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February 4, 2015     Feather River Bulletin
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February 4, 2015
 

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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 1B James Wilson Staff Writer jwilson@plumasnews.com n 1953, Claire Singh was 17 years old and in love. it didn't matter to her that her boyfriend was married with two children. Claire, often called Clara, decided to run off and start a new life with her 28-year-old boyfriend, George Neeley Jr. Sixty years later, Claire is 78 years old and feels a deep sense of regret. When she left Portola, she left behind any record of her childhood. Now Claire hopes to reconnect to her past. She hopes to find anyone that may remember her, and may know where her three brothers are. "It's been a secret for so many years," Claire said, before telling her story of a young girl who was ruled by passion. "It was a really bad thing for us to do..." The love affair Claire was born in Portola to mother Ella Duran and father Katar Singh. Claire's father moved to the U.S. from India in the early 1900s. Claire described her mother as an alcoholic and a prostitute. She described her father with more affection, but she noted that since he worked for the railroad he_w n't always around. According to Claire, her father would spend time with her when he was home. Claire lived in foster homes and orphanages her whole life. She would see her mother around town, but the two wouldn't acknowledge each other. Claire had three older half-brothers from her mother: Henry, Herbert and Johnny. She believes her father adopted them at some point, since their last names were also Singh, though her father claimed they were not his sons. In 1952, Claire met George. George was older, but the two hit it off immediately and started dating. Claire's brother Herbert didn't approve of the relationship and alerted the authorities about it. George was arrested for having a relationship with a minor. After six months in the Plumas County jail, George was released and moved in with family in Sacramento. His wife and children remained in Portola. In summer 1953, Claire felt a LaVerne Aventi, left, and Diana (Neeley) Simpson meet for messaging back and forth on Ancestry,corn, the two realized Photo submitted the first time last April. After they were. in fact, half'sisters. the need to see George again. Sheconvinced her foster parents to let her go to Sacramento for one week. Claire never returned. ,'!A week into the _. rest of our lives," Claire said. On the move After staying a week in Sacramento, Claire and George decided to make a run for it. Both figured that Claire's foster parents would f'fie a missing person report when Claire didn't come home. The two hitchhiked to Red Bluff where George worked at an orchard. After a few weeks, the two moved again, this time to Alturas, where George landed a job at a lumber mill. While in Alturas, the two decided to change their names to make themselves even harder to fired. Claire Singh became Carmen Sanchez and George Neeley became John Aventi. The two decided to get further away from their pasts and moved to Montana. It was when they. were living out of a motel that Claire discovered she was pregnant. Claire and George movecl into a garage that had been converted into an apartment. Their first son was born in May 1954. Two years later, Claire Singh and George Neeley visit shortly before George's death in 2007. Though the two broke up in 1969, they stayed close friends for the rest of George's life. Photo submitted their second son was born. Fivb years after moving to Montana, Claire and her family moved to Minnesota, then to North Dakota. Finally, they stopped moving. Reality "George and I ruined our lives," Claire said. "I thought he would have a job, that we would have a white-picket fence. But that wasn't how it was." George became a truck driver and Claire worked in a diner while their boys grew More than 60 years later, Claire Singh, shown in her North Dakota home, is reaching out to anyone from Portola that may, remember her. For the last 62 years, Claire has gone by the name Carmen Sanchez (Aventi). Photo submitted * Motor oil used today contains additives that enhance performance, but make it more toxic when improperly disposed * Used oil is a major source of oil contamination of waterways and can result in pollution of drinking water sources. * Used motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty and can be recycled, cleaned, and used again. * Plumas County Department of Public Works has oil containers & funnels available for free. Advertising funded by a grant from CalRecycle managed by Plumas County Department of Public Works George Neeley poses for a photo in 1961, eight years after he left his wife and children in Portola to start a new life with 17-year-old Claire Singh. Neeley changed his name to John Aventi, making it difficult for anyone to locate him. Photo submitted up. According to Claire, they remained friends and visited took the secret of his past life always struggled to get by. As often. Claire even babysat with him to his grave. a truck driver, George was George's children from his "I think if we would have gone for long stretches of third relationship from time known what our lives were time. to time. going to be like, we would've In 1969, the two broke up. During aU this time, had second thoughts," Claire George moved in with his neither George nor Clairesaid. girlfriend, with whom he ever talked about the past in Claire assumed the secret eventually had two more Portola. Their children never she kept hidden for most of children, even knew their real names. Claire and George In 2007, George died. He See Singh, page 16B Performance and Repair Needs Tracks, SUV's, Imports and Classic Cars Custom Dual Exhausts, ta ic Co He , ....... 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