Longtime Southold resident Richard Henry Clay passed away on June 28 at Peconic Landing in Greenport, where he had lived since March 2007.
Born June 19, 1917, in East Orange, N.J., Dickie grew up in Free Acres, N.J., and attended Upsala College in East Orange.
He married Dorris Bense of Westfield, N.J., and they moved to Southold in 1951. With his wife, he ran the North Fork Newspaper Delivery Service, delivering papers from Cutchogue to Orient in the 1950s and 60s. He was a longtime employee of East End Marine Supply in Greenport, now Lewis Marine Supply.
Dickie overcame a number of obstacles in his life, including being born with a physical disability that prevented him from walking for much of his childhood. A defining moment came at age 6, when Doug Wherret, an adult neighbor, jumped fully clothed into the local swimming hole to save Dickie’s life after he had fallen into the water in the heavy plaster leg casts that would eventually allow him to walk.
Dickie Clay was an optimist who worked hard his whole life. He was also a man of strong political beliefs, often forcefully expressed. He suffered fools not at all; he was stubborn, emotional, easy to anger — and had a heart of gold and a wicked sense of humor.
He restored and re-caned old chairs, read a wide range of books and compulsively followed the Jets and Mets. He loved cats and yard sales and antique silver, and was utterly devoted to his wife throughout the 56 years of their marriage.
They shared a passion for travel and together visited 49 of the 50 states, as well as many other countries. As late as 2006, when Dickie was 89, they returned to Europe — though this time the adventure involved wheelchairs and canes and handicap-access hotel rooms.
Dickie is survived by his three children, Walter Clay of Newburyport, Mass., Barbara Ann Clay of Redwood City, Calif., and Joel Clay of Newton Abbot, Devon, United Kingdom, as well as three grandchildren and his brother, Eugene Clay of Milford, Conn. Dorris passed away in 2007.
He had a good long life and a peaceful death. In keeping with his wishes, no funeral was held. Arrangements were entrusted to DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Homes.
This is a paid notice.