WARREN — Clayton A. Winchenbach died Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at the Sussman House, in Rockport, with his family by his side.
Clayt was born July 8, 1930 in Rockland, the son of Frank and Maude Winchenbach, and was a 1948 graduate of Rockland High School. He enlisted in the Marines, where he served on an aircraft carrier as crew for baseball legend Ted Williams.
After his service, Clayt (or “Wink”) worked as assistant manager of the First National grocery store in Rockland.
On May 30, 1957, he married Joan Kenney. In 1971 he and Joan purchased The Village Market, in Warren, which they ran until their retirement. The store was the center of activity in town and many people would drop by to shop or just have a conversation. Clayt especially enjoyed seeing the Warren children come in the store and was always thrilled when folks would introduce themselves to him years later as one of his kid customers. After retirement he and Joan turned the grocery store into an antique shop called Winks Whimseys. More recently, they found great joy in the store front transforming into a village center once again when it was opened as the site of the St. George River Café.
Clayt had a great sense of humor and loved playing pranks. Every spring he tapped his maple trees for syrup and always tapped the telephone pole as well. He liked to tease his three kids, with jokes or riddles and a twinkle in his eye. He was a lifelong learner with a keen interest in everything and everyone around him.
He and his wife, Joan, enjoyed travels with friends to Scandinavia, Ireland, Alaska and Canada.
He savored the small pleasures in life: a good conversation with family, friends and acquaintances, long walks with his dog, Katie, a cup of black coffee, a molasses doughnut, a stock of kindling for his woodstove and a Kahlua cocktail in the afternoon, when he and dog Katie would also nibble on Cheez-Its.
For their first two years of marriage, Clayt and Joan lived in their camp on Lermond Pond, enjoying the challenge of “roughing it.” The camp was the site for many July 4th family gatherings and ice fishing adventures. In 1959 they purchased their house in Warren and lived there ever since.
Clayt, never one to sit idle, was always involved in various projects. He enjoyed woodworking and puttering around in his 170-year-old house and barn. While recovering from cancer in the 1980s, he carved a giant totem pole which stood in his yard until last month. Despite working 7 days a week in his grocery store, Clayt found the time to be active in his community. He was a volunteer fireman and ambulance driver, served on several town boards, was involved in the formation of two Warren parks, helped run Warren Day and was a member of the Georges River Canal Association and the Warren Historical Society. Most recently he was on the board of the Warren Sanitary District. He and Joan were once Grand Marshalls of the Warren Day parade. Clayt and Joan also enjoyed opening their “haunted” home to hundreds of kids on Halloween. He was well known for his large annual summer yard sale. Over the years, he and Joan welcomed many exchange students from around the world into their home.
Clayt always enjoyed being on the water, whether it was canoeing, kayaking or sailing. Over the years, he twice rescued people from drowning. He and his fellow rescuer had their picture and the story of the rescues noted in the local paper.
Clayt’s five grandchildren knew him as Papa or Pup. He was interested in everything they did and attended many of their sports and special events. He is especially remembered for the long, improvised bedtime stories
he told them (often dozing off mid-story). They cherished the time they spent with him.
Clayt was predeceased by his parents; a sister, Barbara Nystrom and her husband William; brother-in-law, James Bonner; and his beloved dog, Katie, who passed two days before Clayt became ill.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joan; daughter Deanna and husband Marc McCutcheon; son, Stephen; daughter Suzanne and partner Alan Wancus; and grandchildren Kara and Mackey McCutcheon and Connor, Kyle and Ben Winchenbach.
He is also survived by sister Lois and husband Gerry Spooner; brother Kenneth and wife Marilyn; brother Gerald and wife Morgan; sister Mary Ann Bonner; brother Ronald and wife Norma; and his close brother Dana and wife Ruth with whom he enjoyed many visits and phone conversations. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews.
Clayt is also survived by a group of longtime Warren friends, with whom he shared many adventures, from 3-day long canoe trips and XC ski outings to more recent and sedate gatherings for dinner and card games. Joan and Clayt are blessed with loyal, kind and loving friends.
His family would like to thank the outstanding staff at PBMC as well as the Sussman House for their care and advocacy in making it possible for Clayt’s and his family’s experience to be as peaceful as it was.
Never one to want a fuss, in lieu of flowers or donations, what we feel Clayt would want in this time of uncertainty is for everyone just look out for their families, friends and neighbors.
To share a memory or story with Clayt’s family, visit their online Book of Memories at www.bchfh.com.
Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, Rockland.