Local man survives two pandemics, celebrates 103 years

Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Clayton Montgomery, surrounded by friends and family, like 4-year-old Lakeynn Senters, will celebrate his 103 birthday on Thursday. Contributed photo

Montgomery worked on family farm until 98

A local farmer, veteran, beloved family man and community member, will celebrate his 103rd birthday on Thursday surrounded by family and friends.

Clayton Montgomery, born April 8, 1918, came into this world in the middle of the 1918 pandemic of the Spanish Flu, which infected more than a third of the worlds population.

Clayton Montgomery will celebrate his 103rd birthday on Thursday, at the Roaring River Health and Rehab facility. Montgomery was drafted into the Army in 1941, where he served as a medical corpsmen. Contributed photo

More than 100 years later, in 2020, Montgomery again saw a worldwide pandemic infecting millions of individuals — COVID-19.

Even at the great age of 98, Montgomery continued to work the family farm which has been in the family for several generations.

“It is a 20-acre farm on Shoal Creek between Exeter and Wheaton,” said Carl Montgomery, Clayton’s brother. “It has been in the family since 1848. I remember my grandmother telling a story about confederate soldiers confronting my grandfather on that farm.”

Clayton and Iva Montgomery were married in 1979. The couple had a happy marriage of 40 years before Iva passed away in 2019. This photo is the two on their 30th anniversary. Contributed photo

According to an article in Ozark Hills & Hollows, Clayton said the original deed was written on sheepskin, and it was hidden in a log during the civil war.

Originally a 40-acre homestead, it grew to 180 acres at one point in time.

Clayton said his family came to the area in a covered wagon from Tennessee, and in 1910, the home that Clayton and his wife Iva would eventually live in until she passed in 2019, was built.

An Exeter graduate in 1938, Clayton worked at NYA. At this time, the era of the great depression hit hard, and Clayton recalled only working eight days a month for some months.

In April 1941, he was drafted into the Army Medical Corps. and spent six months in training in Hot Springs, Ark., before he was sent to Honolulu.

“He always used to say, ‘They made us doctors in six months,’” Carl said. “He went to England and Scotland before he came home. Graduating high school after four years was rare here in the Ozarks, so I think they took his intelligence seriously in the Army.”

While Clayton was old enough to be drafted, Carl was only about seven years old at the time.

“I don’t remember a lot about my childhood with him because I was young,” Carl said. “I do remember how much mom cried when he was drafted into the Army. She cried for a long time.”

However, Carl remembers other things of living on a farm in that time.

“We didn’t have electricity until 1948,” Carl said. “And, we didn’t have indoor bathrooms either. We never thought anything of it because that is what we knew.”

Eventually, Clayton served his time and came back home to the farm.

“We worked together then,” Carl said. “When I left, he got rid of dairy cows and got beef cows. He always did hate milking. But, Clayton worked from daylight to dark every day on that farm.”

In 1979, Clayton married Iva May.

“I think they had a good marriage, and they always got along well,” Carl said. “Clayton got married at age 59. He used to say, ‘Just one minute before I got too old.’”

Iva and Clayton celebrated their 40th anniversary just before she passed away.

“Iva has a daughter,” Carl said. “She and Clayton got along well from the beginning. He has several great and great-great grandchildren that still visit him today — they really love him.”

At 100 years old, Clayton left the farm and became a resident of Roaring River Health and Rehab.

“Then, the pandemic hit, yet another one for Clayton to get through,” Carl said. “It has been more than year since we could see him in person, until recently. He is hard of hearing, so it was impossible to talk over the phone.

“Clayton has changed a lot because of it. He wants to be more active, and his personality has changed too. He is living in the past, and he visualizes a future that just won’t happen.”

Carl said he listens to his brother talk about tasks like mending fences when he gets home.

“He has always had a sharp wit and a great personality,” he said. “He has always been strong willed. At our last visit, he was making jokes and laughing.”

Carl and Clayton’s niece’s wrote some things down about Clayton to celebrate his upcoming birthday.

“There are few people in this world who can say they have survived two worldwide pandemics, but that is exactly why Clayton Montgomery, a lifelong resident of Barry County can say,” they said. “Clayton has led a full and active life as a farmer and cattleman, a medical corpsman in Hawaii and England during WWII, a husband, marrying at age 59. He has enjoyed hunting and attending auctions throughout the area.”

Clayton enjoys coon hunting and fishing in his later years, and he loves hound dogs and stock dogs, and riding horses on trails.

“One thing that sticks out about Clayton is that I never heard him curse,” Carl said. “He also looked after our mother until she passed from breast cancer.”

Now that the state-mandated quarantine in nursing homes has been lifted, family and friends will be able to visit Clayton in person to celebrate his 103rd birthday on Thursday from 2-4 p.m. at the Roaring River Health and Rehab facility. They look forward to sharing memories and reconnecting.

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