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September 17, 1932-September 7, 2023
Beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, great-uncle, cousin, and friend, Joe Edward Clayton (90) was called Home to Glory and reunited with his loving wife “Mert” on September 7, 2023. Born on September 17, 1932 in rural Winchester, Arkansas, he was the youngest child and only son of the late Dewey Theodore “D.T.” and Ruby (Price) Clayton. Joe had two doting older sisters, Helen and Ruth, and a younger cousin Billy who was raised with him. His parents were well-respected members of the Jefferson community and members of the local Methodist Church. He was raised with love for God, family, and his fellow man.
Although raised in a hard-working farming family, his mother insisted that he and his siblings be educated and well-read. Joe drove a school bus that his mother fought to obtain so that children along the rural route had a reliable way to get to school in bad weather. He excelled in sports and graduated as Valedictorian of Tillar High School in 1950. While a sophomore at Arkansas A&M University, he married the love of his life, hometown sweetheart Myrtle Marie Biggs. Together, they left rural Arkansas for Fort Gordon, GA where he served as a personnel specialist in the United States Army during the Korean War. He also was a decorated member of the 201st Signal Corps.
After serving his country, they used his G.I. Bill to attend the University of Arkansas, both graduating with honors. A baby daughter Sharon Kay was born on the eve of his graduation in 1959, when he earned a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering. He got a job with Allis Chalmers (agricultural equipment) in Independence, Missouri, where they were close neighbors with former President Harry Truman and his wife Bess.
Joe returned to school on a cotton-ginning fellowship, earning two Masters Degrees in Engineering and Agricultural Engineering from Clemson University in 1960. He and Mert gained yet another cherished daughter Judy Lynn while at Clemson. He moved his family to Leland, Mississippi where he would advance cotton harvesting research at USDA’s Stoneville, Missis-sippi Agricultural Research Station (ARS) for several years.
In 1964, he moved the fam-ily a ﬁ nal time to Belle Glade, Florida to run USDA’s ARS for Sugarcane Harvesting Research. He would spend the next 30 years helping the Florida sugarcane industry move to 100% mechanical cane harvesting. He and Mert completed their family with the addition of daugh-ters Janet Marie in 1966 and Carol Jean in 1971. His life revolved around his faith and his family—with time spent travelling to visit family in Arkansas, North Carolina, and visiting with numerous high school, college, work, and Army friends scattered around the country. Even after he retired from the USDA, he kept busy doing consulting engineering and home improvement work. It was all his family could do to keep an 85-year old Joe off the roof, replacing shingles…
Professionally, Joe was a lifelong member of the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (AS-SCT), the Florida Engineer-ing Society, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (now ASABE), Tau Beta Pi, Gamma Sigma Delta, National Society of Professional Engineers, and a retired Registered P.E. He received a 50-year recognition from ASSCT and ASABE. He served as President of both the Florida and Joint Sections of the ASSCT and of ASAE, multiple times. He served as an adjunct professor at the University of Florida. Throughout his career, he was a sought-after sugarcane technology consultant—trav-elling to Australia, Hawaii, South Africa and Puerto Rico multiple times to offer engineering expertise to their industries and authoring dozens of research papers on mechanization of sugarcane (and cotton) harvests.
A quiet family man of deep faith, Joe was extremely active in the Community Methodist Church—attend-ing Sunday school, Methodist Men, pancake breakfasts and chili dinners, Pumpkin Patches, Wednesday Bible studies, and ensuring that the church buildings/grounds were ready for all occasions. Above all, he was a man of service, starting and nurturing local civic organizations including the Belle Glade Civitan Club, the Glades Chapter of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and helping with the Gove Elementary, Christian Day, Glades Day School, the Everglades Athletics Club, and Tampa Catholic’s PTAs/Booster Clubs.
Joe E. Clayton was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 68 years, Myrtle “Mert” Biggs Clayton; his parents, D.T. and Ruby Clayton; his daughters, Sha-ron Kay Clayton and Janet Clayton Felletter; sisters Ruth Clayton Eastham and Helen Clayton Kogler; and many other family members.
He is survived by his daughters, Judy Clayton Sanchez (Julio) of Belle Glade, FL, and Carol Clayton Saviak (Joe) of St. Augustine, FL; grandsons John Felletter (Samantha) of Wesley Chapel, FL, Matt Sanchez (Lois) of Plantation, FL, and Nick Sanchez
(Karmen) of Fort Worth, TX, and granddaughter Sarah Felletter of Tampa, FL; and two great-grandsons Antonio Sanchez and Alberto San-chez, of Fort Worth, TX and great-granddaughter, Violet Raquel Sanchez of Planta-tion, Florida. He also leaves behind nephews Mark Baker (Kandy), Bernard Hausherr, Jr, Alan Eastham (Carolyn), Clayton Eastham, and nieces, Julie Hausherr Caruth (Paul), Dorothy Musial, Elizabeth Geletei, Kathryn Haynes, and other numerous relatives and friends. Curtis & Jane Thompson, “Subu” & Bridget Subramanya, Glenn & Laura Hoard, and Pickey & Beth Trimble were also family in his heart.
Joe Edward Clayton’s life and accomplishments will be celebrated at 11 am, October 7, 2023 at the Community Global Methodist Church in Belle Glade, Florida (and broadcast on the church Facebook). In lieu of ﬂ owers, contributions can be made to the Community Global Methodist Church, Belle Glade.