Saturday, January 20, 2007

Richard Clayton Britton

Richard as a young Naval pilot. On this picture, he wrote "To Mom and Dad, Much love to my swell parents . . . "

Richard at the piano

Richard and Wilma on their wedding day in South Walpole, Mass. 10 June 1950

One of the Britton's many houses. This one is in Tonawanda, New York. They lived here in the early 1960s.

Richard with his daughter Lauren's son, Lincoln Charles, in 1983

RICHARD CLAYTON BRITTON was born on October 1st, 1925 in Mansfield, Bristol County, Massachussetts. His parents were Clayton Charles Britton of Monticello, Maine and Sadie Stella Vasseur of New Brunswick, Canada. He was the second of their seven children.

As a young boy, "Dick" lived in Foxboro, Massachussetts. His family was very poor during the years of the Depression and his father turned to fox-raising in order to bring in money for the family. Richard always told stories of how hard it was to raise those foxes.

Richard graduated from high school when he was only sixteen. He was highly intelligent and won several awards in school. He attended Dartmouth University in Hanover, New Hampshire. He then joined the Naval Reserves when he was 18. By the time his training as a pilot was over in about 1945, World War II was nearly over, so Richard never fought in combat. He then attended Boston University and pursued his degree in journalism. He worked as a newspaper reporter during the Korean War years, and remained on with the Naval Reserves. He and Wilma Gertrude Fish married on 10 June 1950 in South Walpole, Mass., where her family lived. They met at his sister, Lorraine's wedding, where he played the organ. Lorraine was a nursing friend of Wilma's.
Lorraine is in the middle of this picture, taken by Wilma. She wrote on the back, "Wouldn't you know that she sat next to me!!"

For a time Richard thought seriously about joining the FBI, until he heard from a friend that American Airlines was hiring pilots. He took a job with them instead and moved with Wilma to Beverly, Massachussetts, near enough that he could fly out of Boston's airport. Here, Wilma gave birth to their oldest child, Lauren. A few years later, he moved with his family to Dallas, Texas, perhaps to fly some different routes than what he was used to. The Brittons stayed in Dallas for about six years and had two more daughters, Julie and Kimberly. He moved his family to Sunnyvale, California for two years, then found out that if he took routes out of Buffalo, New York, he could become a captain much sooner. They lived in Buffalo for one year, then moved to Ridgefield, Conn., where they had twin sons, Roger and Steven.

The Brittons joined the LDS Church in 1964 and soon moved to Tustin, California, partly in order to live near more members of that church. Dick had a house built in a nearby town called Villa Park, where the family lived for two years. Dick moved his family again, this time to Calistoga, California, where they lived for six years. Richard had taken up sailing and wanted to own a boat, so the ever-on-the-move Britton family moved to El Cajon, near San Diego, California. He and Wilma then moved to Redding, California and then to Napa, California. He suffered from high blood pressure and American Airlines wouldn't allow him to fly anymore because of his condition and medication, so he retired a few years early. He passed away in September 1986. He was only 59.

Richard filled his free time with hobbies. He was extremely talented musically; he played the organ and the piano masterfully, and could play any song by ear after hearing it only once. He even built an organ from scratch, having ordered all of the pieces and technical instruments. He took up golf, became certified in scuba diving, and learned to sail. He sometimes kept a small plane at nearby airports for pleasure flying. He made model and radio-controlled airplanes, became an accomplished oil painter and loved to read.

Julie Britton Cooper's memories:

Being an airline pilot, Dad’s schedule had him work 2-3 days a week usually with a trip back east, and then he would be home four days. It seemed like he was home most of the time. Because of this schedule when I was in Jr. High and high school (before I could drive) it was Dad that would be waiting out front of the school to take us home.

Dad did almost all of the shopping (Mom would say how spoiled she was because Dad did this.) He actually seemed to like grocery shopping and he never went alone. He always took some of us kids. I went with him a lot. He never looked at which products were on sale he just went through and bought what we needed and then some. He would always buy treats. Our pantry was full of doughnuts, Ding Dongs, Fritos, ice cream, soda, etc. He loved peppermint gum and kept a big bean pot full of it. He said that when he was little and they didn’t have much money he would dream of the day when he was a man with a good job and would be able to buy any candy bar he wanted. He thought that would be great. And so he did do that. If we wanted a candy bar he would always buy it. I liked to see his suitcase when he got home from a trip because he would have a few in it. Clark bars were a favorite.

Dad also did the Christmas shopping. I remember when I was a junior in high school he bought me a coat for Christmas and I really liked it. I wore it all the time. I was surprised then that he would know the taste of a teenage girl and actually go to a store and look for something and get it right.

Dad liked sports. When we lived back east he would watch the Mets on TV. As a boy he loved the Red Soxs and Ted Williams. When we moved to So Cal he would take us to Angel games, then in Nor Cal to A’s games. It was fun.

He watched football on TV and when I was young he taught me all about the game, so I started to like it. When we lived in Tustin and Villa Park Dad went to every football game even the away games. I know, because Kim and I always went with him. We had fun. Dad even got to know the players names. When I was in high school I would sit with my friends at the games, but I would look up in the stands and see Dad there. Sometimes I remember feeling bad because he was all alone, but I knew he just like watching the game.

Dad really liked little kids. He would often say that he wished we could be small again for a day. When I was six or seven I remember he read me “Charlotte’s Web.” Before we went to bed he would ask, “Have you said your prayers?” When I was in high school he heard me say the word crap. He said that he didn’t think a nice girl would use that word. I didn’t after that.

Dad loved music, all kinds. From pop, rock to classical. He liked many of the popular songs of the time and he bought the albums. He loved the hymns and playing them, especially on the pipe organ at church. I went to a tabernacle organ concert in Salt Lake with him once and I could see how touched he was by the music.

In college, Dad would call me a few times a week. My roommate had never had her father call her, just her mother. She thought it was really neat that my Dad would make the call and be interested in my classes and what I was doing. Dad was always interested in what we were doing. One of his favorites quotes was “plan ahead.” He felt it was important to be prepared, and to think things through ahead of time.

Dad liked to travel; of course he had a great job for that. He liked going to work; I don’t think I ever heard him complain about it. He loved to fly planes. When he went on vacation he didn’t really like to visit relatives so much (that was Grammy’s favorite thing to do) or go through museums, he liked to be outdoors. Preferably a tropical setting, but he loved the pacific northwest too. He loved to plan trips and would buy books and read all about the places he wanted to go. He thought that preparing for a trip was half the fun.

He told me that one of the happiest days of his life was when I called him and told him I was pregnant with Adam (after eight years we were not sure I would be able to have a baby.) I always knew Dad loved us and I knew he loved me. He helped me so much and I’m so glad he was and is my Dad.

Please post your memories or favorite stories in the comments section below. If you have any corrections you would like me to make, please email me at nhornfamATmsnDOTcom.