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14 Oct 2011

The Toughest Obit I’ve Ever Written

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October 14, 2011 Category: Local Posted by:

Were it not for Ollie L. Clay, my career as a writer would never have happened. So, I’d like for you to meet the best mom a journalist could have ever wished for.


By Denise Clay


During the 20 years that I’ve been a newspaper reporter, I’ve written probably a thousand obituaries.


And with most of them, after I’ve written all of the standard information, I usually ask the following question of the family of the deceased: “If there were anything that you would want people to know about your loved one, what would that be?”


This question allows family members to share their memories of their loved one and helps provide information that introduces this person to the world.


When my mother, Ollie Louise (Derrickson) Clay, passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 27, a week after celebrating her 88th birthday, our family started talking about the ways we’d like to see this amazing woman who meant the world to us remembered.


So here is my attempt to pay tribute to the person whose love and encouragement made it possible for me to be able to have spent the last 20 years informing the public as a professional writer.


Ollie Louise Derrickson was born in Paris, KY and her upbringing in this small Kentucky town and the values instilled in her by her parents, Clarence and Hattie Derrickson, stayed with her throughout her 88 years of life.


She was a graduate of Western High School in Paris, part of a graduating class that numbered about 20 people. She was also a member of the Seventh Street Baptist Church in Paris


In 1963, thanks to the United States Army, Ollie moved to Fort Dix with her husband, the late Jack G. Clay Sr. She lived in the Pemberton Area for 48 years. She was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies’ Auxiliary, the Eastern Star and Calvary Baptist Church in Pemberton.


She also worked at the New Lisbon Developmental Center for 30 years.


Now here is where I usually ask the family for their memories. So here is what the children of Ollie Louise Clay would like you to know about her.


We would like for you to know that she was a soft-spoken woman with a big heart that seemed to have room for everyone, no matter who you were, where you came from, or what you did. We would also like you to know that she was possibly one of the strongest individuals we’ve ever known.


We would also like you to know that she was caring, independent, and a role model to not only her children, but to many of the adults with whom she came in contact. She was also a very patient and kind human being.


We want you to know that she was probably one of the biggest sports fans in the Delaware Valley. She taught me all that I know about baseball, went to the Phillies Spring Training whenever she could, and could occasionally be found cheering for (or yelling at) the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers.


But most importantly, we want you to know that there was nothing more important to her than her family. Her incredible smile shined brightest when her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and extended family were surrounding her.


It is this family that will miss her most.


She is survived by three sons, Donald Jackson and Dennis Clay, both of Pemberton; and Jack Jr. (Sharon) of Wilmington, DE; two daughters, Mary (Walter) Smith of Lumberton and Denise (Chris) Clay of Philadelphia; her sister-in-law, Lucille Derrickson of Paris, KY; three nieces, Hattie Buckner, Helen Brooks and Margaret Derrickson, all of Paris, KY; two nephews, Eugene (Cynthia) Brooks, of Huntsville, Ala. and William Derrickson, of Paris, KY; six grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and a host of cousins and extended family.


She was preceded in death by her parents, Clarence and Hattie Derrickson; her husband, Jack G. Clay Sr.; her sisters, Helen Brooks, and Kitty Derrickson; her brother, William Derrickson; and her grandson, Phelan E. Smith.


As I said at the top of this tribute, were it not for the love and support of Mom, I wouldn’t have been able to do all that I have as a journalist. She stood by me as I tried to make it in a business that eats its young under the best of circumstances.


It is for that reason that I will be forever in her debt.


I will always love you Mom and I thank you for everything. I hope that I’ve made you proud.

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