When four-year-old Hannah visited the Anniston Natural History Museum, she loved that the cave was a little frightening, but would run ahead and squat down and jump out to frighten her parents, Revs Dale and Kelly Clem. She was interested in the Africa room, especially the size of the elephant, and could name many of the animals. She wasn’t afraid of snakes and held a big rat snake when it was offered to her. When the family walked outside on the trail to see the Birds of Prey, she stopped to pick up sticks, poke the ground, watch ants, examine pine cones, notice the different textures of tree bark as well as climb on anything she could find, dancing and singing the whole time. It was not so much of a walk as a time to experience the world with curiosity, wonder, and love.
The congregation of Anniston First UMC first heard that Hannah was on the way just before Christmas when Rev. Kelly Clem, an Associate Pastor at the time was doing a children’s minute during a Sunday Morning worship service. Kelly told the children that like Mary, she was going to have a baby. On July 21, 1989, Hannah was born in Jacksonville hospital. She was walking at 10 months and climbing soon after. Her dad created an obstacle course of chairs and the couch in the den so she could climb around and around saying: “It’s my work.” She enjoyed climbing into the cage of her pet rabbit named “Benjamin Bunny” and meeting friends and strangers. Hannah walked and ran the halls of Anniston First United Methodist as her mother prepared to open the preschool: “The Children’s Place.” Part of Kelly’s dream was to have a scholarship at the pre-school for working single moms.
Kelly was assigned as pastor of Goshen UMC in Piedmont, Alabama and Hannah enjoyed playing on the church’s playground next door and making arts and crafts. When she heard the howls of a cow in a nearby pasture giving birth she came running thinking she heard an elephant. She loved taking care of and playing with her little sister Sarah. Hannah had a mischievous streak and one day cut her sister’s hair and would move chairs so she could climb and unlock the chain on the door and escape to the neighbor’s trampoline. Hannah was a spiritual child and would go outside and talk to God. One day she was throwing a ball into the air wanting God to catch it. When visiting Cade’s Cove in the Smoky Mountains National Park, she was in awe seeing the deer and tenderly hugged a little lamb on a tombstone. On March 27, 1994 she watched the rehearsal of the special Palm Sunday play presented by the choir and children. She wanted to be in the play so her mother quickly made her a green costume. During worship, an F4 tornado struck the church killing 20 persons including Hannah, who was sitting on the front row with other children. Her funeral was held at Anniston First and her artwork decorated the Narthex. A rainbow and the words: Dancing, Singing, Climbing, and Painting are on her grave marker as well as palm branches and lambs.
After her death, members at Anniston FUMC began the Hannah Clem Scholarship at the Children’s Place to help provide quality childcare for single moms. It has helped countless families over the years.