Robert William Clay, 87, of Hardy, Ark., died Jan. 15, 2008, at St. Bernard's Regional Medical Center in Jonesboro, Ark. He was born Nov. 8, 1920, in Bexar, Ark., the son of Robert Newton Clay and Laura Ophelia (Sears) Clay.
He graduated from Viola High School in 1939. After joining the U.S. Navy in 1942, he served as a Navy Sea Bee and participated in one of the first groups of volunteers selected from the Naval Construction Battalions in the Spring of 1943 to lead the NCDU (Naval Combat Demolition Units) and the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) -- the forefather to the U.S. Naval Seal program.While stationed in Tupelo, Miss., he married Kathleen Strain from Conway, Ark., on May 23, 1943. They made their home in Hardy and began a successful grocery business. Robert and Kathleen were married for 60 years. Robert continued to operate the family business until the day of his death. He was a member of the Hardy United Methodist Church.He is survived by: a daughter, Renee Clay-Circle and husband, Nathan; two granddaughters, Amy and Katie Clay-Thomas; one grandson, Austin Circle all of Hardy; a sister, Montine Clay Moody of West Plains, Mo.; brother-in-law, Elwin "Preacher" Roe of West Plains; several nephews; nieces; and other relatives and friends.He was preceded in death by: his wife, Kathleen Strain Clay; two sons, Robert William "Bob" Clay Jr. and James Calvin "Jim" Clay; three sisters, Margie Clay Cooper of Arkadelphia, Ark., Mozee Clay Roe of West Plains and Mildred Clay Dietsche of Hardy; and a son-in-law, Eddie Wayne Thomas Jr. of Hardy.Funeral services were held Jan. 17 at the Hardy United Methodist Church. Burial followed in the Walker Cemetery with Bruce Dietsche and Kevin King officiating. Arrangements were under the direction of the Tri-County Funeral Home of HighlandPallbearers were Jim Sawyer, Billy Joe French, Drake Ledbetter, Lloyd "Pee Wee" Clouse, Ronnie Brogdon, Jack Gathright, Freddie Thomas, Jim Hussung, Lee Candler, Danny Lusk, Kerry Evans and Dan Seward.Honorary pallbearers were Linn Garner, Elwin "Preacher" Roe, Kenneth King, C.R. Cooper, M.A. Graddy, Terry West and Hayden Jackson. Also included as honorary pallbearers are Robert's caregivers: Peggy Crossno, Kathryn Byron, Jeff Lyles, Jim Dunbar, Sondra Alford and Jack Huffmaster Jr.In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Eddie W. Thomas Jr. Memorial Athletic Scholarship Fund: P.O. Box 728, Hardy, AR 72542.