Marie Clifford poured herself into her boutiques.
You could see her personality reflected in every eclectic gift item and even in the winding layout of the store.
Clifford owned The Afternoon for about 40 years. She would have kept the store open for 100 more if she could have, said her oldest son, Marshall Massey.
Clifford, 92, died Sunday.
Clifford was born and raised in Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in fine arts. She owned a retail store in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
She had four children and was a kind mother, Massey said.
“She was very glamorous,” he said. “I’m not just saying that because I’m her child. She was very kind. She was cultured. She had the social graces down to a fine art.”
For a time, Clifford became a semiprofessional artist, making a decent income from her work. But she was her own worst critic and gave it up.
After the death of her first husband, Clifford remarried and moved to Omaha. She wanted to jump back into retail, her son said, so in 1979, she purchased The Afternoon, which had been an art gallery near 40th and Farnam Streets.
Clifford moved The Afternoon to the Westroads Mall and sold gift items, including art, jewelry, housewares, books and games. It remained at the mall until 2014, and returned there as a holiday pop-up a few years later.
The Afternoon also had a location in Midtown Crossing; that store
closed in January 2020 after 10 years. In addition, Clifford had stores in Minneapolis and Chicago.
Clifford went to markets and trade fairs looking for interesting items that had been overlooked by larger shops.
“I don’t think she was trying to fit anything to a pattern,” Massey said. “That’s where the overlooked goodies were.”
Besides running her stores, Clifford enjoyed traveling with her husband and children, spending time in her garden and caring for a “long succession of cats.”
She was a doting grandmother. She often gave her grandchildren stuffed animals that hadn’t sold. But many needed to be patched up after damage from being too close to the fluorescent lights, Massey said.
She also gave her children items that didn’t sell. Massey said they were usually fun items, and he isn’t sure why they were left on the shelves.
Clifford’s children supported her efforts with the retail shop, Massey said. Upon announcing the closure of The Afternoon in 2020, Clifford told a World-Herald reporter that owning the store was a wonderful experience and that she “loved every minute of it.”
“She really lived for that store,” Massey said. “It was good to see her having such a good time.”
In addition to Marshall Massey, Clifford is survived by her sister, Judith H. Anderson; children Sarah Massey-Warren, Becky Briles and Peter Massey, as well as stepsons Jack Clifford and George O. Clifford; nine grandchildren and step-grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was preceded in death by husbands Marshall M. Massey and George Clifford.
Notable Nebraska deaths of 2021
Ed Guthrie, Nebraska's last known Pearl Harbor survivor, died Jan. 7 at age 102.
Longtime Omaha real estate executive Ted Seldin died Jan. 9 at age 89.
Shirley Tyree, who served on the Omaha Public Schools board for 20 years, died Jan. 12. She was 82.
Gail Kopplin, who served as superintendent of the Gretna Public Schools and as a Nebraska state senator, died Jan. 13. He was 81.
Richard Roth, who served four terms as the Douglas County sheriff, died on Jan. 19, one day before his wife, Ruth, passed away. He was 93.
Former Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Krivosha died Jan. 26. He was 86.
Omaha Steaks Chairman and CEO Bruce Simon, left, died on Feb. 17 at age 63.
Andy Hoffman, who founded the Team Jack Foundation (named for his son, left) to raise money to fight pediatric cancer, died on March 1, months after his own cancer diagnosis.
Dr. Joe Stothert
Dr. Joe Stothert, a local trauma surgeon and the husband of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, died on March 5.
Former Nebraska State Sen. Dwite Pedersen died March 16 at age 79. He served four terms in the Legislature.
L. Dennis Smith
L. Dennis Smith, who served as president of the University of Nebraska system from 1994 to 2004, died March 29. He was 83.
Photographer Jon Farrar, 73, died March 30. He spent 42 years capturing images of Nebraska landscapes for NebraskaLand Magazine.
Joe Hammeke, a Creighton Prep graduate who combined his love for photography and skateboarding at Thrasher magazine, died April 13. The 48-year-old suffered heart failure while battling esophageal cancer.
Tim Kolb, and advocate for Nebraskans with disabilities, died May 1 at age 74, about 73 years after doctors said he would. One state law is named in his honor, and he helped get many others enacted.
Former University of Nebraska Regent Nancy Hoch, 84, died May 5 in Mexico. In 1984, she was the state's Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, losing to incumbent Sen. J.J. Exon by about 25,000 votes.
Lt. Col. Charles Hagemeister
Retired Lt. Col. Charles Hagemeister, who earned the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, died at age 74. He was born and raised in Lincoln, and though he worked and retired in Kansas after a long Army career, he maintained ties with his home state.
Paul Johnsgard, 89, a
n internationally respected naturalist, died May 28. He wrote more than 100 books, many of them about nature in Nebraska, where he taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for 40 years. Read more.
Dave Paladino, who owned several Omaha rental properties and a storage business, was killed in a plane crash on July 1. He was 54.
Omaha businessman Allan Lozier, 87, died in July. He was the CEO and chairman of Lozier Corp., which manufactures store fixtures, until 2020.
Bill "Butch" Keck
Bill "Butch" Keck, who created the residential addiction treatment program at the Siena Francis House, died July 22 at 77 of injuries suffered in a car crash. He himself overcame addiction going from
“a hopeless dope dealer to a dopeless hope dealer,” as his nephew said. Read more.
Theodore “Ted” Hazer
Ted Hazer, an Omaha real estate developer who served on several local boards, died July 24 at 94. He
was especially proud of being a founding member of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, which is the national fundraising arm of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Read more.
James Martin Davis
Omaha defense attorney James Martin Davis, 75, died Aug. 30 after having a heart attack. He was known as a bombastic but effective lawyer, often winning acquittals for his clients.
Inez Boyd, 85, died Aug. 28. She was the first woman elected to the Bellevue City Council and the first woman elected mayor of Bellevue.
Janniver "Jan" Vala
Jan Vala, the co-founder of Vala's Pumpkin Patch in Sarpy County, died Sept. 3 at 66 after a heart attack. She was remembered
as a gentle, thoughtful leader who helped grow the pumpkin patch into a beloved fall destination with more than 900 employees. Read more.
Former Omaha Mayor Mike Boyle, 77, died Sept. 13 of complications from pneumonia. He was elected in 1981 and reelected in 1985 but was recalled two years later. He served on the Douglas County Boards from 1997 until his death.
James Arthur Jeffers
James Arthur Jeffers, 87, died Sept. 14. He founded James Arthur Vineyards, which is now Nebraska's largest wine producer.
Leta Powell Drake
Leta Powell Drake, who created the character Kalamity Kate on KOLN's "Cartoon Corral," died Sept. 15 at 83. She produced, wrote and hosted the station's morning show for 25 years.
Walter Scott Jr.
Omaha billionaire Walter Scott, known more for his philanthropy than for leading Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc., died Sept. 25 at 90.
Phil Raimondo, the CEO of Columbus-based Behlen Manufacturing, died Oct. 3 at age 59. He had been recently diagnosed with liver cancer.
Marie Clifford, 92, who owned the The Afternoon, died Oct. 10. Clifford closed the last location of her boutique, in Omaha's Midtown Crossing, in January 2020.
Former Ameritas CEO JoAnn Martin died Oct. 20, about two months after her family announced that she had been diagnosed with a rare degenerative neurological disease. She led the insurance company for more than 10 years.
Merton "Cap" Dierks
Former State Sen. Merton "Cap" Dierks, 89, died Oct. 22 after complications from a stroke. He was known for his work on rural issues in his 20 years in the Legislature.