9 August, 1945 – 6 April, 2021
Clayton (Clayt) Edward Wilhite. On April 6, 2021, following a lengthy, courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease, and with his sister by his side, Clayt passed away peacefully at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on what would have been his wife’s 75th birthday.
Clayt was preceded in death by his loving wife, Ann, who passed away on November 20, 2020.
Clayt was born on August 9, 1945, to his loving, supportive and compassionate parents, Clayton and Ruth Wilhite. He spent his childhood years in Lansing and in Bay City, Michigan.
Clayt had a passionate interest in both academics and athletics. He was a consensus two-year All-State football star at Bay City Handy High School. He was named an All-American quarterback in 1962 with the additional accolade of being inducted into the National Honor Society. In 1963, Clayt committed to the University of Michigan and played a variety of positions under head coach Bump Elliott, lettering from 1964 through 1966. In his senior year, while paying tight end, he caught a 35 yard touchdown pass, helping to defeat The Ohio State Buckeyes. Most importantly, Clayt received the Maulbetsch, Robinson, Yost, and Phi Beta Kappa awards for academic and athletic achievements.
In 1969, Clayt met the love of his life, Ann Douglass, a fellow Wolverine. They married on June 27, 1970, in Woodbridge, Connecticut.
Following their marriage, they began their odyssey in the world of advertising, assuming assignments throughout the years in Chicago and Sydney, Australia (Foote, Cone & Belding), London (Young and Rubicam), St. Louis (D’Arcy, Masius Benton & Bowles), and New York (Ammirati & Puris, McCann-Erickson and DMB&B/North America), before returning to Ann Arbor in 1997. Clayt served as managing partner and was on the board of directors for CFI World Wide, an international consulting firm, until his retirement in 2008. During this time, he also held board positions with Carrols Corporation, Burger King’s largest franchisee, and Pollo Tropical Corporation, a restaurant chain in the southern US and Latin America.
Clayt had a great interest in politics, and in 1976, took a leave of absence from advertising. He and Ann headed to Washington DC to assist a former Wolverine, President Gerald Ford, as an executive with in-house agencies on the reelection campaign. In 1992, he returned in the same position to assist in President George H. W. Bush’s campaign.
Over the years, Clayt continued to utilize his adept managerial skills while serving on the board of the University Musical Society and was instrumental in establishing the UMS National Council Committee, thereby ensuring the financial stability of the organization while generating increased and enthusiastic support among the University of Michigan’s alumni and the international arts community.
Clayt is survived by brother Jim Wilhite (Ellen) of Shelburne, Vermont; sister Mary Post of Auburn, Michigan; brother-in-law Tom Douglass (Betsy) of St. Louis, Missouri; sister-in-law Elizabeth Bobro (Greg) of South Carolina; 11 nieces and nephews and 13 great nieces and nephews.
Clayt was preceded in death by his wife, Ann, brother-in-law Michael Post, and sister-in-law Janet Douglass.
The family wishes to thank special friend and caregiver, Violet Sabou, who gave unconditional love and care during Clayt’s and Ann’s illnesses. In addition, the family thanks the staff and caregivers at Brightstar for their support and kindness, as well as Nina Valean for the 16 years that she cared for their home.
A memorial reception for Clayt and Ann will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon on Saturday, May 8, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 420 West Liberty in Ann Arbor, followed by a Christian service led by Pastor Donald Neuendorf.
Clayt, Ann, and Janet Douglass will be intered at a private graveside service at Washtenong Memorial Park Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, consider making a contribution to the Michigan Athletics for Academic Success Program at UofM, 1000 State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (attention: Melissa Montague); the University Musical Society, 881 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; St. Paul Lutheran Church, 420 West Liberty, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; or to a charity of your choice in Clayt’s or Ann’s name.
A Memorial Gathering of Family and Friends
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
St. Paul Lutheran Church
A Christian Memorial Service
St. Paul Lutheran Church
5 May 2021
We had the opportunity to be next door neighbors to Ann & Clayton in Ann Arbor for more than 20 years. We shared many conversations together about gardening, music, politics, religion, and everyday life. We were especially blessed by how kind and tender they both were to our son--even calling him over to witness a special, once-in-a-while night-blooming flowering plant. We would often glance out the window to our west and smile when there were lights on in their sun porch. They hold a special spot in our hearts, and we will miss them. Our condolences to their family.
Randall & Mary & Cole Pittman
30 April 2021
Clayt was the son of my mothers cousin Ruth. However their family was always close with us.
I think I spent 36 yrs of my life going to thanksgiving at his aunt Ednas where often he and his brother Jim would take me into the yard and teach this awkward non sports minded kid to throw, catch and kick a football. They always made me feel like I was a direct cousin not a second cousin. Every Christmas Day we would gather at his sister Mary’s for an early dinner.
Clayton was a good bit older than me and I became an honorary UofM football fanatic because of Clayt and his brother Jim and the time they spent on the U of M football team. And what’s even funnier is I really didn’t watch football but I was always a fan of that school and that team because of those two.
Clayton was someone I very much admired because he was in the advertising industry and I went to school for graphic design. I used to follow his life adventures around the world from a distance. I will never forget hearing about the time they climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as told by his mother Ruth.
Early on one summer Clayt and Ann came up to a cottage that we had rented and spent time with our family.
I know how much he did for everyone around him in his life and he did it with passion. From what I’ve read tonight in the comments from others he did it with Style and Grace. I am deeply honored to have been a relative of his while he graced of this earthly plane.
I remember going to Thanos Lamplighter when I lived in Westland from 95-98. When I told Thano who I was he treated me like royalty. That’s because of Clayt & Jim!
I know that he is up in heaven working the next best Ad deal and joined with Ann! I am blessed to have had Clayt and his entire family in my life.
Mary, Jim, and Ellen my thoughts and prayers go out to you and you families in this transitional time!
16 April 2021
I had the great fortune to be Clayt's secretary at D'Arcy St. Louis. We worked so hard but it was so enjoyable. It was a joy to get to know Ann. Ann and Clayt were awesome people. Wonderful memories!
15 April 2021
I think it was the Spring of '63 when Clayt invited my brother and me to visit him for a weekend in Ann Arbor. We were just neighborhood kids, 4th and 6th graders. He was a hero from Bay City, a member of the U of M football team! He made us feel like visiting royalty, an unforgettable experience. Although we had lost touch over the years, I can see from reading the remembrances of others that Clayt continued to uplift the people around him throughout his life. The folks in Heaven will enjoy having him there!
13 April 2021
Very sad to hear of both Clayt and Ann's passing.
I worked for Clayt for eight years as his assistant at CFI Group. He treated me, along with his employees, the same way as he did his customers...with respect and kindness. All the good he did for people on this earth....may our Lord surely bless them.
Meg Kennedy Shaw
12 April 2021
Clayton was an incomparable gentleman. He was chairman of the UMS Board of Directors at the time I was president of the UMS Advisory Committee (later ‘Ambassadors’). He always listened carefully and courteously to the opinions of the Advisory, and made the committee feel as though they were rendering a worthwhile service (which they were). In subsequent years, he always greeted me with kindness, warmth and civility.
11 April 2021
Clayt was a wonderful boss at D'Arcy Advertising. His spirit and charm uplifted us all. He sought my insights on personnel and seemed to respect my judgment. Once I invited him to my home for diner when his wife was away. I wasn't sure how to entertain him after dinner, but all he wanted to do was walk around the neighborhood. He enjoyed the deep-rooted feeling of Webster Groves which reminded him of where he grew up.
10 April 2021
I had the pleasure of working with Clayt when he was Managing Director of D'Arcy St. Louis. In 1986 I asked him if D'Arcy would consider transferring me to its London office thinking the international experience would be good for my career and for my young family. Clayt, having done the same at one point in his career, got behind the idea and convinced our New York and London management teams to make the transfer. We lived in the U.K. for two years from 1987 to 1989. It was an amazing experience and one we'll never forget. Years later I learned that there had been quite a bit of resistance to my move on both sides of the Atlantic as D'Arcy had never moved a Creative Director internationally ... and that Clayt had really gone to bat for me. He had never said a thing about it.
10 April 2021
I had the honor of being friends with Clayt during our years at TL Handy high school. We were both feature editors of our school newspaper. I was the fashion editor and Clayt was the sports editor. I was also a shy, insecure and plump teenager at that time of my life. But this terrific nice guy treated me like I was a prom Queen. He once told me I had an incredible good heart and to always reach for my dreams. Proud to say I took his advice to heart. I always looked forward to visiting at our class reunions. The next one he will be sorely missed.
10 April 2021
I had the privilege of working for Clayt at CFI Group. He was my manager, as well as a mentor and a life coach. He patiently guided me as I developed in my career, was kind to my family, and could provide criticism in a way that made me feel good about it.
We traveled together often for work. Clayt had great stories to tell but was also a great listener. On those trips, he taught me so much about being a professional and guided me well in my career. Clayt made it a point that we try to appreciate the place we were visiting when we traveled whether it was a quick stop at a park or a walk through a museum. He also taught me about being a better person and I will always be grateful for that.
9 April 2021
I wish to express my sympathy to the Wilhite family. Clayt was such an impressive person, truly an example of the All American Boy. Sorry he was ill for an extended period, he’ll be missed by all who knew him.
9 April 2021
I had the pleasure of working with Clayt at McCann-Erickson and November Company, and we remained in touch for decades. I am very sorry to learn of this loss.
Bill and Paula Turner
9 April 2021
Clayton was such a fine friend and human being and along with Ann will be so missed by so many.
Tramping around the churches and sites in Rome, Capri, and Ravello with them was a high point, including finagling a special tour of Gore Vidal’s cliffside home there. (Imagine, Ann Wilhite in Gore Vidal’s office!)
We recall the note to Clayton from a friend, framed on a table near the entrance to their Ann Arbor home, extolling Ann as the crux of his life, to the effect that “the greatest move you ever made was marrying her, and she, not you, is the critical success factor in everything you do.” Ann accepted it as fact; Clayton didn’t disagree and was proud.
We are thrilled to have known him and deeply saddened he is gone.
9 April 2021
Clayton and Ann joined us on our boat as we sailed through Desolation Sound on our way to Vancouver harbor. They were wonderful friends: Ann to the bow each morning to watch the ocean pass under our keel, Clay on the stern reading the WSJ with a fresh cup of coffee. Great fun.
Clayton helped me become involved in The Nature Conservancy. Hats off to Clayton for all his work with UMS too. Clayton was a lovely, elegant man who will be greatly missed.
8 April 2021
I have many fond memories of the time Clayt and I worked together at D’Arcy Advertising. My first trip to New York City was with Clayt to present our business plan to the corporation.
I am an Ohio State alumnus and we always had a good time talking up our respective football teams. Our bet on the outcome of an Ohio State-Michigan football game is one of my fondest memories. Clayt won the bet and I had to make a $20 donation to University of Michigan. He sent my donation with a personal letter to the Athletic Director.
Clayt was a magnificent person in every way possible. It was a privilege to know him and to call him my friend. I am deeply saddened with his passing; my thoughts and prayers are with him.
7 April 2021
I met Clayt roughly 25 years ago. He was, to me, larger than life; this tall, gregarious, polished former ad exec with a huge smile (and a nice Rose Bowl ring!). Clayt gave me one of my big breaks early in my career, allowing me to go in front of clients rather than just sit in the office behind the scenes. I'm sure I put my foot in my mouth numerous times, but he was patient and always offered constructive feedback.
Without Clayt, I don't know if my life would have turned out the same. I am thankful our paths crossed, and that I got to learn from such an inspiring person.