Clayton V. Curtis

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Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me!

Clayton was born October 22, 1923 to Bartholomeo and Helen Curtis Vitti. After his mother’s death when he was two, Victor Clayton Vitti was raised by his grandparents, William and Emma Wingate Curtis on the Curtis Ranch, which nineteen-year-old William had homesteaded on Wolf Creek in 1882.
On March 16, 1942, William and Emma legally adopted Clayton, age 19, after he enrolled at the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Alameda, California. He became known as Clayton Victor Curtis. On August 1, 1942 Boeing granted Clayton the rank of Airline Mechanic instructor. For a time during World War II, Clayton taught other Army Air Corps pilots and mechanics how to keep a plane airworthy.
Flying was his life. When he was sixteen, Clayton and his friend Jack Yentzer, Terry’s father, rebuilt a junked airplane. Clayton flew it. Jack’s father hauled it away.
During his distinguished and daring flying career, Clayton developed aerial spray systems and one of the first aerial firefighting tanker systems in the world, spraying herbicides and pesticides, fighting forest fires across the country and in Canada, and flying transport in the Caribbean. He flew airplanes whenever and wherever he could, and sometimes just for the hell of it.

Clayton’s military record is not inconsistent with a story he shared with maybe only two people. In December 1943, Clayton served with the Air Transport Command in Australia and the Solomon Islands. Clayton and the P-38 he likely volunteered to fly for someone else from Guadalcanal to escort B-29s on a bombing raid on Rabaul, headquarters of then deceased Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, was shot down. Clayton ditched in the lagoon on Green (Nissan) Island and survived Japanese patrols, while signaling nearby pineapple plantations. Thirty-eight days later, he was rescued by Navy Seabees from a Black Cat(alina). In about March 1944, William and Emma, who had received a missing-in-action telegram, were stunned to see him walk in door of their New Jersey-style Victorian ranch house. Emma fainted.

On June 18, 1946 Clayton married Dolores Elaine Tift in Sheridan. They were the parents of two girls and two boys: Virginia Curtis Hay Lee (James) of Salt Lake City; Sharmin Curtis Floyd Juroshek (Skip) of Sheridan; Cameron Vance Curtis, who died in August 1951; and William Lynn (Stormy) Curtis, who died in an airplane crash on the Buffalo airport on June 26, 1986. Dolores died September 12, 1979.

Clayton loved his seven grandchildren -- Brandin Hay (Anthony), an attorney in St. Louis; Curtis Lyn Hay (Christy), a GPS / MBA engineer, West Bloomfield, Michigan; James Lee (Jenna), civil and Amtrak engineer, Salt Lake City; Michael Allen Floyd, who died in 1970; Amy Tagge (Wesley), Gillette; Cathi Curtis Rumsey Koehler (Terri), Port St. Lucie, Florida; and Kelli Curtis Delaney, Sebring, Florida; six great-grandchildren – Cameron, Catherine and Curtis Lyn Hay, Jr.; Pfc. Breanne Stormi Rumsey, Fort Hood, Texas; Madalaine Rumsey, Irving, Texas; and Morgan Delaney; and one great-great-grandson -- Gatlyn Jace Little, Irving, Texas.

Clayton’s family is grateful for the excellent care provided him after January 17, 2009 by the Sheridan VAMC, Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Heritage Towers, Beehive Home and Sheridan Manor.

On January 7, 2013, Clayton slipped the surly bonds of Earth, put out his hand and touched the face of God.

Private service will be at a later date. Cremation arrangements are with Champion Ferries Funeral Home. Condolences lee2sky@aol.com.