By George Harrison
For many of you, he wasn’t the household name of most of our OWAA legends. That’s because Clayt Dovey was a quiet and very humble man. Yet, he was a man of enormous achievement, both in our craft and in the service to his country and his community of Johnstown, Pa.
Clayt’s influence on outdoor people ranged far and wide. Though he listened a lot and lectured very little from my observations, his greatest contribution to OWAA was to ask the right questions.
As a longtime member of OWAA and the Pennsylvania Outdoors Writers Association, Clayt and his soulmate Adele produced “Clayt and Adele Dovey Outdoors,” a television show on NBC affiliate WJAC (western Pennsylvania) that ran for 20 years. Reportedly, they were the first husband and wife team in the U.S. to film and produce a regularly scheduled outdoor television show on a major television network affiliate. Clayt also wrote an outdoor column for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and hosted an outdoor show for WJAC Radio for more than 20 years.
During that time, I remember hearing many wild and woolly stories of the Doveys’ hunting and fishing adventures around the world for the production of these shows. If ever there was a storyteller, it was Clayt Dovey. Like their trip to Cuba as the first outdoor journalists to enter the country under the Castro regime. Whether he embellished them (don’t many of us?), or not, the stories always turned out to be so funny my stomach hurt from laughter.
Many of these great sagas were declassified around a fine dinner table at the best restaurants in each of the OWAA Conference communities, wherever they were located. Three couples, the Doveys, Bashlines and Harrisons, formed “The Royal Order of the Silver Chalice,” complete with silver goblets that we faithfully brought to every conference. Each couple took turns paying for the dinners, which were always outrageously expensive (to stick it to the couple paying). These events were among my greatest memories of OWAA conferences. Each of us tried to outdo the others with the most outrageous tales. Oh, for want of a sound recorder!
Outdoor communication was an avocation for Clayt. He served his country with distinguished honor. In World War II, he flew 75 missions in B-17s and A-20s out of Italy as a bombardier/navigator. Reaching the rank of captain, Clayt received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Metal with six Oak Leaf Clusters. He graduated magna cum laude from Gettysburg (Pa.) College, belonged to Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and was a Phi Beta Kappa inductee.
His day jobs included business interests in several corporations, four decades as a bank executive and service to many community charities and foundations. For this, he received numerous community and national awards for business achievement and volunteer service.
Clayt was a cornerstone member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, inspired by his daughter, Laurie Lee Dovey. “What amazed me about my dad,” Laurie Lee told me, “was his humility. In a world where ego is a big part of our game, Clayt had none,” she said. “I never knew a man more honest, nor with more intellect … I wish I had 1/10th of my dad’s smarts,” she confessed.
Perhaps Clayt Dovey’s greatest asset was his love for life. You could never be around him without immediately recognizing it. There was always a twinkle in his eye. Even after a debilitating stroke, Clayt still fished and hunted with the aid of supports needed to achieve accuracy. His most precious possessions were his family, friends and a series of adorable pug dogs. Because I was one of those friends, I consider myself fortunate to have spent time with, and had my life enriched by, this legend.
George H. Harrison, of Hubertus, Wis., is a freelance writer/photographer and book author. He has received the Ham Brown, Circle of Chiefs and Outstanding Board Member awards since joining OWAA 45 years ago.