Chuck Clay

Chuck had the ability to span generations and considered both young and old to be close friends.

Chuck Clay left this life on April 9th at age 78 after a full and active life slowed only by cancer at the end. A northwest original, Chuck had a lifelong interest in many northwest things. He was raised in Seattle, relocating to Vashon 50 years ago. In high school, he ran cross country long before running became an industry and a lifestyle. He earned both a letterman jacket and a sports column in the student newspaper where his wit and clever use of language often escaped the editor’s censorship. Chuck lived a life close to the earth. In the early 70s while still in Seattle, he started a subscription vegetable service with nighttime deliveries, Vampire Vegetables, growing produce on a vacant lot in downtown Seattle. It would later become a pea patch. On Vashon, he was co-owner of Murphy’s Shamrock Farms. Later he grew fresh salad greens and herbs for both the Vashon Produce Stand and Sound Food Restaurant.

In most ways, Chuck followed his own drummer. Service was his life’s work. He spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small off-the-grid rural village in the Dominican Republic establishing a fishing co-op. Home again, he applied for and received Conscientious Objector status during the Vietnam War. As his alternative service, he taught Spanish at the Phoenix School in Seattle.He also worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to establish a hot breakfast and lunch program for children in a remote Aleut village that was troubled with alcoholism. He was committed to civil rights, working to register Black voters and leading educational seminars on affirmative action.

After graduate school and marriage, Chuck worked as a social worker for the Seattle Municipal Court. He then became the first director of Vashon Youth Services, served as a janitor at Sound Food Restaurant, and spent the next 25 years working with the mentally ill in a state hospital care facility. As a volunteer with other parents, he worked to create a student-centered alternative elementary school program. All while raising a family, rebuilding a dilapidated log cabin, and resurrecting an old farm and garden on Vashon.

Chuck’s early interest in music was nurtured by the drum set his father played to accompany a collection of Dixieland and jazz records. In Chuck, this interest evolved into rock and roll and starting a college band cryptically called “Stuff.” Later he was a drummer in the Vashon band “Cremona” and played bucket in “The Brent and Martha Band.” In turn, the music and drumming played on through his son’s band “Trolls Cottage.” Chuck could often be found with his wife Penelope on the last boat to Vashon after a reggae or African concert.

Chuck had a gentle and kind nature. He put people at ease, engaging in long conversations in both English and Spanish, often learning their life stories upon meeting them. He was dedicated to living a simple life and tried to save and reuse anything with potential, storing it in the chicken coop. Chuck had the ability to span generations and considered both young and old to be close friends.

In conclusion, to quote the daughter of a longtime friend, while Chuck is no longer in this life, “That dude is a legend”. He is survived by his wife Penelope, children Tansy and Earl, grandchildren Neva, Mari, Eli, and Knox, and sister Dorothy Drury.