Clay was born in Eugene, Oregon, to Chester Clay and Ethel Mae Thomason on Feb. 2, 1927. He joined a brother, Bill, and sister, Helen.
He lived life to the fullest and died, Sept. 3, 2018, as he lived his life, looking forward to his next adventures. His bucket list was never ending! Coming up next was his wish to combine wheat on the farm in North Dakota and visit the new locks of the Panama Canal in 2019. He graduated from Eugene High School where he was a high school basketball star. Clay loved his country and joined the Navy serving until the end of World War II. Upon discharge, he began his career of working in the plywood industry, which was in the beginning stages of development. He worked in many mills landing his dream job working for Campbell MacClean Plywood Company in Eugene.
He met the love of his life, Gail Marie Smith, in high school and they married May 9, 1947. Together they built a strong foundation for an amazing, loving partnership of 72 years. He always gave credit to her for holding down the fort at home so he could work. He knew she was supportive of all his endeavors and he was confident that she was capable of raising the children and managing the household.
When the Eugene mill burned in 1958, he and his partner, Cogswell Campbell, built the first mill here in Kalispell and many endeavors in Panama City, Panama. When their partnership dissolved and was sold to Plum Creek, he began his entrepreneurship of building mills around our country in Whitehall, New York, Bessemer, Michigan, and Manchester, Kentucky. He was always aware that his success was dependent on those around him and honored both his employees and his family for their constant support.
He loved to travel and learned to fly his own plane in 1958. This began another chapter of adventure that continued with many trips to all seven continents of the world. He never passed up the chance to try something new, do something different and experience life to the fullest — always with Gail by his side.
He had an undying passion for his family and was so proud of each and every one of their accomplishments. His biggest disappointment in life was the unexpected, sudden death of his grandson, Jacob Clay Sutton, at the tender age of 16. It was something he often reflected on. This last year he sorely missed the love and friendship of his son-in-law, Al Wroblewski, who died Oct. 13, 2017.
He is survived by his wife, Gail Marie, and daughter, Connie, both of Kalispell; daughter, Cathy, of Portland; and sons, Richard of Ironwood, Michigan, and Tom Landwehr of Spokane. He has eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
He never looked back at mistakes and always looked forward!
A memorial will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kalispell.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Ashley Lake Fire Hall, c/o Windauer, P.O. Box 219, Kila, MT 59920.