Even into her 90s, Doris Clegg wouldn't finish the milk at the bottom of a glass.
That was where the dirt settled during the storms of the Dust Bowl when she was growing up, turning the last gulps to sludge, she told her children.
Clegg never forgot her Dust Bowl and Depression-era roots even as she went on to graduate from college and become an activist for women's rights and other causes. She died July 15 at age 95.
As a child, Doris Ferree moved around the Midwest as the daughter of a farm implement salesman. Her parents were thrifty, but her father took a vat of homemade beef stew on sales calls to give to families struggling for food, family members said.
With encouragement from their parents, who instilled in them the importance of education, Doris and her sister became the first in their family to go to college. Doris graduated from the Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in business administration and was hired as an executive assistant at Battelle Memorial Institute, where she received a top security clearance for the organization's work on the Manhattan Project.
She married chemical engineer John Clegg in 1949, and the couple moved to Edina in 1963 for 10 years before moving to California. After John died in 1984, Doris Clegg moved back to Minnesota for good.
Family members said Clegg was sometimes timid, but always stood up for causes she believed in. She volunteered for the Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, the League of Women Voters and Planned Parenthood, where she and other women advocated for more information about family planning and access to birth control well before Roe vs. Wade. Later, she helped to resettle Hmong refugees in Minnesota.
Clegg was always well-read on current events and politics, her children said. After deciding which candidates to support, she "would lecture you to get you to agree with her," son Barry Clegg said. In her later years, she learned how to use Photoshop as well as an iPad and Kindle so she could keep up on events through technology.
While she was fiercely independent, even rallying publicly for the opposite of her husband's conservative political views, Clegg was able to laugh at life, her children said.
"She had a self-deprecating, wonderful sense of humor and a big laugh," daughter Ellen Clegg said. "She was always getting herself into fixes, sort of Lucille Ball-type fixes."
While her husband attended business meetings in Mexico City decades ago, Doris took the children sightseeing, Ellen Clegg said. Forgetting how to tell their tax driver to stop in her rudimentary Spanish, Doris gathered up her cash and thrust it at him, telling the children to jump out at the next stoplight.
Clegg became well known at Boutwells Landing, a senior community in Oak Park Heights where she lived for more than a dozen years. She was named volunteer of the year there in 2011. She worked the front desk, helped plan special events and consulted with chefs on the community's culinary committee. She also served on the transportation and education committees, once organizing a talk by her son Dennis Clegg on macular degeneration.
She struggled with dementia her last few years, but she managed one last practical joke on her family.
Barry Clegg said he and other family weren't fond of a set of papier-mâché clowns that seemed to stare at visitors to her condo. The clowns disappeared, but when family cleaned out her residence toward the end of her life, they noticed a box in a closet marked "to my children."
When they opened the box, the clowns stared out with a note that read, "Gotcha."
Besides her three children, Clegg is survived by her sister and three grandsons. Services will be held in September.