Toni Clarey, 50, of Carthage, who fulfilled the idea of the American dream as a Laotian immigrant, mother of five and do-it-all leader of local restaurants, died on Nov. 8, 2020, in Sioux Falls at the Avera McKennan Hospital from complications due to cancer and other health issues.
A celebration of life was held on Nov. 14 at the Cabaret in Carthage. A private funeral ceremony was held due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Clarey was born Chan Hom Lee in a small Laos village that she compared to Carthage. The oldest of eight children, she and her family left the country during the late 70s due to an ongoing conflict. She once estimated she was 12 years old when they left for Thailand as refugees, and later they moved to America to Evansdale, Iowa and Carthage, SD.
At her career peak, she ran the Cabaret bar and steakhouse.
She did not know how to stop working. After she sold the Cabaret to her daughter, Phyllis, in the mid 2010s, she took a break from work and found those moments difficult. She busied herself with house projects and yard work but quietly hatched a plan to re-enter the food business. Less than two years later, Clarey and her son, William, opened Diner 34 in Howard. The short-lived restaurant was open for less than two years, as she was approached to manage De Smet’s Kingsbury County Country Club and accepted.
Like at the Cabaret, she developed strong relationships with many there and worked tirelessly. .
She is survived by her five children, Jonathan, Shannon, William, Phyllis and David; and six grandchildren, Aedan,15; Quentin,10; Sawyer, 7; Rolland (Ollie), 6; Jerry, 4; and Winter, 2.