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Southern Hills loses a true champion, leader

Published: Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Permit us a personal privilege this week as we reflect on the life of a true friend who died last Thursday morning of a stroke at the young age, for him at least, of 90. Most people nearing that age are usually found in a nursing home, but not Charles E. “Eddie” Clay of Hot Springs.
Just last month, Eddie climbed the steps to the second story meeting room above Evans Plunge for a regular board meeting of the owners of that attraction, just as he had done for the previous 34 years. Because of recent previous health issues, he appeared a bit more fragile and spoke in measured, shorter sentences. Little did any of us know this would be the final meeting he would ever attend at the popular tourism attraction.
The Air Force World War II and Korean War veteran moved to Hot Springs in 1946 with his wife, Clara Mae. He immediately became involved in the community as city manager and chamber of commerce director. He and his wife owned Fall River Abstract Co. for 42 years. It is his long list of organization involvement that is most impressive. You wonder where he found the spare time.
When mammoth bones were discovered during excavation for a new housing development at the southwest part of town in 1974, it didn’t take Eddie long to volunteer his time on a newly-formed Mammoth Site board where he served as president for 25 years. He helped secure funding for the visitor center and exhibition hall.
He was chairman of the S.D. Chamber of Commerce, a nine-year member of the Black Hills Playhouse board of directors, president of S.D. Public Broadcasting for 18 years, president of S.D. Friends of Public Broadcasting for 10 years, executive committee member of Black Hills Council of Local Governments, board member of AAA of South Dakota and president of the S.D. Land Title Association. In 1995 he received the prestigious Ben Black Elk award for outstanding service to tourism. He held this award in high regard because he was a personal friend of the famous, much photographed Indian at Mount Rushmore. He was a member of the Mount Rushmore Memorial Society for 20 years, becoming a director and was granted emeritus status in 2005.
He was a Mason of Harmony Lodge 110 for more than 50 years and served as S.D. Grand Master in 1972 and as the chairman of the board of trustees of the Masonic Grand Lodge of South Dakota. He received an honorary doctorate from S.D. School of Mines in 1983, Realtor of the Year from Black Hills Board of Realtors in 1969 and Hot Springs Citizen of the Year in 1995.
Eddie served eight years in the S.D. Legislature House of Representatives and was appointed vice-chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. At his funeral service Monday in the Mueller Center theater, it was noted that Eddie was one of those legislators who sought to get more done with an open hand instead of a clenched fist. He was well respected by members of both political parties. He received the S.D. Governor’s Office of Economic Development Award in 2011. He was inducted into the S.D. Hall of Fame in 2007 because of his many civic accomplishments. We were privileged to know Eddie when we lived in Hot Springs from 1972-1987 and in the years beyond as a partner in Evans Plunge.
Eddie’s enthusiasm and upbeat attitude will be greatly missed. We will also miss the enlightened (for us at least) conversations we always had with him. Eddie had a knack of being able to talk about any subject with a great  degree of knowledge. He loved learning. He was an amazing person who will be missed by all who knew him.

Permit us a personal privilege this week as we reflect on the life of a true friend who died last Thursday morning of a stroke at the young age, for him at least, of 90. Most people nearing that age are usually found in a nursing home, but not Charles E. “Eddie” Clay of Hot Springs.

Just last month, Eddie climbed the steps to the second story meeting room above Evans Plunge for a regular board meeting of the owners of that attraction, just as he had done for the previous 34 years. Because of recent previous health issues, he appeared a bit more fragile and spoke in measured, shorter sentences. Little did any of us know this would be the final meeting he would ever attend at the popular tourism attraction.

The Air Force World War II and Korean War veteran moved to Hot Springs in 1946 with his wife, Clara Mae. He immediately became involved in the community as city manager and chamber of commerce director. He and his wife owned Fall River Abstract Co. for 42 years. It is his long list of organization involvement that is most impressive. You wonder where he found the spare time.

When mammoth bones were discovered during excavation for a new housing development at the southwest part of town in 1974, it didn’t take Eddie long to volunteer his time on a newly-formed Mammoth Site board where he served as president for 25 years. He helped secure funding for the visitor center and exhibition hall.

He was chairman of the S.D. Chamber of Commerce, a nine-year member of the Black Hills Playhouse board of directors, president of S.D. Public Broadcasting for 18 years, president of S.D. Friends of Public Broadcasting for 10 years, executive committee member of Black Hills Council of Local Governments, board member of AAA of South Dakota and president of the S.D. Land Title Association. In 1995 he received the prestigious Ben Black Elk award for outstanding service to tourism. He held this award in high regard because he was a personal friend of the famous, much photographed Indian at Mount Rushmore. He was a member of the Mount Rushmore Memorial Society for 20 years, becoming a director and was granted emeritus status in 2005.

He was a Mason of Harmony Lodge 110 for more than 50 years and served as S.D. Grand Master in 1972 and as the chairman of the board of trustees of the Masonic Grand Lodge of South Dakota. He received an honorary doctorate from S.D. School of Mines in 1983, Realtor of the Year from Black Hills Board of Realtors in 1969 and Hot Springs Citizen of the Year in 1995.

Eddie served eight years in the S.D. Legislature House of Representatives and was appointed vice-chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. At his funeral service Monday in the Mueller Center theater, it was noted that Eddie was one of those legislators who sought to get more done with an open hand instead of a clenched fist. He was well respected by members of both political parties. He received the S.D. Governor’s Office of Economic Development Award in 2011. He was inducted into the S.D. Hall of Fame in 2007 because of his many civic accomplishments. We were privileged to know Eddie when we lived in Hot Springs from 1972-1987 and in the years beyond as a partner in Evans Plunge.

Eddie’s enthusiasm and upbeat attitude will be greatly missed. We will also miss the enlightened (for us at least) conversations we always had with him. Eddie had a knack of being able to talk about any subject with a great  degree of knowledge. He loved learning. He was an amazing person who will be missed by all who knew him.



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