Services set for Carlene Clayton

by Cristin Parker

Longtime Rusk Independent School District alum Carlene Clayton passed away Tuesday, Aug. 21. She had been battling pancreatic cancer.

Services for Clayton, 68, of Rusk will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, Aug. 24, at the Rusk High School Coliseum with Bro. Heath Peloquin and Bro. Mick Guess officiating. Burial will follow at Cedar Hill Cemetery under the direction of Wallace Thompson Funeral Home, Rusk. Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 23, at the First Baptist Church in Rusk. The district will close early Friday, Aug. 24, in her honor. Students will be let out of classes at 1 p.m. Buses will run at that time as well.

“Over these last nine months, my mom has leaned on God’s promises that have been proven time and time again during her diagnosis and treatment and over the whole course of the humble life she led,” Clayton’s daughter Ashley Oliver said in a statement posted on social media. “As a lifelong Rusk Eagle, she was dedicated to loving and educating kids and we invite you to wear Eagle colors to honor her memory.”

Carlene Clayton retired in May as the principal of Rusk Intermediate School, after more than four decades of service to the Rusk school district.

“She’s done a great job for many years,” Rusk High School Assistant Principal Jason Wilson said during a retirement party the district held for her in May. “I’ve been here for 20 years and she’s been here longer than that. She’s touched a lot of kids’ lives during her years here and she will definitely, definitely, definitely be missed.”

RISD teacher Heather Beck shared, via social media, “There is no one like Mrs. Clayton. She molded me into a better teacher, pushing me to do things I didn’t believe I could do. I am so grateful I got to work for her for so many years and witness what a truly generous, loving, caring, and beautiful soul she was.”

Clayton worked in education for 47 years -- three years at Tyler ISD and 44 years at RISD. At Rusk, she taught all grade levels of junior high school English/Language Arts and special education.

“Thanks for pulling out the best in me as my junior high teacher,” Martha Sturns-Robinson also shared on social media. “Thanks for keeping me on my toes and being my mentor through high school and college! Thanks for being an inspiration boss for three years and paying me to clean your house! I will never forget your love and support for me and the Sturns family!”

Clayton also served as Rusk Junior High school administration for a total 12 years -- six as assistant principal of Rusk Junior High and six as principal of the campus. She retired after serving 11 years as the Rusk Intermediate School campus principal.

“My focus was to always strive to insure all students were successful and develop a positive self-esteem,” the late Mrs. Clayton said in May. “I tried to help students discover their strengths and empower them to use those strengths to accomplish their goals. Treating students with kindness was always a priority!”
“Each year brought new and rewarding challenges. I have had a rich and rewarding experience.”

Her daughter, Ashely Clayton Oliver, expressed her appreciation for all who came to wish her mother well during the event in May.

“It was a very special moment when (Clayton’s former students) saw her,” Oliver said in May. “Many were crying and expressing their deep concern for her. It was so sweet.”

Clayton was also honored by Rusk alumni of all ages and other friends and neighbors with a special lap around the downtown square in Rusk, to kick off the annual Who Let the Dogs Out marathon held during Rusk’s annual Fair on the Square event, held Memorial Day weekend. Clayton led the group, which stretched the entire courthouse block, around the square at an upbeat pace.

“I never knew, until I became a teacher myself, just how blessed we were to have such awesome teachers like Mrs. Clayton when we were in school,” New Summerfield ISD teacher and Rusk class of 1995 alum Mandy Beamer said as she made the lap with numerous others.