Bruce Clayton was born in Neptune, NJ, on December 25, 1961, and grew up in Wall Township, NJ. He was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and he attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1979. When Bruce was in high school, he began his career in the New Jersey Army National Guard as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief.
After he graduated high school, Bruce joined the United States Army and went to Task Force 160 as a pararescue specialist. He was stationed in Panama and on several missions to other countries in Central America and the Middle East. After sustaining a knee injury during a night mission, Bruce transferred to Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he worked as a medic in a new medical evacuation program in the state, which was the precursor to the current state-wide medevac program in Alabama.
After leaving the Army, Bruce became a firefighter, fire inspector, and fire investigator. He provided fire prevention education programs in all the schools in town and gave lectures on fire safety to civic groups, political organizations, and senior citizen groups. Bruce helped initiate the Juvenile Fire Watch Program, where he performed evaluations of youth apprehended starting fires and referred them for further intervention depending on the outcome of the assessment. He collaborated with the local MacDonald’s franchise to hold an annual fire expo on Saturday during Fire Prevention Week every October, and he formed a partnership between the fire department and management at Walmart and Costco to provide free 9-volt batteries for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year when transitioning between standard time and daylight saving time. When the State of New Jersey no longer funded the annual state-wide fire prevention poster contest, Bruce obtained the finances from Walmart Corporation to keep the program in place. The winning poster from one year became the advertising poster for Fire Prevention Week the following year. Bruce received the St. Finbar Award for his contributions to the Juvenile Fire Setter program and two life-saving awards, one for saving a fellow firefighter when responding to a fire at a diner and another when he rescued a woman from a car that went off a bridge and landed upside down in a creek.
As his son grew up, Bruce volunteered his time as a Cub Scout Den Leader, Cub Master, and Assistant Scout Master. He enjoyed exposing the Scouts to places and activities that challenged their skills and taught them about history, citizenship, and scouting heritage. Bruce completed his Wood Badge ticket teaching Scouts about history through various activities and camping trips, and joined the Order of the Arrow.
In 2012 he fulfilled his dream of moving to Alabama. His first job was as a security guard at Liberty Park. Finally, after applying eight times over twelve years, he was hired by UAB Hospital and became an Assistant Safety Officer. Bruce became extremely popular with employees, patients, and visitors with his quick wit and infectious smile. He had a genuine interest in helping everyone he met throughout his workday. He especially loved teaching and telling stories. His kindness and humor had a positive impact on everyone he met.
After his son earned the rank of Eagle Scout and graduated high school, Bruce found the Civil Air Patrol. He wanted to give back to Alabama the warmth and friendship he received when he served in Fort Rucker as an Army Medic. So, he joined Squadron 132 and became the Squadron Safety Officer. Later, he became the Director of Safety for the Alabama Wing. He ensured conditions were safe for search and rescue exercises, cadet programs, and Alabama Wing activities and investigated mishaps within the Alabama Wing. Bruce received the Safety Officer of the Year Award for the Alabama Wing and the Southeast Region in 2016 and the Alabama Wing, the Southeast Region, and the National Safety Officer of the Year in 2019.
When illness prevented him from active involvement in his responsibilities at UAB Hospital and the Civil Air Patrol, Bruce’s heart was broken. He had spent his entire life giving of himself to others, and he became dependent on other people for even his basic needs. Finally, after a very long illness, Bruce Clayton went home to be with the Lord on April 15, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen; his son, John; John’s wife, Brooklyn; his grandson, Finley; his father, Alfred; his brothers, Stephen and Kenneth; Stephen’s wife, Loretta and daughter, Lana; Kenneth’s wife, Maki; and stepdaughter, Mao.
Services for Bruce will be held on Wednesday, April 26, 2023 in the chapel of Charter Funeral Home in Calera, Alabama. His viewing time for the public will start at 1:00 p.m., with service to follow at 2:00 p.m. Chaplain Lamar Davis will be officiating his services. Burial to follow with honor’s in the Montevallo City Cemetery in Montevallo, Alabama. Charter Funeral Home in Calera, Alabama handling arrangements for Bruce’s family.