I had the pleasure to have a few conversations with Mr. Bill Clayton at Pla-Mor Roller Rink. This very special “teenage senior citizen,” as he referred to himself, was still skating there up until the last year or so. He always had a smile and a firm handshake when we spoke. Bill was a very good skater. He had excellent balance and would methodically circle the floor alone or during couple skates. He also told me that, on some occasions, he was on the skating floor up to four times a week! That takes a good amount of effort and energy–even for a teenage senior citizen. I told him that I would like to be on my wheels when I am his age, and that I had some catching up to do.
Bill was a special member of our skating family. He was loved and admired by many, and it was always a pleasure to see him do his thing.
Mr. Clayton died Saturday, March 3 at the age of 96.
The best tribute to his life (and there’s a lot to it) is to repost an article from The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland.com) about him that was written three years ago. I’m glad that I was able to grab a photo of Bill because the linked article no longer has posted photos.
My sincere condolences to the family. Miss you already, Bill.
93 and rolling: Age hasn’t slowed Bill Clayton, a regular on the roller-skating rink
Updated Feb 26, 2015; Posted Feb 26, 2015
By Roxanne Washington, The Plain Dealer
EUCLID, Ohio — Bill Clayton glides across the skating-rink floor with a soft smile on his face, moving elegantly to an upbeat jazz tune.
Younger skaters careen around him on this bitter cold Thursday night, paying their elder skates-man little attention because they’re accustomed to seeing him at the rink.
Clayton of Cleveland is a regular at Pla-Mor Roller Rink in Euclid. The fact that he’s 93 years old doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
“He’ll roll all night to every song,” says Clayton’s wife, Taunya, 50, standing on the sideline watching her husband.
Clayton comes to the rink at least twice a week without fail. He grew up at 37th Street and Woodland in Cleveland and, like many children, spent his summer days skating on concrete sidewalks.
He attended John Adams High School and after working for a few years, joined the Army in 1942 where he built airplane hangars. He served 54 months in the Army, then left to work for then-Pennsylvania Railroad Co.
Roller-skating took a back seat during this time. He retired from the railroad in 1983, and it wasn’t until 1992 that he laced up a pair of skates once again.
“I had two granddaughters,” says Clayton, who was married to his first wife, Minnie, for 40 years before she died in 1991. They had eight children; four are deceased.
“They (his granddaughters ) wanted me to take them skating. I guess that was it.”
Clayton’s second wife Dolores died in 2005. He and Taunya married three years ago. Taunya skates with him, but only occasionally.
“I skate a little bit but not as much as him and not was well as him,” she says.
Warren Hatchett, co-owner of Pla-Mor, says six or seven people in their 80’s show up at the rink.
“But Bill is an exception to the rule,” Hatchett says. “He’s part of the family, so there’s nothing unusual about seeing him here.”
Jason Eric Jackson praises his friend, Clayton.
“I take my hat off to him. He’s still going strong,” says Jackson, who is standing nearby.
Jackson says Clayton enjoys skating, not just for the contentment it brings but for the camaraderie among skaters. The fact that skating is good exercise doesn’t hurt.
“Look at the shape he’s in,” says Jackson, as Clayton prepares to go on the rink.
Jackson adds, “Everyone loves him here. He’s such a gentleman.”
Clayton says he’s never suffered any injuries while skating. When asked what his doctors think, he says, “They seem to be amazed.”
He enjoys watching young people spend time in rinks.
“It keeps them out of trouble,” he says.