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updated: 3/18/2014 2:52 PM

Frank Clayton, longtime Buffalo Grove school board member, dies at 80

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  • Frank and Verna Clayton.

    Frank and Verna Clayton.
    Courtesy of Beggs Funeral Home

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

Frank Clayton, the husband of former Buffalo Grove mayor and Illinois state legislator Verna Clayton, died Saturday near their retirement home in South Carolina. He was 80.

While his wife carved out a well-known career in public service in and around Buffalo Grove, Frank Clayton jumped into local politics at nearly the same time, running for and winning a seat on the Kildeer Countryside school board.

"Back in 1971, we were elected 10 days apart," Verna Clayton recalls.

The couple moved to the Northwest suburbs in 1969 to raise their two children. With the possibility of Kildeer Countryside School in Long Grove going to split sessions to accommodate the growth in enrollment -- half in the morning and half in the afternoon -- it drew Frank Clayton, an electrical engineer, to run for the school board.

"We were both very civic minded," Verna Clayton adds, "and our involvement just grew and grew."

Verna Clayton was the Buffalo Grove clerk for six years. She was elected mayor in 1979 and a state representative in 1993.

Frank Clayton, meanwhile, led the Kildeer-Countryside Elementary District 96 board as president from 1971-73.

From 1974-1980 he was elected to the Stevenson High School District 125 board, including serving from 1977-80 as president.

His work on the District 125 board came before the school's major growth -- the bi-level addition of classrooms in the mid-1980s and new building that added 60 more classrooms in the mid-1990s.

"He concentrated more on curriculum development," Verna Clayton said. "For one thing, they instituted a freshman studies program that gave all of the incoming students a strong foundation."

In 1996, Frank Clayton received the Stevenson High School Heritage Award. At the time, he told Jim Conrey, Stevenson's public information coordinator, that the goal when he joined the District 125 board was to "bring Stevenson to the level of a New Trier."

"We never got that far (by 1980, when he left the board) because it takes a long time," he told Conrey. "But the goals were in place, and the school has reached that level now."

The couple's oldest daughter, Valerie Harp, said she cannot recall a time growing up when her father wasn't involved with a school board.

"Because my dad was on the school board when I graduated, he was able to give me my diploma," Harp says. "And when my brother graduated, he was president of the school board and was able to give him his diploma too. That is a wonderful memory."

During his years of public service, Clayton was a partner with Torkelson & Associates, a sales engineering firm.

His interest in furthering public education didn't finish with the end of his term at Stevenson, however.

In 1993, he was appointed president of the Kildeer Educational Foundation for Excellence, which raised money for school enhancements and teacher grants.

By 1998, the couple retired to McCormick, S.C. Once again they immersed themselves in community service, as well as the local U.S. Power Squadron, reflecting Clayton's naval service during the Korean conflict. It didn't go unnoticed.

In January 2014, Frank Clayton received the Order of the Silver Crescent, the highest civil service award for community service designated by the U.S. Power Squadron.

South Carolina state Sen. A. Shane Massey, whose political career was launched in the Claytons' home, hand-delivered a Certification of Merit to Clayton from the governor of South Carolina.

Besides his wife and daughter, Clayton is survived by his son, Barry (Ginger) Clayton, as well as five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, March 19, in McCormick.

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