Thursday, October 4, 2012

South Dakota and Public Broadcasting lose a leader

South Dakota has lost one of its outstanding citizens.

Charles "Eddie" Clay of Hot Springs passed away on the morning of October 4, 2012 at the Rapid City Regional Hospital after suffering a stroke.  He was 90 years old.

And most of those 90 years were dedicated to his family, his country, and his community.

It's sad to see the passing of such a remarkable person, and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife, Clara, his daughter, Bobbi, and the entire Clay family.

We came to know Eddie through public broadcasting, which he championed in South Dakota for more than three decades.  He was president of the Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting for 10 years, followed by a remarkable 18 years as Chairman of the Board of Directors for SDPB.  Those were years of great development and expansion for SDPB, which during Eddie's tenure became a truly statewide public broadcasting service.  Not surprisingly, Eddie's daughter -- Bobbi Kennedy -- has realized her own successful career in public broadcasting as an executive with South Carolina Educational Television.

Born in Missouri and raised in Iowa, Eddie served with the 8th Air Force in the Pacific during World War II.  Another assignment to Ellsworth Air Force Base allowed him to meet and later marry Clara May Hagen.  Eddie was also called up and served during the Korean War.

Eddie and Clara owned and operated Fall River Abstract in Hot Springs for more than 43 years.  He was devoted to Clara and Bobbi and his grandchildren.

Our sorrow at Eddie's passing  should be quickly tempered by celebration of his numerous and enormous accomplishments during his time on this earth. He was a champion for a wide array of community activities.  The list of his many causes is far too long to enumerate here -- and so we mention only a few.   They each elicited deep passion and commitment from Eddie.  He was not a half-way kind of fellow.  

We wrote the following when Eddie was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2007:

"A tireless worker in civic affairs, Eddie has provided vision and leadership to the Mount Rushmore Society, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs, and numerous other organizations.

His service in the legislature and on Boards of Directors for many educational, tourism and arts organizations has been remarkable. A Mason for 50 years, Eddie Clay has been a role model for me and many South Dakotans. In addition to daughter Bobbi, the Clays have four grandchildren and four great children."

Eddie also served on the powerful Appropriations Committee in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1967 to 1974.

Funeral services for Charles "Eddie" Clay were on Monday, October 8, 2012, at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs. 

You'll find a few photos and biographical information that we posted in 2007 in this Hall of Fame gallery.

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