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Clarence "Buck" Gay Jr. '55 August 25, 2020 10:49 AM updated: August 25, 2020 11:12 AM

Clarence Chesterfield “Buck” Gay Jr died on August 20, 2020 in Houston Texas.

Buck was born in Fort Worth, Texas on December 20, 1933 to Clarence Chesterfield (“Deacon”) Gay and Nina Almedia Neely and grew up in Fort Worth along with his sister Carol and brother David, attending Carter Riverside High School. He was the first in his family to attend college, earning a BS in Aeronautical Engineering from Texas A&M College in 1955, where he was a proud member of the Corp of Cadets. While attending A&M he met Flo Ann Noack on a blind date at an Aggie football game and the two married on August 14, 1954.

After a brief stint with Lockheed in Los Angeles, California, in May 1956 he went into the US Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant to fulfill his service commitment and began training as a pilot (his dream job) at bases in San Antonio, Texas and Kinston, NC. He was enamored with airplanes all his life and when his dream of flying jets was lost due to a reaction to a flu shot, he focused on designing aircraft and landed in Research & Development at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton Ohio where he was a Project Engineer in the Analysis and Design Branch of the Dynasoar System Engineering Office. In 1962 he was hired by NASA and joined the fledgling effort to put men on the moon by the end of the decade. In 1963, Buck moved Ann and his family to Virginia and began work on the Gemini program at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. He continued working there until 1971, receiving the NASA Exceptional Service Award in 1969 for his contributions to the Apollo 11 moon landing. His final years in D.C. were as Director of Space Shuttle Operations, overseeing the development of flight programs, operational requirements, and preflight testing. In 1971, he transferred to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where he was responsible for the JSC Shuttle Operations Budget and planning and preparation of space shuttle landing sites in the US and emergency sites in Dakar, Senegal, Spain and Okinawa. A personal thrill was heading a spectacular landing of STS-3 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In 1984, he retired from NASA and worked until 1991 for Eagle Engineering, Grumman, and Muniz Engineering, participating in the joint US and Russia spaceflight program and development of the manned space station.

In addition to his fascinating career he led a rich, full life. He was the proud patriarch of a family that included 6 children, 15 grandchildren and 9 great grand kids. To all he was known as Papaw, and he delighted in the large family gatherings on holidays, major achievements, and reunions each year at Surfside Beach.

He traveled extensively, making it to the Pyramids in Egypt, the heart of the Amazon, the Great Wall of China, around the horn in South America, and saw the Serengeti in Africa from a hot air balloon.

He loved hunting and fishing and passed his passion for fly fishing to his children and grandchildren. He taught all his sons and grandsons about sporting guns and introduced them to duck, geese and dove hunting. A highlight of each year for him was an annual fly-fishing trip to some of the top US destinations in Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and Wyoming. While raising his children he served as a scoutmaster, little league coach and umpire, and Pony Colt League President.

He loved adventure and pursued challenging hobbies including flying single engine airplanes and gliders, racing sailboats, and scuba diving. In celebration of his 75th birthday he went skydiving. Not content to merely enjoy these activities, he excelled, learning to fly acrobatics, becoming a gliding instructor, and served as Commodore of the Galveston Bay Cruising Association (GBCA) fleet, and was a frequent race champion - thanks to a dedicated crew of close friends.

As his working career wound down, he filled his time by volunteering in the community, serving on the Nassau Bay Parks Committee, and co-chaired the restoration of the Nassau Bay Peninsula and its establishment as a wildlife preserve. He also served on the CCISD Education Committee and was the photographer for Nassau Bay City Council meetings.

He was extremely proud to have worked with the Bay Area Habitat for Humanity for nearly 25 years, helping build over 100 houses for needy families before finally hanging up his tool belt at the age of 84. He greatly valued the many close friendships he developed during his tenure.

He was a member of St Paul’s Catholic Church in Nassau Bay since 1971 and was a Eucharistic Minister for 30 years He was also active in the Knights of Columbus where he served as Grand Knight for 2 years. Each 4th of July he stayed up nearly all night helping to prepare barbecue for their primary fundraiser.

He was preceded in death by his parents Nina and Deacon, and his sister Carol Lynn Lawson. He is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years Ann, brother David Conrad Gay, sons Richard Lee Gay, Ronald Lynn Gay, Robert Glen Gay, and Randall Lawson Gay and daughters Linda Gay Dunk and Laurie Gay Vaughn.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider a donation to the Bay Area Habitat for Humanity or the Alzheimer’s Association Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter.


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