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Clayton C. Cooley

We thought that he would live forever, but as he always liked to say…”You know what thought did.” On November 25, this world lost one of the good ones with the unexpected passing of Clay Cooley of East Lyme, Connecticut, at the age of 84; as an apparent result of complications following a pacemaker implant. Clay was known and loved by many as a great friend, a great dad and grandfather, a sailor, a carpenter, a mentor, a teacher, a Christian, a patriot and honest to a fault. He was a cheerful and immensely generous man, who laughed often and held a deep love for the people in his life. As he preferred to be in life, he passed surrounded by loving friends and family.

Clayton Congdon Cooley was born on January 23, 1939, to Francis Cooley and Evelyn (Congdon) Cooley in South Kingston, Rhode Island. He grew up in East Greenwich, RI, where he graduated from East Greenwich High School in 1957. He attended The University of Rhode Island before joining the Army and subsequently marrying his first wife Yvonne (“Bunny”, Haight) Logan in 1965 and relocating to North Branford, Connecticut where he and Bunny raised their two sons, Christopher Cooley of Westbrook, CT and Eric Cooley of Durham, CT. Clay later moved to Milford, CT, where he married his second wife Ann Marie (Lucas) Cooley and subsequently relocated to West Haven, CT where he and Ann Marie raised their son Seth Cooley of Newport, RI and daughter Chelsea Cooley of Clinton, CT.

Clay is survived by his brother Gordon Cooley and sister-in-law Maureen Cooley, of Warwick, RI; his four children, his beloved grandchildren Luna Cooley and Benjamin Cooley, and countless loving nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends. He was pre-deceased by his parents and his second wife Ann Marie.

Clay was born with salt water in his blood. Growing up on Greenwich Bay, he began shellfishing at the ripe old age of 8. He and his brother would row their home-built wooden skiffs out to the fishing grounds and spend hours bullraking for quahogs before rowing home to sell their bounty to the local wholesalers (outboard motors would later make travel much easier). The work ethic that Clay carried throughout his life was fostered early on, and he loved nothing more than to tell the tales of his bullraking days until his last. Clay spent the rest of his life on or near the water, living and building on the waterfront, and sailing the waters of Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound, with the wind in his hair and a big salt sprayed smile on his face.

At EGHS Clay played football, and according to those who played with him, was “one hell of a football player”. He later played semi-professional football with the East Greenwich Townies in 1964-65. He also played drums for the Warwick Drum & Bugle Corps. While attending URI, where he received a degree in industrial management, Clay enrolled in the US Army ROTC and after being assigned to active duty in 1962 was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, serving as an infantry company commander until 1964 and attaining the rank of first lieutenant (as a reserve officer, he later attained the rank of Captain). Thus began his lifelong love of all things German. One of his prized possessions in life was a 1955 Mercedes convertible, which he had shipped back from Germany when he returned home. Along with his 1947 Chrysler Town and Country convertible, he frequently spoke of how he wished he had never sold those cars, which were also the subjects of many a story he loved to tell.

During the winter months, when he chose not to be on the water, Clay enjoyed skiing. Once his children were old enough to walk (or soon thereafter) he taught them to ski, and would bring them on numerous trips to the local CT hills, Vermont, New Hampshire, and even to Chamonix, France. Skiing became a passion for the boys, and was a lifelong love of Clay’s, which he continued to enjoy into his mid 70s.

When he was 16, Clay built a garage on the family property on Rocky Hollow Road on Greenwich Cove. While working for Winchester Western in New Haven, CT, where he spent 10+ years, he built his home in Laurel Beach where he moved in 1976. A few years later, Clay decided to pursue his passion for designing and building full time; thus, Cooley Construction was born. He enjoyed building not only homes, but boats, jeeps, furniture and just about anything else. The Connecticut shoreline is now dotted with beautiful, high-quality homes designed, built, renovated or remodeled by Clay and Cooley Construction; including a condominium complex, Trolley Hill, developed on a previously blighted street in Milford by Clay and a small group of friends/investors. Throughout his building career, which spanned almost 40 years, Clay formed lifelong friendships and served as a mentor, teacher and father figure to numerous burgeoning carpenters and future entrepreneurs. Clay’s impact on those around him was immeasurable, and while he will be dearly missed, it is reassuring that his legacy will live on for generations, embodied by those dozens of homes and the many people that he built up with such care.

Fare thee well Clay, may you always have fair winds and following seas. And save us all seats at “Harry’s Bar and Grill”.

A celebration of Clay’s life will be held at the East Greenwich Yacht Club, 10 Water Street, East Greenwich, RI on February 3, 2024, from noon to 4:00, and will include military honors.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to one of the many charities Clay supported, including: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (, Save the River – Save the Hills (, Special Olympics CT (, or any one of numerous veteran organizations he supported.

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댓글 4개

From Doug Ormon.

Here's to Clay Cooley! A family friend since I was a little one. He was like a second father and a mentor. From my time at highland lake at my grandparents lake house his visits with him and his boys are something I'll never forget. He took me in as an apprentice at his work where he lived I will never forget. For years he's always been in my life with my family. Visiting our cape house and skiing in New Hampshire and beyond. He meant so much to my family. His visits to the cape in Eastham with his sons and daughter are memories I'll always cherish. Love you Chris Eric Seth and Chelsea. Your Dad…

답글 상대:

Here, here! Love you buddy, and you know he sure did!


Oh I am missing Uncle Clayton so much! He was such a wonderful man!! We have been so blessed to have him in our family. So happy to know that he loved the Lord and is with Him for eternity now, where I will be able to be with him again, worshiping our amazing Savior!!

i love this excellent writing about Uncle Clayton’s life🎉🎉

답글 상대:

Thanks Mandy. He was a wonderful man indeed!

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