Cleaburn Franklin Boyd, 1928–2021

Cleaburn Franklin Boyd of Exeter, Calif., passed into eternity in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 10, 2021, with his daughter, Susan Boyd, at his bedside. Cleaburn endured much in his 93 years on Earth, proving himself a strong and capable man even after losing his right arm in a boating accident at just 29 years old. Even the toughest may meet their match with Covid-19, which claimed Cleaburn at Kaweah Delta Medical Center after a brief illness.

Cleaburn Franklin Boyd

His roots were planted deep in Exeter soil, though he began life in Scottsville, Ark. Cleaburn was born on Jan. 23, 1928, son to Silas “Monroe” Boyd and Leslie Pearl (Meek) Boyd, who soon thereafter moved their young family to Oklahoma, where Cleaburn learned to work on the family farm. They moved to California in search of a better life in the early 1940s, building ships in Richmond before ultimately settling in Tulare County. Exeter became Cleaburn’s home for life, a town where he would meet and marry his wife, Betty Lou (Coover) Boyd, and where he would raise his two children, Tommy and Susan Boyd. 

Cleaburn welded liberty ships in San Francisco Bay to aid the United States’ World War II effort before relocating to Exeter and starting his career at Exeter Mercantile. Even after retiring from fixing tractors in the 1990s, he continued to offer advice and even wrenching assistance at the Mercantile, where he was a welcome sight. A lifelong friendship with (now former) Mercantile owner Bob Schilling began with Cleaburn as Bob’s babysitter when Bob was a child. In their later years the two kept a tradition of eating Thanksgiving dinner together.

He was an affable man with many friends. Cleaburn enjoyed driving in Exeter, the town he called home for nearly 80 years, in his baby-blue Volkswagen Beetle and yellow International pickup truck, sometimes not making it more than a block without someone to wave to. He made a career of fixing International tractors for Exeter Mercantile, a job he found himself so adept at that he was flown to destinations as far as Arizona and Washington for special projects, even once working on tractors at “Dynasty” actress Linda Evans’ farm. He said having just one arm got him skeptical looks from mechanics, truck drivers and farmers, but he quickly impressed doubters with his remarkable skill. 

Cleaburn enjoyed cars, tractors, semi trucks, water skiing on Lake Kaweah and traveling. 

He is preceded in death by wife Betty Lou; son, Tommy; sister, Catherine Evelyn “Cathy” Estes; and brothers, Lealen Boyce “Bo” and Cleatus Boyd. Cleaburn is survived by his daughter, Susan; grandchildren, Alexander, Isaac and Jacqueline Babcock; and great-grandchildren, Logan McCauley and Augustus, Levi, Katherine and Theodore Babcock. 

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