Funeral For: Stewart Clayton
Funeral Date: Private
Stewart Clayton, 94, of Manitou passed away Saturday, October 14th at Pembina Manitou Health Centre. He is survived by 2 daughters, 3 sons and their families. He was predeceased by his wife Marge.
A private funeral service for Stewart Clayton has taken place with private family interment at St. Mary’s Alban Anglican Church Cemetery, Kaleida.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Manitou Opera House.
Arrangements by Wheatland Funeral Service, Pilot Mound.
Born February 22, 1929, on the farm
Died October 14, 2023, Pembina Manitou Health Center
Just Let Me Sing and Yodel, obviously, but there were so many more sides that Dad explored in his 94 years of living. In all his years, he lived in only four homes - two on farms within a mile of each other, and two in Manitou within blocks of each other, all within 14 miles, and all near his beloved Pembina Hills.
Over the years, he logged many, many miles driving throughout Canada and the United States, but he never found any other place that he even considered calling home. He may have put on just as many miles traveling around home - probably “500,000 miles of dusty country road...pickin’ up his load.” So many miles that “every curve in the road held a memory and every tree by the way was his friend.”
It’s hard to imagine the amount of change Dad experienced over 9 decades of living. From the depression years, trudging through a sea of grasshoppers when walking to Kaleida for supplies, and to the one room Kaleida School that he attended through grade 8. Much later, in 1948, he purchased his first car, a Baby Overland for $40 and eagerly replaced some of his walking trips with driving.
Dad liked to say that he learned a lot more getting to and from school than he did once he got there - traveling at first with his older brother Reg, and then on his own after Reg finished. There were frozen fingers and toes as well as chores which included feeding the horses and starting the pot bellied stove before the teacher or other students arrived. When the school day ended and he was home, there was more cold in the grainery that became the family home. He often joked that the house was so cold in the winter, they had to throw a blanket on the fire just to keep the fire warm.
When his formal education ended, Dad continued to help on the farm, and then traveled west for a time with his life-long friend Ron Yager to work on the pipeline. When he returned to the farm, his next money-making venture was selling melmac dishes door to door......but mercifully, not for too long!!
As he settled into farming, a dream of making music beyond the NW quarter of 12-2-8 was formed. Songs were written while doing fieldwork with the horses; the farm was an endless source of inspiration for serious songs about rural living. Even when finding the cows, who always seemed to be in the farthest corner of the pasture, Dad could simply, yet poetically, convey the beauty of living “way down on the farm in the early morn when the sun begins to shine.” There were also silly songs where he shared glimpses of farm challenges in songs like “My Yodeling Tractor and Me” and “The Nicest
Thing about Hogs” really, and truly IS getting rid of them!” Listeners voted him King of the Saddle on a radio program in the 1950s, and although his career spanned 70 years, he remained humble “no superstar here, he just loved to sing.”
His love for sports (and Toronto-based teams) never faded, from the time he tied T. Eaton’s catalogues to his shins. Interestingly, his father Charlie took care of Mr. Eaton’s horses before moving west from Lambton Mills, Ontario. Dad curled and golfed, but baseball was maybe his favourite sport. He was a player-coach, third baseman, and pitcher with the moniker “Screwie Stewie” for his screwball. He never shyed away from doing things his own way, saving his first home-run trip around the bases until his mid-50s, or pulling a green & gold team off the field mid-game before they knew that as a team, success was within their reach. (A few decades later, the same team enjoyed baseball hall of fame inclusion). Dad especially loved the times he shared on the field coaching his sons and eventually playing in a Border League game as one of 3 generations of Clayton men (all getting base hits).
Dad had a music passion that was fostered with sheer determination. The chances of this shy 18 year old succeeding in music were miniscule, since he had never even seen a guitar being played, owned no instruments, and the one class he ever failed in school, was music.
Regardless, his dream was to perform music in the style of Canadian legend Wilf Carter.
After that first challenging winter with an unplayable mail- ordered guitar, a relative commented “boy, you’ll have bloody white whiskers down to your knees before you learn to play that thing!”
He used to say that his dad knew a lot of songs - they all had the same tune, but he sure knew a lot of them. Some of his dad’s stories would one day find new tunes to become songs like the “Ballad of two Brothers”, a true life murder ballad before ‘murder ballads’ were popular. Dad’s perspective on some issues was ahead of the current time, as evidenced in his songs, “The Canadian,” “Crazy People,” “The Working Man,” and “Hard Hard Times”. Many tribute songs were also penned from stories dad had been told or observed.
That boy who never feared a challenge, eventually summoned the courage to play a mouth organ and his guitar in public, although public singing wouldn’t appear for a couple more years. In 1950, he recorded several original songs at Mr. Veals’ house in Darlingford with his brother Reg holding the microphone to “My Married Life on the Plains, When the Ice Worms Nest Again and The Manitoba Waltz.” It would be many years before he tried recording again, but the thrill of singing original songs had begun.
Soon, he would attend a local fiddling contest that would change his life. Twenty minutes after this bashful, guitar holding boy was introduced to a beautiful, young, piano playing teacher, they were on stage together singing On Top of Old Smokey, since both were familiar with that song. Both had collected cowboy song books, and the young lady had a Gene Autry guitar. Correspondence between the two was written backwards by Wets Notyalc, to be held in front of a mirror for reading. This kept interested student eyes baffled as romance bloomed and resulted in 46 years of marriage.
Dad was no cook - but was so blessed, first, by mom’s culinary gifts, and later gifts shared by neighbors and the community - from the Fall Suppers, to treats dropped off, and the superb meals prepared by Dan and Tracy, that may have numbered in the thousands, shared with a very special group of morning coffee folks that started his days with a smile for decades. Thank you.
And did someone say pie? Lemon pie, Saskatoon pie, strawberry rhubarb pie.....maybe even Gooseberry Pie.......I feel certain that right now, a slice of heaven in the shape of a pie is being enjoyed to the fullest.
Dad was intuitive, and was once called Canada’s Country Conscience on the cover of the Canadian Bluegrass review. He never made a set list because he would always just sing the songs that that room needed to hear on any given day.
Many hats must be worn over 9 decades of living. A dusty old, poor poor farmer’s straw hat, an ear flap hat for prairie winters, or a ball cap. For most everything else that mattered in life, a signature white cowboy hat would do just fine. A hat that was worn at the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs) when asked by music industry leaders to sing Red River Valley at the CCMAs, with only guitar accompaniment, for the elite artists attending. It was a good thing they wanted the guitar accompaniment, because he couldn’t sing without his guitar. Ever. He took the stage with great trepidation, thinking his style of traditional playing - a style from which he never wavered - wasn’t nearly good enough to be played to an audience of so many successful artists that he admired and respected. He finished singing, and when he sat down the house lights came up, and so did every person in the room. They rose to their feet in unison, for many minutes. He was asked to sing a Wilf Carter song and yodel for his encore. When he finished, there was not a dry eye in the house, and many felt like they had seen the ghost of Hank Williams Sr. perform. “No super-star there, but my, how he just loved to sing” and yodel those old-tyme songs. Dad never felt comfortable with any of the wonderful tributes and accolades he received over the years, even though they were well-earned. He enjoyed his television appearances, and the short-film in the Toronto Film Festival. He was always just as happy singing for even one fan as he was to a full house!
Of all his hats though, his kids loved him most when he wore no hat at all, and was just dad. A dad who showed us the best spot to find the spring crocuses on the hill in the valley, and where to find the marsh marigolds that grew in the creek of our pasture. A dad who MC’d the Christmas concerts in the Kaleida Hall, and who made us all laugh with his wit and playful nature. A hard working dad who made ice so we could learn to skate, and who could always find a few coins for family fun like taking us to a rodeo. A friend who treated his bus kids to ice cream at the Burger Shack on the last day of school, and a man who taught many how to navigate life by quiet example.
His curiosity and empathy would often lead to unexpectedly strong connections, whether it was Benny (Sherpaw) in the valley, Peter from across the pond, Myrna over the tracks, Carroll down east, Gary and friends down the hall, or Doug who farmed next door (in Saskatchewan).
He once looked at a landscape painting and was asked what he was looking at for so long. He said he was just wondering where that river goes. So go find out where that river goes dad; we will always love and miss you, and will listen for that One Last Yodel as you Yodel Your Way Back Home, that silver haired daddy of ours.
Stew was preceded in death by his beloved wife Marge Redpath; his father Charles “Charlie” Clayton Jr
(1869-1962), originally of Lambton Mills Ontario; his mother, Phoebe Mary Ann “Polly” Card (1880 -1965) of Glastonbury, Somerset England; 3 brothers, two sisters and their families as well as so many treasured friends & family members, neighbours, bandmates and teammates.
Stew is survived by his five Children, Wilf (Janice), Randy (Isabel), Greg (Vanda), Loriann (Ed), Juanita (Roxanne) and by his nine grandchildren, Danielle, Jesse (Jessie), Lindsey, Dana (Mats), Marlana (Nevin), Brooke (Andy), Corbinn, Brandi (Riley), and Maranda. Dad will also be missed by Marge’s brothers, Joe (Judy), Vern (Jane), Larry (Maria) and his 7 great grandchildren.