Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clayton L. Stewart

Clayton Stewart, 89, passed away on April 10, 2008, in Twin Falls. Clayton was born June 16, 1918, in Spanish Fork, Utah, and grew up in Shoshone, where he met his lifetime sweetheart, Bernice Hicks.

Clayton and his father, Roy, were superb fly fishermen, and had as a client the president of Union Pacific Railroad, Averell Harriman. They introduced him to Silver Creek and the streams of what was to become the Sun Valley area. Clayton, or "Stew" as he was known to many friends, was instrumental in the choosing of Idaho and the Ketchum area as the site for Union Pacific's Sun Valley Resort. Clayton and Bernice were original employees of Sun Valley, at work on opening day in 1936. There were three original Sun Valley fishing and hunting guides: Taylor Williams, John Baumann and Clayton. The other two were mature men, but Clayton was just 17. However, his fly-fishing skill was unparalleled. All his life, other fishermen who encountered him fishing would often stop to watch in awe. Also, Clayton was a superb shot and was particularly skilled at hunting upland game birds. During his career, Clayton guided many noted people, including Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Raymond Massey, Barbara Stanwyck and countless others.

Clayton and Bernice married, and Clayton served in the Pacific theatre of World War II, rising to the rank of chief petty officer, returning afterward to Sun Valley, where he worked in the transportation department. For many years, Clayton served as Sun Valley's "contact man" for moviemakers, and helped directors with the settings and logistics of over 20 films, including "How to Marry a Millionaire," "Bus Stop," "The Tall Men," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "The Wild North."

Clayton loved geology and became a self-taught geologist, roaming the hills and establishing mining claims that eventually allowed him to retire early. He was Sun Valley's first postmaster and the only person to receive a 100 percent rating from the Idaho state manager. But he wasn't happy being cooped up all day and left that position. He rose through the ranks at Sun Valley from Transportation Department head to administrative vice president, and was the person who knew Sun Valley inside and out: where everything was, how everything worked and who everyone was. He was the city clerk as a side responsibility for which he was unpaid, and served on the hospital board for years. He built ski lifts, buildings, water systems, roads, trails and many of the Sun Valley facilities that remain today, including the walking trail from Ketchum to Sun Valley. He established the Sun Valley Water and Sewer District.

Clayton was a forward thinker who served as president of the Southern Idaho Chamber of Commerce, trying unsuccessfully to build a four-lane highway between Hailey and Ketchum way back in 1968. He also worked diligently on building a regional airport for use by all of southern Idaho. He even had land donated and commercial airlines committed to the project, but was unable to convince local airports to support this option and the benefits the project would offer.

Clayton was a great outdoorsman who knew the streams, mountains and canyons of the area intimately. His greatest joys were his family and being in the outdoors. He was an expert horseman.

Clayton was an unassuming man who preferred to work behind the scenes, but for those who knew him, his kindness was legendary. Here are three anecdotes among the many that could be told: One year the family budget seemed especially tight; his daughters found out many years later that he had anonymously paid a new widow's rent. Another anonymous project of Clayton's was providing funds when a neighbor's little boy needed an operation. One winter someone abandoned two horses in a corral north of Ketchum with no food or water, and Clayton snowshoed in to them several times a week, carrying water buckets, oats and hay.

Clayton was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Bernice. He is survived by his daughters, Dana (Scott) Quinney of Boise and Vicki (Paul) Smith of Hailey; his granddaughter, Joy Dobson; his grandson, Todd Smith; his great-granddaughters, Megan and Madison Dobson; and his brother-in-law, Hillard Hicks.

When you remember Clayton, picture him standing in sunlit water casting his fly, his line streaming out forever, kissing the water without a ripple and coming to rest straight and true.

Funeral services were at 2 p.m., Monday, April 21, at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church with Rev. Jorge Garcia officiating. Interment followed in the Ketchum Cemetery, under the care of Wood River Chapel of Hailey.

It is suggested that memorial contributions be sent to The Community Library.

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