Charles Stafford Clay, M.D.
1916 - 2001
Memories of a daughter...
old southside house had rested on its foundations for well over
a hundred years and our family had lived there for at least half
of that time. Skyward it climbed, tall and proud. Built of sturdy
oak timbers and three stories of ancient red brick with chimneys
all around, it sported, much like my father, a worn gray slate
roof at the top.
Late in the evening, with the moon at new and the family safely
tucked within, Daddy would often creep up the third floor stairs,
his cat leading the way. Then squeezing through a small dormer
window, there on the roof, he would find himself gazing over the
canopy of our neighborhood, alone with the dark night sky.
Like a new millennium gargoyle he would perch on an old metal
stool in the confines of a specially built platform, protecting
him, an earth-bound explorer, from the tug of gravity pulling
him to the ground below. There, standing on thin legs of steel,
his love waited. Carefully unwrapped, her tether of electricity
plugged in, the dials were set to humming, keeping up with the
rotation of Mother Earth below. Once her lenses were cleaned and
polished, with sky charts and flashlight close at hand, a cup
of hot coffee completed his checklist. And so began the evenings
in which man and machine shared their search back into time, to
perhaps catch a glimpse of the beginning. A wisp of nebula, a
beautiful spiral galaxy or a simple binary star would pass into
his field of vision. Tiny specks of light so small they were barely
detectable to the unaided eye. All of these things gliding through
the heavens of infinity were formed from the great void, but viewed
with awe and wonder by this one small human being.
Born in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Charles Stafford
Clay moved around the Appalachian countryside during his childhood.
Then, as a teenager, while perched in the crook of a tree reading
"Magnificent Obsession," he was inspired to become a
doctor and at that moment moved forward to pursue his dream.
First, attending the University of Alabama he then proceeded
to graduate with honors from the Duke University School of Medicine.
After marriage, Stafford returned to West Virginia to raise a
family, begin his medical practice and lovingly serve the people
of the Tri-State area for more than five decades. Being a physician
was his privilege, playing golf his pleasure and astronomy his
passion. After 85 years on this pale blue dot in space, between
the darkness of the beginning and the end, his spirit now travels
at the speed of the light. He will dance with the elements of
creation, a little sooner complete.
Ashes to Ashes, …
Dust to Stardust