A remarkable century: Worthington’s Edward ‘Ted’ Claydon, set to turn 100, will get a birthday bash on Sunday

  • Ted Claydon, at his home in Worthington, who is turning 100 next week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ted Claydon, at his home in Worthington, who is turning 100 next week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ted Claydon, at his home in Worthington, who is turning 100 next week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ted Claydon, at his home in Worthington, who is turning 100 next week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2021 3:20:54 PM

WORTHINGTON — Edward “Ted” Claydon, set to turn 100 next week, has lived a remarkable life: an aircraft mechanic inspired by hearing about Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight the year it happened, a World War II veteran in two services, and a manager who prevented a strike after speaking at a union meeting.

But it was in his 90s, after his wife of nearly 70 years died, that Claydon experienced yet another remarkable turn of his life: Falling in love with his partner, Jerrilee Cain, who is now 90 years old.

“She is something else,” Claydon said.

A 100th birthday party is being put on for Claydon by the Worthington Historical Society on Sunday to celebrate this milestone.

“This is her thing,” said Claydon, who was clearly moved by Cain organizing the party.

Claydon and Cain chose to be interviewed in the home they share, which was built in the 17th century and moved from Connecticut to Worthington by Cain in the 21st century.

Cain, a Jungian art therapist who studied in Switzerland, said that there comes a time when you have no future, and that she and Claydon are there. Still, she said that it’s “so wonderful” to live in the present alongside Claydon.

“You have no idea,” said Claydon, on what it was like for him to find love with Cain.

Claydon was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the son of two English parents, but grew up in Virginia and Long Island.

Claydon’s father was a World War I veteran, and he was hired after the war to take care of a wealthy Englishman’s horses in America. In the war, his father had been a dispatch rider and member of the Royal Horse Artillery.

“He was an absolutely excellent horseman,” Claydon said.

A love for aviation

Claydon graduated from high school on Long Island, where he was voted most likely to succeed. He would go on to become an aircraft mechanic for American Airlines in 1941, retiring 40 years later as the head of maintenance for American at LaGuardia Airport.

As a young boy, Claydon’s father got him a cast iron Spirit of St. Louis, the plane Lindbergh used to make the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight. A year or so later he got to see his first airplane.

“I fell in love,” Claydon said, welling with emotion. “It’s been my life ever since.”

Claydon is still enamored with airplanes, so much so that whenever he hears a plane fly overhead, he checks it out. He enjoyed working on the DC-3 plane the most. “That’s the plane that made the airlines. Period,” he said.

Like many men of his generation, Claydon served in World War II, although he had a bit of a circuitous path. After being mustered into the Navy, he was ordered to go into the Army, where he served as a private working for American Airlines, where he was working before being called into the service. At the conclusion of his time in the military, he was discharged from both branches.

Although Claydon would be promoted into management at American, Cain said that he never asked for a promotion. She also said that when a strike was going to happen at the airline, and Claydon understood it wouldn’t work, he went to the union meeting where the vote was going to be held and persuaded the workers not to go on strike.

“I’m so proud of that,” she said.

A country life

Claydon was drawn to Worthington’s country living. He came to town initially in 1966 and made it his permanent hometown in 1984. He became involved with community life, heading the Historical Society for at least a decade and becoming a regular of the “back room” at Corners Grocery.

He was married to his wife Muriel for nearly 70 years, and they had two children together, one of whom is still alive. Claydon also has two living grandchildren and two who have died as well as two great-grandchildren.

Claydon and Cain first met in the 1970s, when Cain was renovating an old house in Worthington and Claydon came by with his wife Muriel. Unfortunately, the house was full of rat dung, which Cain was cleaning up.

“That’s how we met,” Cain said. “Me covered in rat dung.”

Cain herself has a rich history, growing up in rural Missouri with her grandparents, who she described as magical people who would bring home baby skunks and squirrels as pets. She would go on to become a college administrator in the Midwest and a Jungian art therapist.

After the death of his wife Muriel, Claydon went on a lunch date with Cain at the suggestion of a friend. Later, he would invite her out on a boat trip in Boston sponsored by the Council on Aging. Cain went, only to find that he had brought another woman.

“I was a rat,” said Ted.

However, that winter Claydon and Cain would talk on the phone for hours and Cain would send Claydon letters when he was in Florida. Claydon was supposed to come back on April 1, but returned on March 1 instead. Then, in early March of 2014, Claydon and Cain met in person.

“We hugged,” Claydon said. “And that was it.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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