Cleada Caudill, 84, a Homecare client of the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD), was born March 20, 1925 on Mill Branch in Letcher County. Aunt Cleada or Miss Cleada as she is affectionately referred to by family and friends alike, was the sixth child of Manual and Laura Crase Amburgey.
Like many others born in that era, she was born at home with the assistance of a midwife and reared in a large family of 11 children. She was exactly the middle child and says she was richly blessed with a wonderful home. Growing up in a very warm and close-knit family, she was surrounded with lots of love and five older and five younger brothers and sisters, who she says were her best friends. Her parents taught her the expected mountain hospitality of courtesy, quiet grace, and etiquette, which is evidenced by her softspoken ways and gentle demeanor.
Her father, Manual, was a coal miner for his entire life and also often worked several hours past his shift’s end tending the fields to provide for his family. Her mother was excellent seamstress and kept the family well dressed in beautiful handmade clothing. Although the family was poor, they were better off than many of their neighbors because of the strong work ethic of their parents. Miss Cleada recalls they were extremely rich in love and laughter and never lacked for the things they needed.
Cleada was educated at Mill Branch in a two-room school which provided an education for many of the children who lived in the community of Mill Branch and Roxana. Taught to listen before speaking, she has a sweet gentleness and Southern grace and always credits this insight in life to her parents, her former teachers, and God.
At the age of 14 she met her husband, Dempsey Caudill, and married him at the age of 21. He was her soul mate, her life partner, her best friend, and her companion in Christ until his death in 2006.
Early in life the couple had one child who died at birth. Since that time she has become a surrogate mom and aunt to many in the community of Johnson Fork, which has been her home for many years. Described by family and friends as “wise, compassionate, and quiet spoken,” she is highly respected by all those who know and love her. Throughout her life she has been a faithful friend and diligent caretaker to many within her community, who in turn say the world would be better if there were more people like Aunt Cleada.
Having faced and defeated many challenges and obstacles in her life, she has acquired a toughness and resiliency which has served her well in her older years. Never one to shy away from difficulties, she has learned to surmount these problems with an unshakable faith and a staunch determination to move forward with life. She survived acute leukemia at the age of 35, and her doctors at the National Institutes of Health at Bethesda, Md., called her a miracle as few patients survived the disease in those days. Also having survived childhood spinal meningitis, she is no stranger to the tougher side of life and is living proof that faith, perseverance, and tenacity will carry you through.
When asked about her toughness or any words of wisdom she would like to relate, Cleada meekly states, “God has been merciful to me. My wish is that everyone I know would forget their troubles and tribulations, as we are all meant to have those. We need to make the best of every day. Our life is designed for one thing and one thing only — to live and serve the Lord.
“It is important to remember life is short,” she said. “We need to live every day as though it were our last one and fill our lives with the things that matter most. We should surround ourselves with the sweetness of friends and family, and forgive everybody for everything. When my life is over, it is my greatest wish to meet all of my friends and those I love in heaven someday.”