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Jack Clift passes away at 100 years old, service to be held Monday

MADISON – Jack Clift, the patriarch of a family that first settled in the area in 1850, has passed away Friday. He was 100 years old. He will be laid to rest Monday in Madison City Cemetery following a funeral service at First Baptist Church of Madison.

The Clift family has been a predominate one in Madison since before the city’s founding 150 years ago. Jack Clift carried on the legacy and added to it through farming, which was his passion, and involvement in helping to shape Madison’s future. Today, the prominent neighborhood of Clift’s Cove and the upcoming multi-use development, The Clift Farms project by developer Louis Breland, serve as testaments to that.

The greatest testament to Jack’s legacy has been his family. Clift and his late wife of 72 years, Lillian, have four children, six grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter. In a story published earlier this year in The Madison Record, he said, “I can’t imagine someone having a life more blessed life, more fortunate than I’ve had, and I recognize that.”

“Our entire City of Madison family mourns the loss of Mr. Jack Cliff and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the Cliff family,” Madison Mayor Paul Finley said. “Jack loved Madison and we all feel blessed that we were able to share so much time with him. He will be missed!”

Clift was born in Decatur, GA in 1918. During the summers he would travel to Madison and spend them helping his uncle Frank on the Clift family farm. After graduating high school he enlisted in the United States Army during WWII serving in the 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to 1945 attaining the rank of Captain.

He was instrumental in the liberation of the Philippines where he was deployed behind enemy lines and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Air Medal, among others.

Clift was recognized for his service last month at the 14th annual Veterans Prayer Breakfast at the Hogan Family YMCA in Madison. Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command, publicly welcomed Clift and fellow WWII veteran Sherwin Callander to the breakfast and thanked them for their service.

“I am extremely humbled,” Clift said in response. “I am very appreciative for the people to come together to honor us. I would do it all again if I was able. I had great friendships with people I had never seen or hear about, but it evolved into many close relationships.

“I am grateful for my longevity and thank the Lord for my many blessings.”

After leaving the military, Clift moved his family to Madison where he began farming with his uncle. He lived in the same house where they reared their four children for 74 years.

Their charming two-story white house at the intersection of Mill Road and Church Street was built by Jack’s uncle in 1916 for the new principal of Madison School and was later occupied by some of the Clifts, though it was vacant again by 1946.

Jack and Lillian made that house into a loving home. “Everything you see here is characteristic of Lillian,” Jack said earlier this year.

Clift has actively been involved in farming since moving to Madison, including bush-hogging as recently as August 2019. He and the Clift farm have been recognized numerous times including being designated as an Alabama Heritage Farm, an Alabama Century Farm, and Alabama Conservationist of the Year.

He was also active in the Madison city government, serving as City Councilman in the 1960’s, and had been active as a member of First Baptist Church of Madison since moving to Madison, where he served as a deacon.

Clift was also a generous philanthropist, donating to many charitable causes and efforts. Last December, he was presented with a city coin by the Madison City Council for his many contributions in helping make Madison a great place to live. Though Clift was not present at the meeting, his daughters Charlotte and Anne came on his behalf. The Council played a video showing District 4 Councilman Greg Shaw presenting the coin to Clift at his home.

The video can be found at https://www.facebook.com/CityofMadisonAL/videos/349756632508368.

In the video, Clift spoke very affectionately about his wife, who passed away in 2015, two days before their 72nd wedding anniversary.

“We had a wonderful life together,” he said. “We never had a cross word together.”

“I didn’t know how I’d react the moment she died, but she was laying in the bed, and I was sitting in the chair, and I was holding her hand,” he said in an interview with Record staff writer Kendyl Hollingsworth in January. “She was getting weaker and weaker. Finally, she was looking right at me, and I was looking right at her. She closed her eyes, and a little bit of her hand went cold. Right then, I was 100 percent at peace…that’s the way life is.

“A few days before, she was talking and smiling, laughing, knowing she was fixing to be with the Lord,” he said.

Clift’s life and his own journey to be with the Lord will be honored Monday, Dec. 9. Visitation will be from 11:00 to 12:30 at First Baptist Church of Madison, 4257 Sullivan St. The funeral service will follow at 12:30. Burial will be in Madison City Cemetery.

 

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