published Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Tragedy’s toll: Soddy-Daisy fundraiser helps family after crash deaths


by Andrew Pantazi
Annette Clayton, the mother of Scott Clayton, talks about her son's life at a fundraiser to help pay for funeral expenses Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Soddy-Daisy.
Annette Clayton, the mother of Scott Clayton, talks about her son's life at a fundraiser to help pay for funeral expenses Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Soddy-Daisy.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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HOW TO HELP

Scott Clayton did not have life insurance, and his family was left with a $10,000 bill for the funeral. To help, contact his father, Jeff Clayton, at jscpac4@aol.com with the subject “Scott Clayton Donation.”

Surrounded by friends, family and mementos including the Dale Earnhardt blanket that Scott Clayton had since he was a child, his parents and siblings reflected Saturday on the life he lived.

When he was 4 years old, he replaced the Little Debbie snacks in his dad’s lunchbox with a No. 3 Hot Wheels car.

A few years later, he “helped” his dad, Jeff, change the family car’s oil. That is to say, he fiddled with tools in the garage.

At 9, he began volunteering at Life Care Center of Hixson, where his mom worked. He would volunteer there for the rest of his life, carrying food trays, cleaning and reading to patients.

On June 4, Clayton, his wife and two friends stayed out late at a campfire, watching people ride four-wheelers. On the way home they were in a car accident on Big Fork Road in Marion County. Only one friend survived.

Friends held a memorial fundraiser Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Soddy-Daisy. This was the family’s second tragedy in less than a year.

Growing up, Clayton’s mom always was protective of him and didn’t want him getting hurt, but still he played Little League baseball and high school football. He never had any time for girls.

His brother left for the Marines when he was 15. Before going, his brother told him he needed to be the man of the house.

When he was 16, his older sister set him up on a blind date with Emily Gadd. They went to Applebee’s, and then he took her up Bakewell Mountain for the first time. She was terrified.

Afterward, they’d text each other even if they were in the same room. When they’d get angry, she would write “I love you” on a note, and he’d respond in kind.

She persuaded him to watch the 2004 film “The Notebook.” He liked it.

He told his friends he would go home to watch NASCAR races, but instead, he watched “Desperate Housewives” or “Grey’s Anatomy” with Emily.

After he taught her to fish, she caught more than he did.

Scott told his youngest sister and his best friend that he was going to propose. He took the money he was saving for a Camaro and spent it on the ring.

He cooked chicken alfredo, Emily’s favorite, and picnicked with her at Camp Columbus. They fished, and she said “Yes.”

Not long after their engagement, he’d again saved up enough money for his Camaro. Then she became pregnant with Andrew, so they married on May 8, 2010, and he traded the car for a 2008 Jeep Liberty and a non-functioning 1986 Camaro.

He worked every chance he got during the week, accumulating overtime at APL Power Services. When the April 27 tornadoes hit, he worked for three days straight, catching sleep in the company truck.

Then his wife delivered Andrew two months early. Still, the baby gained weight fast and was a day away from coming home when a virus hit. He died a day later.

Scott came home to grab lunch one day and saw his wife sitting on the ground surrounded by baby photos, crying. He stayed home from work and comforted her.

He had always wanted to be a police officer, but because of the baby had put off applying. After coming home from Iraq, his brother became an officer in DeKalb County, Tenn. In an effort to start anew, Scott decided he and Emily should move in with his brother. He had an interview with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office the day after he was buried next to his wife and child.

He was 20, the third of four children but the first to marry.

On Saturday at the park fundraiser, his mother, Annette, said the only way she has been able to cope is knowing that Scott and Emily have joined their son.

“Most parents, when they lose children, they wish they could have said something else [to them],” she said.

She said she told him everything she needed to while he was alive.

Contact staff writer Andrew Pantazi at 423-757-6467 or apantazi@timesfreepress.com.

This story was compiled from interviews with family members and friends.

about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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