Memorial Spaceflights

Charles Stafford Clay, MD

"Phone Home"
1916 - 2001

Memories of a daughter...

The 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

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