He was happily living with his family until his wife passed away five years ago.
Charley Clayton wasn't expecting any celebration for his birthday, but his neighbors made sure that the veteran's 102nd birthday was special for him. Clayton lives on Marguerite Drive in Longview, Texas. On October 25, Tuesday, the residents of the Longview neighborhood gathered with cakes, burgers, and more to celebrate Clayton's birthday, as reported by Longview News Journal.
That was not it. Guests also included people from Longview police and fire departments. This was not the first time that the neighborhood celebrated with Clayton. His daughter, Linda Haynie said that the birthday also doubled as the National Night Out-type celebration. It is an annual celebration that was started by Jack and Brenda Lenier shortly after Clayton's wife passed away five years ago.
“They started out just as a personal little birthday party,” Haynie said. “When my mother died, they knew he was here by himself, and the neighborhood would try to get together and just have a little birthday party for him and just come in the house and just be really low-key.”
Brenda Lenier is a block captain for the Marguerite Drive neighborhood. She organizes National Night Out parties. As the event happens in October around Clayton's birthday, the Leniers made sure to club the two parties and invite law enforcement to the dual celebration, Haynie said. Clayton was born on October 25, 1920. He joined the US Army when he was 21 years old. He was passionate about serving the country. He underwent military training in different parts of the country, like Utah, Oregon, and Michigan. A year later in 1943, he got married to his wife Arva, and welcomed their daughter Linda.
He served in the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces and remained overseas for most of his service, during which he also participated in World War II. He was awarded a victory medal and other awards in December 1945. He was honorably discharged a week later. He was happily living with his family until his wife passed away five years ago. He had to begin to live alone from then on. Fortunately, his neighbors decided to make sure that they spent time with him by celebrating his birthday and hosting neighborhood parties.
In 2020, when Clayton turned 100, the neighbors made it grand. Haynie said that they invited US Rep Louie Gohmert to attend the celebration and also gifted him with a certificate recognizing his birthday. Haynie loves the community support that his father has and is grateful she got to spend one more birthday with him. However, Clayton thinks that he doesn't deserve all this credit. “I think it’s the greatest thing in the world to be honored with the people along with me ... the people say things that I never heard before,” he said at the celebration. “I didn’t know they care about me,” he added.
He has never shied away from doing any task at hand. “I’ve been a farmer; I’ve been an oil field worker ... I’m a welder, electrician, mechanic, and I did all those things,” Clayton said. “Whenever I got in the service, they’d ask me about this or that, and I’d say, ‘Yeah I can do that.’“
“His whole life has just been being a patriot,” Haynie said. “Being a WWII soldier has informed his whole life.”
Clayton said, “I’m old enough that I never know when my time is ‘gonna be gone, but I’ll stay as long as God tells me to stay.