Walter Joseph Clayton, Jr.


Walter Joseph Clayton, Jr., 80, of Chestnut Hill, PA, passed away peacefully on March 19, 2024, with his family by his side.

Mr. Clayton was a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather. He is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years, Kathryn (Kerwin), three sons, Walter “Jay” III (Gretchen), Kerwin (Amy), and Andrew (Michele), and eight adoring grandchildren.

Mr. Clayton was born at Saint Clare’s hospital in New York City as the only child of Walter and Rosemarie, two longtime federal government employees. Mr. Clayton attended the Priory School (now St. Anslem’s Abbey School) in Washington, DC, and met Kathi, the love of his life, while attending Pennsylvania Military College where he was Cadet Captain and Senior Class President. Kathi’s family immediately adopted Walt as the sixth child and fifth brother and, for sixty years, the siblings and their spouses have gathered regularly to share mutual support and milestones, including regular updates on their 17 children and 33 grandchildren.

Shortly after graduation from PMC in 1965, Walt was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, married Kathi, and moved to Fort Eustis in Newport News, VA. A year later, with a five-week-old son, Walt shipped out to Vietnam where he ended his tour as a company commander. Upon his return, Walt and Kathi moved to West Philadelphia where he entered graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and they set upon a half a century effort to create a warm and loving home for their boys and their friends where education, athletics, independence and fairness were paramount.

Walt had a diverse set of stimulating and fulfilling professional roles, including as an assistant dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, a director of the National Alliance of Businessmen in Harrisburg, PA (a Johnson Administration joint industry-Department of Labor program to hire and train the unemployed), an executive of The Hershey Foods Company where he was responsible for public affairs and then corporate commodity planning. He left Hershey in the late 1970s to focus on food-related commodities procurement and processing and became a senior executive at the commodities firm Gill and Duffus where, among other responsibilities, he oversaw the trading and processing of cocoa. In the 1980s, he founded, along with Kathi, a just in time steel warehousing and distribution company that served southeastern and central Pennsylvania for over 15 years.

Walt’s active mind made retirement a label but not a reality and, until his last days, he was a counselor to many and a keen observer of the intersections between markets and public policy. These many professional activities were secondary to and in support of his true love, time with his family and their friends. For Walt and Kathi, there was always an extra place at the dinner table, in the car or on the team. Walt coached soccer and his favorite sport, basketball. And for years, extending long after his boys and their friends moved on, he refereed local youth games.

In his sixties and seventies, Walt’s lifelong devotion to education reached new heights, including teaching international business at Penn State and obtaining a second Masters of Philosophy degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. He then conducted research projects at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice, including on how local congregations support quality of life. Walt gave time and expertise to many community and charitable organizations, including as finance chair of Old Saint Joe’s parish in Philadelphia and as a member of the finance committee at Our Mother of Consolation in Chestnut Hill.

His greatest joy was spending time with his beloved grandchildren, extended family and friends in Ocean City, NJ, where days included long walks on the beach and large, informal dinners with three generations discussing the issues of the day and the Philadelphia Eagles. Whenever there were smiles around those tables, Walt felt unbridled joy.

Funeral services will be on Saturday, March 23rd at 11am at Our Mother of Consolation, 9 East Chestnut Hill Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118.

Should friends desire to mark Walt’s memory, in lieu of flowers please consider a contribution to a veteran’s organization of their choice.