Fred Clayton Obituary
Fred Clayton, Jr. 94, passed away on September 11, 2019 at Oak Ridge Manor in Brownwood, TX with family by his side. Fred was born on April 21, 1925 at his family’s home in Detroit, MI to Fred Clayton Sr. and Jean Cowan Dent. Freddie was called Junior by everyone, with the exception of his teachers, until he got out of the military.
Freddie grew up in Detroit with his parents and three sisters— Evelyn, Betsy and Blanche. A couple of years after the stock market crashed in 1929, they moved to a small cottage on Lakewood Beach on the Canadian side of Lake Erie. The cottage was built in 1918 and is still owned by extended members of the family. The children had many adventures on the lake, even in the frigid winter. From ice skating on a flooded field to ice fishing on Lake Erie and being pulled around on a sleigh by the family dog, Rinty, there was never a dull moment. In the summer, Freddie and his buddies would build a floating platform with cut trees for diving, swimming and fishing.
Freddie’s love of flying began on Lake Erie. His dad asked the pilot of an open-cockpit seaplane to take Freddie for a ride to see the lighthouse 20 miles out. The pilot flew a large pattern around the lake, unaware that a future pilot was born from his generosity. Freddie went to school for a few years in Canada until they moved back to Detroit. They returned to the cottage at Lakewood Beach every summer and many special childhood memories were made there.
At 16 years old, Freddie began working at a pattern shop making parts for the war. Then he worked at the local gas station. When he turned 18, he signed up for the cadets. After undergoing extensive psychological and physical testing required for pilot training, he was accepted into the Army Air Corps in 1942 and started boot camp at Shepherd Field in Wichita Falls, TX. Freddie was miserable because there was not an opening for his squadron at flight school. While they waited for training, they were sent to Texas A&M for one semester in 1943. Years later, his first grandson Larry Crane would be assigned to live in the same dorm room.
Freddie was a cadet trainer at A&M Coulter Field and then he was stationed at Avenger Field in Sweetwater. He was a confirmed bachelor until the day he met Juanita Louise Mathews. Everyone called her Nita. He told his friend Grady, “I’m going to marry that girl.” After a 4-week courtship and a 2-week engagement, they married on May 18, 1945. Once the war ended, they lived in Sweetwater while Freddie learned the furniture business from Nita’s father and they soon started a family. Their children are Lynda, Roger and Jeannie.
In 1946 they moved to Odessa and first opened Clayton Furniture, followed by Clayton Hardware, Clayton Grill, and finally Desert Paving, Inc. Freddie continued to fly his planes for many years and was always looking for a reason to get back up in the sky. He flew in air shows and shuttled patients to medical treatments. He flew for Parker and Parker Construction and hauled oil field equipment to Oklahoma. In the early years, he used a field on the edge of town as a makeshift runway, and if he had to land at night, Nita drove their car out to meet him, using the headlights to illuminate the landing strip.
Nita and Freddie loved to play cards – bridge, 42, pinochle, duplicate – and if you ever played with him, you know he was competitive. In their early retirement years they lived in Del Rio and owned the first houseboat on Lake Amistad. They also owned a motorhome, so they could travel all over the country with flexibility, staying in RV parks, and always making new friends along the way. They especially loved taking each of their grandchildren on summer trips to explore new destinations.
In 2000, Nita and Freddie moved one last time, to Lake Brownwood, where they enjoyed their house looking out over the water, boating, playing dominoes, special time with their many friends at Rocky Creek Baptist Church, where they were members, and visits from their children’s families, including numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Nita passed away in 2011.
Our beloved Mother and Daddy, Mama T and Pop, lived wonderfully long, rich lives, giving so much of themselves to countless friends and loved ones. They were storytellers and adventurers. They took risks and lived courageously. They loved Christ and spent their time cultivating relationships with everyone they encountered. In that way, they were otherworldly – incredibly gracious, loving, present, and quick to laugh. They are deeply missed for now, but their incomparable memory lives on, and we await the Day when we will see them again.
Preceding Fred in death include his parents, sisters, and his wife Nita.
Fred is survived by his daughter, Lynda Beth Fowler and husband G. William (Bill) Fowler of Odessa, Texas; son, Roger Fred Clayton and wife Ruthann Clayton of Odessa, Texas; daughter, Mary Jean (Jeannie) Pruett and husband Steve Pruett of Brownwood, Texas; eleven grandchildren; twenty great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild on the way; brother in law, Billy Roy Mathews and wife Nancy Spillars of Sweetwater, Texas; sister in law, Frances (Toots) Hynum of Phoenix, Arizona; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Special thanks to Grace Lawson for her years of caring for Freddie; and great appreciation to the nurses and staff at Oak Ridge Manor in Brownwood, TX for showing compassion, kindness and respect to our dad.
Family visitation will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, September 13, 2019, at Sunset Memorial Funeral Home.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, 2019, at Sunset Memorial Funeral Home Chapel, Odessa, Texas, with Reverend David Newton officiating. Burial will follow at Sunset Memorial Gardens.
Pallbearers will be his grandsons: Brent Clayton, Eric Crane, Larry Crane, Ramsey Fowler, Todd Pruett, and Will Pruett.
Honorary Pallbearers will be Darren Pruett, Steve Gessell, Justin Hensley, Mat Jones, and John Zabel.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be donated to Hope Heals Camp, a community offering Christ-centered resources, rest, and relationships to families affected by disabilities. www.HopeHealsCamp.org 4279 Roswell Road NE, STE 208, #270, Atlanta, GA 30342.
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