For it is in giving that we receive — from the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
Aaron Clay was awarded a Boettcher Foundation scholarship when he graduated from Hotchkiss High School in the early 1970s.
Each year since 1952 Boettcher Foundation has awarded a full-ride scholarship to 40 of Colorado's best and brightest high school graduates to attend a four-year college in Colorado. Boettcher's hope is that upon graduation those scholars will remain in Colorado and take up the mantle of maintaining and enhancing Colorado's great strengths.
Aaron and his wife Gayla say, "Aaron's Boettcher scholarship was a life-saver for us." The Boettcher scholarship covered tuition, books, and housing, and Aaron graduated with no student loans to repay.
Both Aaron and Gayla are Delta County natives. Aaron was born in the old Delta Hospital on Grand Avenue. Gayla was born in her mother's doctor's office in Paonia. Her mother and brother were living with Gayla's grandparents on Redlands Mesa while Gayla's dad was in the army. Dad returned just in time for Gayla's birth.
Gayla's parents are Don and Dee King of Delta.
After high school graduation, Aaron invested his Boettcher scholarship at the University of Colorado Boulder.
During those years, communication was either by U.S.Mail or expensive long-distance telephone calls. Gayla and Aaron had never met, but in one of her letters to a cousin who was also a student at CU Boulder, Gayla asked her cousin, "How's that good-looking Aaron Clay?"
Aaron was intrigued and they began exchanging letters.
Aaron came home in October for the hunting season and he and Gayla had their first date. They went to the Tru Vu Drive In and saw "Planet of the Apes" and "Return of the Apes." Aaron was a sophomore at CU Boulder and Gayla was a senior at Delta High School.
Aaron says, "We had a written courtship." Gayla has kept all of Aaron's letters.
They were married at the end of Aaron's junior year at CU Boulder. They will celebrate their 39th anniversary this August.
They lived in Broomfield during Aaron's senior year at CU Boulder and returned to Delta after his graduation. His major was physics and math, with an education licensure.
Aaron secured a teaching position at Delta Junior High School teaching 8th grade math, fulfilling his goal of teaching in a small town in Colorado. His classroom was a modular unit along the track field. He watched his students come running across the track field from the main building for their math class. About three-quarters through his first year teaching he realized he couldn't be a teacher for a lifetime.
Aaron knew that with a law degree he could find work anywhere he and Gayla wanted to live. He took the LSAT and was accepted to CU Law School. Three years later, 1979, he graduated with his law degree and passed the bar exam that summer.
The Clays managed to graduate law school without student loans. Gayla taught in Jack and Jill preschool in Boulder and Aaron law clerked with attorneys French and Stone in Boulder.
They bought a small mobile home and rented a space for it in Boulder. Three years later they sold it for more than they had paid for it, heading back to Delta County with "money in our pocket," Aaron said.
Gayla taught at Headstart, Garnet Mesa Elementary School in Title 1 programs and as director of Ark Preschool for one year. She became pregnant and quit in 1980. She returned to teaching later and has taught for years in the areas of special attention needed by children.
Gayla and Aaron have two children. Son Nathan and his wife Amanda live in Las Vegas with their children Owen, 4, and Willa, 2. Daughter Andrea and husband James Thomas and their children Patrick, 4, and Naomi, 3, live in Delta.
Aaron and Gayla emphasize that family is and always has been of utmost importance in their lives — their immediate family, Gayla's parents, Aaron's late parents, each set of brothers and sisters and their children.
When Aaron returned with his law credentials in the summer of 1979, attorney Jim Briscoe in Hotchkiss hired him as one of three law clerks that summer. When two of the clerks left, Jim Briscoe hired Aaron and Gregg Stanway as attorneys, establishing the firm Briscoe, Stanway and Clay.
When Delta attorney Rod Stewart was ready to retire, the Briscoe, Stanway, Clay firm believed it was time to branch out to Delta. They bought Rod Stewart's office in 1983 or 1984. Mike Dodson joined the firm in 1988. Briscoe and Stanway stayed in Hotchkiss and Clay and Dodson took up offices in Delta.
As a student at CU Law School, Aaron found a class in water law particularly appealing: the underpinnings of water law, what it represents, its reasoning, the fact that it makes sense. Jim Briscoe handed off some simple water cases to Aaron and in handling them Aaron "got his feet wet."
Robert Brown was the water judge in Montrose Water Court. Elra Wilson was the referee and was retiring. The referee position was part time, permitting time for private practice. Aaron was hired as referee in September 1982. He thought he would be in the position three or four years ... he retired after 26 years.
Aaron still practices water law and participates in seminars on water law and its workings in water court. He teaches water law courses at the Delta-Montrose Technical College. He recently explained to Delta City Council the very complex water rights the City of Delta owns and uses.
The Clays are an acting family. They all acted in Thunder Mountain Lives Tonight, a summer historical pageant with performances five nights a week, which ran for three years. Nathan was 5 and Andrea 2. The cast was all Delta County folks. "It was a huge commitment of time and the children had to be cleaned up every night after the performance. But it was a great time," Gayla said, "and the children can still recite their lines."
As a freshman at Delta High School, Nathan found there was no drama department or drama teacher. He wanted to act. His parents talked with DHS principal John Jones about their directing a play. Jones suggested they provide a sign-up sheet to determine the interest of the students — 55 signed up. The Clays were able to involve all the students, with some working backstage. "After five years of plays, we ran out of gas," Gayla said.
Gayla and Aaron produced one dinner theatre event at Delta United Methodist Church. They produced and directed several fundraiser plays for the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce. Their writers called themselves Ghost Writers on the Sly and included Mary Pfalzgraff (their conscience), Brian Cambria, John Taylor and Randy Sunderland. They directed two melodramas with Lenore Cambria and Bob Tweedell as writers.
Gayla grew up in Delta United Methodist Church and Aaron joined about September 1980. He passed out during the process and came to with Dr. Sam Kevan standing over him. There were other faces checking out his condition, including Gayla who was very pregnant.
They were church youth leaders for a long time with about 30 youth in the group. The youth performed "Celebrate Life" and they took the production to other Methodist churches in Denver. "It was great for the kids," Aaron said. The youth regularly performed short dramatic sketches during church services. The Clays took the youth group to two Methodist conferences, in Salt Lake City in 1985 and in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1999. "We did whatever jobs came along," Aaron said.
Both Clays are certified lay speakers. They serve as worship leaders. They have been involved in Walk to Emmaus for 10 years. Gayla was lay director last spring and Aaron will be lay director in spring 2014. Aaron is on the board of Abraham Connection homeless shelter and both volunteer at the shelter.
In 2000 the Clays and Barb and Eddie Sanford bought the Delta House assisted living center on Main Street. "Our objective is to give good service to these folks," Aaron said. Once a month Gayla, Aaron, Barb and Eddie personally serve dinner to their residents. Currently there are 22 residents with a capacity for 27.
Perhaps the best-known resident of Delta House was the late Art Briggs. Artist Seth Weber painted a mural on the wall of Delta House of Art sitting on a bench, a very familiar sight during Art's life in Delta. Seth Weber told the Clays and Sanfords that, as he was painting the mural, he was approached by many, many people who shared their personal stories about Art. "Art didn't know what he meant to his community," Gayla said.
Boettcher Foundation's investment in Hotchkiss High School senior Aaron Clay has returned substantial dividends for his community.blog comments powered by Disqus