Obituary: Edward Joseph Clifford / A life of humor and eccentricity
Seeing someone wearing mismatching socks, a bow tie and colorful patterns might be jarring for some, but to family and friends, that was part of what made Eddie Clifford who he was.
His outward personal flair matched his inner personality: He was a true jokester.
Mr. Clifford, 89, died in South Carolina Sunday, leaving behind the memory of his laughter.
"My earliest memory was of him wearing plaid shorts and striped shirts in the summer," said his niece Marilyn Clifford. "For him, he made it work."
Mr. Clifford was born in Pittsburgh, and stayed here for most of his life, a fan of Primanti Bros. sandwiches and Heinz pickle pins.
He attended Central Catholic High School in Oakland. After a stint with the Merchant Marine, he worked as a waiter and greeter at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley for nearly 50 years.
He quickly became a staple of the club -- co-workers recalled how he injected humor into his daily work. When the club held formal dinner parties, a waiter had to ring a bell to indicate when the cocktail hour was over and dinner was served. Mr. Clifford performed this duty with pride but was quick to crack a joke, calling himself the "head ding-a-ling."
"I never heard him have a serious conversation," Ms. Clifford said. "He didn't spend his time trying to solve the problems of the world."
Cindy Pearce, the club's human resources director, worked with Mr. Clifford from 1988 until he left the club in 2008, when he moved to South Carolina to live with his niece.
Ms. Pearce and Mr. Clifford worked closely on the club's monthly staff newsletter; he had his own column called "Eddie's Corner," and it was filled with his favorite jokes.
"He got a big kick out of the column. ... He was so proud of it. He had me make copies of it to hand out to people," she recalled.
Many of his jokes rested on classic wordplay and situational humor -- "A wife asks her husband to take out the garbage; the husband says, 'Why? You cooked it' " or, "Did you hear about the blind carpenter? He picked up his hammer and saw."
But Mr. Clifford's relationship with the club went beyond his career and column; it was literally his home for a time.
The club used to offer housing to its employees 25 years ago before turning the housing into accounting offices, Ms. Pearce said. "He spent his heyday here."
Even after moving to South Carolina, Mr. Clifford maintained his eccentric nature.
Between his jokes and his outgoing nature, Ms. Clifford said, "He never met a stranger." He would approach people, simply introduce himself and form a relationship, she said.
Around the corner from Ms. Clifford's home is a bakery that gives out free cupcakes every Friday. She said her uncle would be at the shop like clockwork every time they gave out the cupcakes because he "lived for food."
He became such a regular that when Ms. Clifford spread the news of his death, the bakery offered her free cupcakes in his honor. "He brought happiness to people just by being himself," she said.
Although he never married or had children, he is survived by his extended family of six nieces and nephews and two sisters-in-law.
The funeral will be 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Folly Beach, S.C.
First Published July 27, 2012 12:00 am