Ernie Clayton was born in Bollinger County, Missouri and grew up in Fredericktown, Missouri. During the Great Depression he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at a young age to help support his mother. He entered the Coast Guard twenty days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and served aboard the U.S.S. Cavalier (APA-37) for two and a half years. One night in the South Pacific – it was January 30, 1945 – Ernie remembers a bright, full moon. It was “the most beautiful sight in the world.”
Earlier that night an underwater explosion shook the Cavalier and men scrambled in the ship’s inner darkness to escape the flooding and damage. Miraculously no one was killed–yet. The men, unable to see the danger coming, feared a second torpedo. As the crew made their way topside in the night, Ernie thought the end was near. When a shipmate opened a hatch, the brilliant moonlight illuminated the ship and the sky. Oh, that moon! There was safety in the light.
Ernest H. Clayton passed away on Friday, July 19, 2013 while working in his garden at 96 years young, of Jefferson Hills. Beloved husband of Rosella (Ruebsam) Clayton of 59 years; loving father of Tom (Jamie), John (Terry), Ellen (Tom) Kurtz, Jeanie (Dan) Slater, Wendy (Steve) Gonzalez; loving grandfather of Tim, Derek, Cara, Danny, Katie, Adam, Luke, and Gracie; and great-grandfather of Emmelyn Rose; preceded in death by his siblings, Edward, Ruby, Arnold and Paulina. Ernie was born in Bollinger County, Missouri and grew up in Fredericktown, Missouri.
He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at a young age to help support his mother. One of the Greatest Generation, he was proud to be a WWII veteran of the US Coast Guard serving aboard the USS Cavalier APA-37 that made five invasions and was torpedoed in the South Pacific. He was a lifetime member and former board member of the Pleasant Hills American Legion Post 712 and lifetime member of the VFW in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. He enjoyed hunting and working at the farm in Greene County, traveling, camping, and fishing with his family and spending time in his garden. He loved attending family reunions with his many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Ernie retired as a maintenance supervisor for US Steel at Clairton Works which included three years in Venezuela, South America. Ernie was very active and exercised daily until the day he died. He died his way … Ernie’s Way.