit and talk to her about her little Yorkie that would race around the room searching every crevice if you yelled “go find Bin Laden!”

Deb’s style was unobtrusive & endearing….she had no need to speak of her own life….she wanted to learn Ms. Tan’s stories rather than tell her own…

This was Debbie’s way with everyone….always….

SO, after 100’s of shots of this woman inside her home, Ms. Tan was accompanying us as we loaded the equipment when Debbie said “let’s do a few more on the steps”.

Ms. Tan sat down, elbow on knee and chin in hand.

I held the reflector & Deb shot away. It was one of these pure, simple, uncontrived shots that People Magazine chose to run.

Just like our Deb.

Pure. Simple. Uncontrived.

One more story…

Every Christmas Eve since the early 80s, my family (the Allens) and the McClintons, have shared a traditional family celebration together. We never quite knew what to expect from Deb as far as what she would wear, you know……she was our “chic friend from San Francisco” and up on all the newest styles and such.

I don’t think she was quite the fashion barometer most years in her two-days-worn jeans and her 10-year-old North Face down jacket with duct tape holding it together, but she always made a fashion statement with her feet.

Now it is no secret that Debbie loved boots. Any kind of boots. All kinds of boots. Danny said that one time he counted over 20 pairs.

Last Christmas, Debbie confidently walked in wearing leather knee high boots

Normal right? Well, these were quite something because they were silver metallic.

Now these boots were an easy $600 dollars from a shee shee San Francisco boutique
……or were they actually $15 dollars from a second hand store? I don’t think we’ll ever know……..

But they were just like our Deb.

Unique. Out of the ordinary. And Sparkling.

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