Clara Elmore shouts from the rooftop almost daily, but her message is all work and no play. Roofing repairs and replacements can be dangerous tasks at times, but somebody has to do it, and Elmore is the right woman for the job.
As owner of J&C Construction in Belleville, Elmore doesnt leave the dirty work to the boys; this 40-something does tear offs, shoveling, and re-shingling right along with them.
More than 30 years ago, she began learning the roofing trade while watching her husband, the late James Elmore, begin a thriving business. When he passed away in 2010, Clara took over to keep his dream and the family business alive.
I helped him in the early years, but when we started having children he wanted me to stay at home with them, she said. When our youngest entered junior high school, I went back full time.
In the very beginning, Clara admits she had very little knowledge or experience about roofing.
I was 17 the first time I got up on a roof and worked, she said. The first thing I thought was Wow this is cool, then I saw a spider and thought, Oh No. Arachnophobia was something that quickly passed as she learned there are much worse aspects of the job.
You have to overcome the fear of becoming disgustingly dirty, she said. The nastiest jobs are the tear offs of wood shakes, but the easiest jobs are the shingle overs where you tear off the cap and shingle over the existing roof.
I have never been a girly girl, mostly a tomboy. Im not into dressing up; in fact, I have a wedding coming up in a few months and it will probably take me that long to find a dress to wear. I grew up playing football, baseball, and frisbee, so Tomboy it is. My daughter always tries to dress me up, she has learned and says its hopeless.
Clara doesnt mind being surrounded by men all day either as they tend to figure out quickly she knows her business inside and out.
When we get a new guy I tell them right away, I will know if you know what your doing in the first 15 minutes, and they look at me like, Ya right, but the ones who have been on a roof with me know I know what Im talking about. Some actually call me Mom, which is kind of cool, but it confuses the customers some times.
The job can be very strenuous at times, and its either a physical day or a mental day, she said. Clara invites the physical days because its a great way to burn frustration.
Her family and friends support her 100 percent, some even admit they wish they could do what she does. Others, she says, dont always take her chosen career seriously.
Being that its supposed to be a mans world and a mans job, I always get the same question, You dont get up there do you?, and I tell them, Yes I do and I work right along with everyone. Every once in awhile I will hear from clients that they think its great that a woman can climb a roof and do all the hard work it entails.
I remember once I was climbing the ladder to go up on the roof and this older lady startled me, Clara said. She had her window open and stuck her head and asked me if I was crazy for going up there. I told her no maam; its my job and she said to me, Well its about time a woman shows the men how to do a job right. I thought that was so awesome, and she made my day by acknowledging me.
Despite what a job and even mother Nature throws at her, Clara wouldnt have it any other way as its her tribute to her late husband and their three adult children James, Jeremy, and Allie.
They are happy that I can keep their Dads dream alive, she said.