Ross Kenneth Clay, 52, of Three Rivers, passed away Friday, May 5, 2023, at Elkhart General Hospital after a long illness.
Ross was born October 28, 1970, in Kalamazoo, the son of Kenneth and Joyce (Grover) Clay. Ross graduated from Three Rivers High School as a member of the class of 1989. His high school years were happy ones for Ross, and he treasured his rich network of friends and classmates. He relished the experiences of serving as senior class president, co-captain of the football team, and homecoming king. He was a natural athlete, also excelling at tennis, golf, and his favorite, basketball. His father was his first teacher in multiple sports, coaching him in little league baseball, teaching him how to throw a football, and explaining the right way to swing a golf club.
A scholar as well as an athlete, Ross was selected as a National Merit Scholar and awarded a full scholarship to Alma College. He graduated in 1993 with his bachelor’s degree in physics. Ross went on to earn his J.D. from Boston University Law School in 1997 and was admitted to the Michigan bar the following year. In the early 2000s, Ross worked in the office of the St. Joseph prosecuting attorney and with Three Rivers attorney John Barnes. Ross spent formative summers working as an intern in the engineering department of Armstrong’s Three Rivers location, and after law school, Ross worked briefly at Armstrong corporate headquarters in Florida supporting the legal department.
Ross always craved new experiences and adventures. While he always returned home to Three Rivers, he enjoyed short, but meaningful chapters of his life in Colorado, Montana, California, and Tennessee, always seeking ways to immerse himself in nature, and with a knack for finding the most beautiful parks and campsites wherever he was living.
He loved sharing these special, natural places with family or friends who visited. The family’s most storied example of this was a visit that Joyce made to see her son while he was living in Montana just outside of Yellowstone National Park. While the park was officially closed for the winter, Ross used his charm and local connections to arrange for two snowmobiles to allow mother and son to tour the otherwise deserted park – his mother’s first and only experience with this mode of transport.
During law school, he was awarded a special opportunity to study for a semester at Oxford University in the United Kingdom during law school. He drew deeply from his time in England and often spoke fondly about this period of his life. He was joined by his brother Rodd at the end of his Oxford studies for an extensive backpacking tour of Europe, traveling through numerous countries and making it as far as Morocco.
Ross turned to art and nature for solace and comfort more and more in the last years of his life. Ross loved camping and backpacking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, as well as campfires and music.
Remaining to cherish his memory are his mother, Joyce Clay; twin brother, Rodd Clay; sister, Kathryn Clay (Dan Reifsnyder); many beloved aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Ross was preceded in death by his father, Kenneth Clay.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, June 10, 2023, from 10:00-10:45 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers/Centreville, 320 N. Main St., Three Rivers. A memorial service will immediately follow at 11:00 a.m. with Rev. Brenda Deily officiating.
Ross was an avid camper, backpacker and wildlife enthusiast most of his life. To honor his passion for the outdoors,the family is asking those who wish to make donations in Ross’ memory to support the Hidden Marsh Sanctuary, managed by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC). Located just beyond Three Rivers City Limits and near Armstrong Park, the Hidden Marsh Sanctuary is also close to Ross’s last home. SWMLC is planning to erect a bench at the preserve with a memorial plaque in his honor.
Donations can be made online at swmlc.org/donate. Please indicate “Ross Clay Memorial” in the Additional Comments section. Checks can be made out to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and sent to Hohner Funeral Home, P.O. Box 1018, Three Rivers, MI 49093. Envelopes for donations will also be available at church during visitation and the service. Donations to Ross’s memorial and online condolences may be shared at www.hohnerfh.com.