A tribute to former G-T publisher Clayton Emry

I met Clayton in 1943 when entering the old brick high school on the hill, as a senior.

He was just a ho-hum fellow student to me and already had a girlfriend.

Clayton Emry
Clayton Emry

We became a couple in 1945 on St. Patrick’s Day, a day which became more memorable to him, than our actual wedding date, which was Jan. 9, 1947.

In a unique way, while he and two friends were sitting on Main Street “people watching” a coin was flipped to see who would ask the redhead employed at the Rexall Drug to go to the show when she got off work. I’m not sure how three people flip a coin, but however it was done, Clayton won the flip. For over 70 years he would say he didn’t know whether he won or lost (but just recently I found in some of his writings that he said indeed it was the luckiest day of his life, perhaps the luck of the Irish). For 71 years (including the two years he was in Japan in the Army) I have received a green bouquet on St. Patrick’s Day. Clayton was blessed with a lot of natural abilities for “fixing” things that broke and he saved us untold dollars in repair bills, including automobiles until they got too sophisticated with electronics. He was also blessed with a lot of artistic abilities and did well at oil painting. He did two paintings… but was waiting until he got OLD to take up where he left off.

In February of 1947 he learned they were looking for a bookkeeper at the Oroville State Bank. I sat, anxiously awaiting his return from the interview. On asking him what he found out, he answered, “I found out that it is February 12, Lincoln’s birthday and banks are closed.” He went back the next day, and got the job, thus this was the beginning of a 40-year banking career. He was a self-taught banker and enjoyed the years when a handshake had as much meaning as a signed document. But as the years went by there were too many rules, regulations and lawyers that got into the act, so it wasn’t as interesting as in the beginning. Recently we tried to remember all the different banks he worked for, yet never leaving Oroville. He continued playing “small banker” from our home, helping some that didn’t qualify for bank loans.

Clayton Emry
Clayton Emry

In 1948 he built our first house, doing the plumbing, wiring and the whole bit. He had a wiring book, from Sears & Roebuck in his hip pocket and followed the instructions and it easily passed inspection. After doing his hours at the bank he’d work ’til sometimes midnight. The house is still standing and withstood a move so It would seem, he did a good job. From the small house, we moved twice, about two miles each move and still on the lake — and then our final move into the city, 11 years ago. Looking back, we should have moved into one of the units in the Ironwood Apartments which Clayton and two cousins had built, “because Oroville needed some nice retirement rentals” and he was very proud of the complex.

Clayton was active in organizations, associations, any group that was active in bettering Oroville. He was a member of Kiwanis, Senior Citizens, Legion, Borderlands Historical Society, was instrumental in getting the Television Association organized, helped in turning part of the city dump into the beautiful golf course, just to name a few.

He drove May Day floats for untold years, even driving one that required driving backwards all through the Wenatchee and Spokane parades.

Clayton was on the local school board and also at the county level. And held offices at the Okanogan County Senior Citizens.

Clayton loved to play cards… he always bid too high and some of the grandkids hated to be his partner and he liked to win. He liked to play pool and he was a good bowler, in his day.

Clayton was an avid reader, especially history related, and remembered what he read. He also liked the old Western movies.

Clayton liked children and worked with the HOSTS programs many years, and each grandchild and great grandchild was so very special. And he so enjoyed the many exchange students we hosted. Striving to help them learn. One special boy from Brazil remained with us, and became the son that Clayton never had and was here, from Massachusetts, holding Clayton’s hand as he slipped away. Family was most important to him and he left Nebraska when only eight-years-old but kept very much in touch with his many cousins he left behind.

He loved to travel. And we had the opportunity to do so visiting 47 of the 50 states. We’d no sooner get home from a trip and he’d have his old dog-eared atlas out planning the next. He was also able to return to Japan and revisit where he’d been in the Army. And another highlight was going on the Honor Flight to Washington D.C. accompanied by his oldest grandson, Jason Haney. He’d also done a few cruises and especially enjoyed the Panama Canal, because after all, it had to do with history.

I’ve had cards from so many of his former employees, telling how patient he was while they were learning a new job. And he was especially good to my mother when she had stressful times after losing my dad.

Clayton loved to drive… anything with wheels, cars, motorcycles, trucks and he was even a pilot. His pride was hurt more than anything when a couple of years ago he was cited for following too closely to the car in front of him, thus ending his MANY years of accident free driving.

Clayton loved music and would be so pleased at what his girls played at his memorial, seeing that his money wasn’t wasted on all those music lessons. He was most pleased that he (and the community of Oroville and others) helped to provide the baby grand piano that adorns the Oroville High School.

The Gazette-Tribune was very dear to his heart and he worked diligently to keep it alive, after several setbacks, when his brother Cleland was no longer at the helm. He loved writing the old news column.

He was a great tease, loved to tell jokes and funny happenings, even when he was at the brunt of them. In all the years I knew him, I was never 100 percent sure when he was teasing me or was serious. He was either very good at it or I was very stupid, but it was a fun trip.

These are but a few of the accolades that come to mind. He was a very special kind of man. Kind, patient, honest (and expected others to be). He definitely followed the Golden Rule and felt if everyone followed the Ten Commandments the world would be a much better place in which to live.

FAITH is how you know where you are going

HOPE is what keeps you going

LOVE is how you get there.

May you find peace and comfort, knowing that his memory will live on through every life he touched.

Please join us at the United Methodist Church, Saturday, March 18 at 1:30 p.m. for the celebration of his life.

Clayton’s Obituary