Erin Taylor McClanahan, born Jan. 18, 1973, in Valparaiso, Ind., left this world on Saturday, April 19, in Tahlequah after an illness.
But in the short time that the world was lucky enough to have him, he defined his character, not so much in the “How to Win Friends and Influence People” way, but by being a guy everyone loved because he was so much himself – original, witty, wise, intelligent, loyal, gracious, honest.
Quick to offer help, quick to say thank you (and mean it) and quick to laugh. And oh, what a laugh it was – his friends and family were lucky to hear his rolling laughter all the time – and will replay it in their heads when they think of Erin for as long as they live.
But that doesn’t scratch the surface of who Erin was. He had excellent dance moves. He could fold a T-shirt into a perfect rectangle.
He made the best chicken and dumplings ever (and don’t get us started on the fried potatoes). He loved his family and friends deeply and would drive cross-country on a moment’s notice to help someone. He religiously cleaned, even if it wasn’t his house.
He took care of those around him. He admired quality above quantity, knew the value of a dollar, and took care of what was his. He loved music, movies and television, had an unwavering curiosity, a vivid imagination, and seemed to have an inside joke with everyone he met.
Guys like Erin don’t come around every day – his charm, sensibilities, honesty and caring nature gave him countless friends, but also gave him integrity, dignity, joy, and a lightness of soul that made his death at such a young age that much more tragic.
He also sang beautifully. He was known to wow audiences with his renditions of “Easy” by the Commodores, a song that embodied his spirit – “That’s why I’m easy, easy like Sunday morning.” He sang by request at the Bamboo Lounge and Tulsa Eagle bars where he was a bartender whose name everyone knew, and vice versa.
He sang karaoke to the delight of his many, belting out “Steamroller Blues” by James Taylor when all the other kids were singing grunge songs.
He was an old soul, happiest spending an afternoon by the Illinois River, in a crowded restaurant or bar or at home on the back porch – as long as he was surrounded by people with whom he could laugh, be free and be himself.
Services for Erin are at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at Hart Funeral Home, with burial at Barber Cemetery. Among pallbearers will be friends Joel Roberts, Trey Goldesberry and Mark Shelton.
Erin joins his maternal grandparents, Rafe and Jenora Taylor; and paternal grandfather, Dean McClanahan.
He leaves behind his life partner, Scott Harper, of Mannford; his mother, Glenda McClanahan of Tahlequah; his father, Dana McClanahan of Valparaiso, Ind.; his sister Kristen McClanahan of Tahlequah and her children, Erin’s nephews and nieces, who meant so much to Erin, Elise Butterfield, Nathan Harrington, Blaze McClanahan, Keenan McClanahan, Ehren Johnson, Jed Harper, Justin Harper, Hubert Graham and Sam Sanders.
He also leaves behind cousins, aunts, uncles and loved ones, and a huge group of friends from his home state of Indiana; and in Tahlequah, Tulsa and Oklahoma City; as well as North Carolina, Virginia and beyond.
Erin made friends with nearly everyone he met, but unlike most fast friends, he held onto his. He was beloved, cherished and wonderful, and will be missed by hundreds. But his core group of family and friends will miss their “Uncle Ernie” most for his company, his gentle and peaceful nature, his smile and that fantastic laugh.
And no tribute to Erin would be complete without a quote from favorite band, the Grateful Dead, so here’s one from “Brokedown Palace”:
“Going home, going home
by the waterside I will rest my bones
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
to rock my soul
Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
to rock my soul.”