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By Roy Dunn
For the Record 

Down Life's Highway

Snow Extends Clay's Life


Last updated 2/23/2021 at 8:39pm

On February 19, 1959, 62 years ago last Friday, my father Clay Jackson Dunn died on the operating table. He had a gallstone lodged in an unusual duct and had turned jaundice. The doctors at the big Dallas hospital said surgery to remove the stone was the only options, even though his cardiologist advised against it. He had suffered a major heart attack earlier and his doctor said his heart would never stand major surgery.

The operation was set for 9:00 A.M. In order to get there in plenty of time to visit with him I left the Brazos Valley around 3:00 A.M. for the three hour drive. Just a few miles out I started seeing snowflakes that kept falling harder and harder. By the time I got to Waco, visibility was almost impossible. I had never driven in snow before. It was a very strange feeling. I thought I saw items that weren't there, lines in the road were gone and it was impossible to see off ramps. In some areas my top speed was 10 miles an hour the closer I got to Dallas. I arrived at the hospital at 11:00 A.M., eight hours after I left home. Clay wouldn't let them operate until I arrived. I extended his life by two hours. He had used up his nine lives. Today the procedure to remove the gallstone would be a simple laser operation.

Clay had beaten the odds time and again. His body bore the scars of World War I, where he was a foot soldier in hand to hand battle, marching plum through France. Later, as the owner of Port Arthur's first taxi cab operation and a whiskey importer, he was tarred and feathered by the KKK and left to die at the foot of a burning cross. A young couple found him and saved his life. It took several months for him to recover. Till the day he died, he no longer could grow hair on his body. I find it strange today thinking of the colorful events he lived through in such a short life. He was only 65 years old. Today, I have a son that age. He would be proud to know that several of his offspring bare the name of Clay, Allen Clay, Garrett Clay, Leland Clay and Luke Clay. He's buried in the Dunn family plot at Sipe Springs cemetery, at Rising Star, with his parents and siblings. The town is between Comanche and Abilene.

Thank you for allowing me to recall a day a long time ago that is still as fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday. Last week's sight of snow and the cold weather reminded me of the day we buried dad on February 22, 1959. His grave marker bares the wrong date of death. It reads March 17 instead of Feb. 19. I didn't order the marker and have no idea how the mistake happened but Clay wouldn't mind, he was that much of an Irishman.


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