Xarissa “Rissa” Merkley Clarke was born on July 4, 1909 in Magrath, Alberta, Canada to Jehzell Gibb and Alva Marion Merkley as the sixth of nine children. Rissa attended school in the little town of Magrath until going to “Normal” school in 1928 when she left home for the first time. In 1929, Rissa married Alva John Clarke and the two of them taught school together until 1937 when they left for Provo, Utah to study at Brigham Young University. Rissa graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from BYU, and for 17 years Rissa taught Kindergarten in Provo, Utah where she also raised her children. In 1953, she travelled to Iran with her husband to establish a model school of elementary education there. Rissa died on August 17, 1986 in Provo, Utah after a short illness.
This file contains two folders. Folder 1 contains Alva John Clarke’s autobiography and folder 2 contains Rissa Clarke’s autobiography, which is 29 typed pages long. Rissa was born as Xarissa after her grandmother and in her autobiography, speaks about her growing up in the small Canadian town Magrath or “The Garden City” which was settled by Mormon pioneers like her grandfather. In her account, Rissa describes the effects of various historical events such as WWI, the Spanish Influenza and WWII. Rissa writes about her close relationship to her grandfather Gibb, the Stake Patriarch, who she would visit regularly in his shoe shop; his death was the first which she encountered. There are various stories throughout the autobiography of Rissa’s time as a child ranging from almost stealing another girl’s play china set to founding a girl’s club in high school. While in Grade 12, Rissa served as Stake Sunday School Secretary for Sunday School Superintendent Grant Woolley, who was also her high school principal. She describes meeting and marrying her husband Alva John Clarke. Rissa and her husband taught school in their home and at grade schools in Provo, Utah, while attending BYU at the same time. Rissa raised her children during the Great Depression. She and her family struggled to make ends meet. Her autobiography contains many details of the family’s earnings, expenses, and frugal practices. Also included in the record are various stories of her parents and children. A transcript of the record is available online at https://familysearch.org/patron/v2/TH-300-42902-133-12/dist.txt?ctx=ArtCtxPublic.