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Obituary: Elliott Harrison Clay Nov. 10, 1995 – Sept. 1, 2017

on September 7, 2017 - 10:53am

ELLIOTT HARRISON CLAY Nov. 10, 1995 Sept. 1, 2017

Elliott Harrison Clay, of San Jose, California, passed away on Friday morning, September 1, 2017. He was 21 years old.

Elliott was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico on November 10, 1995, and he would always consider Los Alamos his home. Elliott was very active in his younger years, and greatly enjoyed scouting, baseball, football, and basketball. He also had a natural affinity for music, mathematics and science, which were talents he pursed throughout his life.

In the summer of 2001, when Elliott was five, his family moved from Los Alamos for a year and lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Elliott attended kindergarten in Chapel Hill and on Friday afternoons after school, he enjoyed going with his family to pick up his favorite snack food, beef jerky, and drive to the campus of Duke University. On the campus, he loved to play basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium and on several occasions shot around and rebounded free-throws with his favorite Duke players. It was during this period that Elliott developed his love for basketball.

When Elliott returned to Los Alamos in 2002, he attended first Aspen and then Mountain Elementary Schools. During his elementary school years, Elliott was an excellent student and became involved with scouting. Elliott also began playing the alto saxophone and played Little League baseball, YMCA basketball, and YAFL football. Elliott developed life-long friendships and relationships during this time with school mates, fellow scouts, band-mates, teammates, parents and coaches and thus became linked with a “village” of friends, parents and mentors that he cherished as he grew up in Los Alamos.

Elliott liked to try new things and had the ability to quickly catch-on and find the easiest path to success. An early example of this was when he learned to play chess in the 1st grade. He quickly learned the game and how to move all the pieces. He also learned the relatively simple chess maneuver called the “fools mate”. After learning the game, he joined the chess club at his school, and in no time, was on his way to his first big tournament in Taos. At the tournament, he played other young players, and to his surprise, was able to quickly win all of his games with the “fools mate” maneuver. He quickly advanced in the bracket, never having to play a drawn out match, which meant he had a lot of waiting time. In one match, against a highly rated player, he again successfully used the maneuver, but he and his opponent were so surprised that Elliott forgot to say, “Check Mate”, so by rule, the match ended in a draw. Elliott ended up finishing second in the large tournament and earned a large trophy, all after playing chess for only a couple of weeks, yet learning a fast-win maneuver. That was the kind of person that Elliott was; try anything, learn it quickly, find the easiest path, and then take home the prize! These traits served him very well in almost everything he tried and helped him enjoy a wide range of interests.

As Elliott moved from elementary to middle school, he continued with his music, sports, and scouting. He played basketball and football for the Middle School Hawks and was a member of the middle school band.  While in middle school, Elliott wrote an essay about his family’s military service history in preparation for a field trip to Washington, DC. The thoughtful and powerful essay earned him the right to place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during his trip to Arlington National Cemetery.

Elliott also enjoyed attending sports, scouting, and music camps, both to further his skills and abilities and to enjoy being with friends. Elliott spent a good deal of time at three camps in particular; summer Boy Scout camp, the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball camp in Scottsdale, and the Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) Duke basketball camp. Elliott attended all three of these camps for several years and really enjoyed the experience. Some of his close friends also attended the camps, which to him made them all much more enjoyable. Elliott loved spending time with his friends, as much as anything he ever did. He also enjoyed meeting and working with famous players and coaches at the camps. At one Duke Camp for example, he asked Coach K and all the players from the 2000-2001 National Championship team sign a team poster. They all agreed to sign and that poster still hangs above his bed.

As Elliott got older, his focus shifted more to basketball and music. For basketball, he played for the middle school and high school teams and competed in many summer basketball programs. Although he loved basketball, he really enjoyed the diversity of music and took great joy in playing in the high school orchestra and marching band. He knew that his future as a “Division 1 College player” was as a musician. He loved to perform on the field, especially at large competitions, and took great pride in winning a championship in a major competition in Albuquerque during his Senior year in high school. Another crowning moment in his musical career was when he performed with the Los Alamos High School Marching Band at Disneyland.  His entire family, and the families of a large number of band members, attended the event and proudly lined Main Street at Disneyland to watch the Topper Marching Band. Elliott also enjoyed jazz and improvisation, and he was a co-recipient of the “Souder-Bennorth Memorial Scholarship” from the Los Alamos Big Band.

As Elliott moved away from playing baseball and football in high school, he decided to take up golf during the basketball off-season. As was his tendency, he picked up the game pretty quickly and like so many, took great pleasure in “crushing” the ball down the fairway. He played on the Topper golf team for several years and steadily improved at the game many would consider the most difficult of all to consistently master. What he liked most about golf was being with his friends and being alone with his thoughts as he played the course. Golf is a game much different than basketball or other team sports as you rely mostly on yourself and your ability as you battle the course. Though he could be as frustrated with the game as every other person that has ever played it, he really enjoyed the quiet challenge. He considered the district championship that he and his teammates won in his Senior year as one of his biggest achievements.

Although Elliott loved music, sports and activities, science and mathematics were far more the topics of his daily conversations with friends and family. Elliott excelled in science and mathematics and was a member of the National Honor Society. After graduating from Los Alamos High School, Elliott attended the University of New Mexico to focus on science, mathematics, and engineering. These subjects were his real passion. Elliott loved talking for hours about the physics of the cosmos, relativity, and quantum mechanics. Toward the later part of his life, he enjoyed declaring his newly self-coined axiom, “Dark Matter Rules - the Standard Model Drools”. He enjoyed engaging in mind bending conversations about time, space, and the universe in general, and he liked teaching others about the complex concepts. His greatest aspiration was not to be a versatile guard in the NBA or to play with the Boston Pops; it was to be a physicist at one of our country’s national science laboratories. At the end of his life, Elliott had re-entered college in San Jose with a focus on achieving his degree in a science or engineering discipline.

No story of Elliott would be complete without a few words about who he was inside. Elliott was caring and compassionate and loved the diversity and variety of life. He was a spiritual young man who had strong beliefs and opinions on a broad spectrum of topics and issues. He was intelligent, determined, passionate, and articulate and could be very persuasive. Above all, Elliott loved his family and friends. In his final words, Elliott told his family and friends how much he loved them and had this last request; “Keep tackling life with all your hearts…the world holds big things for you!”

Elliott is survived by his parents Marc and Bonnie Clay, his grandparents Tom and Kathy Hall, his sisters and brother, Leigha, Lynzee, Bonnie-Wren, Danger, Sarah, and Samantha and many uncles, aunts, nieces.

Remembrance services for Elliott are being held in Los Alamos, New Mexico at the New Beginnings Fellowship church on September 13, 2017 at 11:00 am. Family and friends are gathering for lunch at the church following the service at about 12:00 pm. New Beginnings Fellowship is located at 112 East Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544.