James Wesley Clay

February 18, 1937May 10, 2019

James Wesley Clay, aka Jay, JC, JW, and Jim, was born on February 18, 1937, and took his last breath on May 10, 2019, after a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. James Clay (Jay) was born in Sanger, CA. He was the firstborn son of Jack and Irene Clay. Shortly after his birth, his parents moved to Firebaugh, CA. In 1945, they bought several acres of farmland in the El Nido / Red Top area of Madera, CA. Jack and Irene would have two more children, Armon and Sandra Clay. Jay worked on the farm from the time he could walk & talk and eventually built a farming business with his brother, Armon Clay.

James attended Ashview School as a youngster and graduated from Chowchilla High School in 1955. He played baseball in high school as a pitcher and it’s rumored he had ”a pretty good arm”. Shortly after high school, Jay enlisted in the Navy and spent the first few months on a ship, but eventually moved to manning the radar on sea planes. He said that latrine duty on a Navy ship taught him the value of cleanliness.

Upon his return from the Navy, Jay caught the eye of a beautiful lady named Linda McAninch. They were married on November 17, 1962 and remained married for 54 years until the death of Linda in 2016. Their first son, John Arthur, was born in June of 1969 and adopted by them two months later. In August of 1970, they welcomed their daughter, Diane Lynn.

Jay worked on the family farm / ranch and supplemented his income hauling corn for Corn Growers to the Frito Lay plant in LA. The demands on the ranch grew and Jay began working full time with his father and brother. Eventually the ranch was turned into a fulltime family farm called Clay Farm’s Inc. After the death of Jack, Jay and Armon continued as Clay Brother’s Inc. Jay’s specialty was alfalfa hay. He baled hay for people all over the valley. In fact, his MD once told him that inhaling the hay chaff for so many years damaged his lungs. The farm was sold in 2004, and for the first time in his life, Jay moved to the “town” of Chowchilla.

Jay was active in the El Nido community. He was a volunteer fire fighter and captain for a short time. He was a member of the Board of Directors for Soil Conservation. He cooked for many years at the Clarence Borba Memorial BBQ. He would even tend bar at the local hang out, Bettencourt’s, when needed. Most evenings, you could often find him on a stool in the bar shooting the breeze and downing “a cold one” with any farmer in the area.

Jay is proceeded in death by his son, John Clay; his wife, Linda Clay; his brother, Armon Clay; his sister-in-law, Mary Sue Clay and his parents, Jack & Irene Clay. Jay is survived by his sister, Sandra Clay; his daughter, Diane Ray and son-in-law Dennis Ray along with his grandchildren, Devin & Derek Ray. Sonya Amaral and her husband, Eddie Amaral along with his grandchildren, Amy & Ashley Clay. His brother-in-law, David McAninch, as well as numerous sister-in-laws, nieces, and nephews.

A Graveside service is planned at Chowchilla Cemetery on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 10:30 followed by a catered luncheon at one of Jay’s old hangout’s, Farnesi’s.


  • Committal Service Tuesday, May 21, 2019


James Wesley Clay

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