As a Cub Scout den mother, Edna Clapper had a knack for turning everyday household throwaways into
Transforming an empty bleach bottle into a piggy bank, dry-cleaning bags into a poodle, and burnt matchsticks into a cross were some of her creations to keep her Scouts busy each week.
The project ideas led her to start her own scrap-craft magazine, Pack-O-Fun, in 1951, with her husband, John, who served as publisher. “It’s the oldest craft magazine in existence, certainly nationwide and probably worldwide as well,” said her son Lyle, who now is chairman of Clapper Communications, publisher of Pack-O-Fun.
Mrs. Clapper, 86, formerly of Park Ridge and Barrington, died of natural causes Sunday, Dec. 5, in Courtenay Springs Village Nursing Home, Merritt Island, Fla. Born in Park Ridge, Mrs. Clapper graduated from Maine Township High School and earned a nursing degree from the University of Minnesota.
While in college, she attended a church picnic, where she met John Clapper. The two were married in 1940. In 1945, they bought a home in Park Ridge, where she raised three children. They moved to Barrington in 1962.
Her first venture with her husband involved making and selling birdhouse kits. They later planned a magazine filled with low-cost craft projects. “The magazine was aimed at Cub Scout leaders, teachers and people working with children,” said former editor Kay Sweeney. “It was making things from real scraps – Popsicle sticks, clothespins. It was very innovative.”
As founding editor, Mrs. Clapper was the driving force behind the magazine for more than 20 years. She insisted on exact, step-by-step directions for her projects and used her children as test subjects. “They would try it and she would watch them, and if they had a rough time with it, she would adjust it so that it was a workable project,” Sweeney said.
The first issue of Pack-O-Fun was assembled in her basement using a mimeograph and a sewing machine. Three hundred free copies were distributed. When Mrs. Clapper brought her publication to a Cub Scout meeting, every den mother bought a copy, her son said.
“These group leaders were always in need of things to do that didn’t cost anything,” Lyle said. “Mom was very clever, and everybody kept looking at her ideas and saying, `This is good stuff.'”
Serving mothers and leaders of children’s organizations in the 50s and 60s, the magazine grew to more than 300,000 subscribers and from 20 to 68 pages.
After retiring in 1974, Mrs. Clapper and her husband moved to Florida. Her husband died nine years ago.
In 2001 the Craft and Hobby Association honored the Clappers with the Lifetime Achievement Award for their service to the craft industry.
Mrs. Clapper also is survived by a daughter, Edie Marks; another son, Larry; 11 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
A private memorial is being planned.