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Clayton Ross, age 90, died Monday, July 30, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio, surrounded by his loving family. He was preceded in death by his parents, Jess and Olive Ross, and brother, Ralph Ross. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Kathleen (Kathy) Ross; daughters Kelley (Chris) Femia, Julie (Tony) Harris, and Tracy (Tim) Gawry; son Michael Ross (KS); grandchildren Dominick, Anthony, Corinne, Olivia, Carter, Clayton, Eleanor, and Emily; brother- and sister-in-law George and Lisa Fulcher; nephews Steve Townsend, Joe Drab, Dave Drab, Michael Fulcher, Christopher Fulcher, Todd McElhatton (CA); and nieces Gina Wayman (TX), Lynette Jackson (TX), and Linda Stevens (KS).
Clayton was born in 1928 in Osawatomie, Kansas, population 4,000. His parents, Jess and Olive Ross, worked the family farm. Clayton and his older brother, Ralph, would slop the hogs and milk the cows before school. He attended a one room schoolhouse and really did have to walk there and back in a foot of snow!
Later, while working on his own farm, Clayton baled and shipped hay, tended 3,000 turkeys, and managed cattle. He had an entrepreneurial spirit early on and started a business with his brother: Ross Bros. Hickory Chips. During this time, he also worked on the construction of I-70, distributing straw for the medians along the newly built interstate. Always staying busy, Clayton and Ralph formed Ross Bros. Construction, where he worked until he left Kansas.
After leaving Kansas, Clayton worked for Mainline Homes in Omaha, Nebraska. When the company went out of business in 1965, Clayton moved to Columbus and interviewed with S. Robert Davis, for whom he worked until 1975. While working for Bob Davis, he built the first Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips and designed the iconic rotating sign. When long lines started forming on opening day, he put his cattle experience to work and set up the first known “snake line” to corral and guide the customers. As VP of Arthur Treacher’s, he went on to build additional locations, as well as a biscuit bakery for Kentucky Fried Chicken and offices for Wendy’s.
After striking out on his own, Clayton began building new construction as well as buying and renovating existing buildings. At the same time, he owned ExpressionWear, a successful T-shirt printing company which started behind the Southern Hotel and expanded into two successively larger facilities in buildings expertly renovated by Clayton. ExpressionWear operated one of the first heat transfer kiosks at the Ohio State Fair, where customers could choose their design and T-shirt and have it printed on the spot. Heat transfer printing eventually waned in favor of custom screen printing. ExpressionWear expanded its operation, distributing T-shirts to Gold Circle, Schottenstein Department Stores, and Federated Department Stores, including Lazarus, and was later bought out by AirWaves LLC.
Throughout his life, real estate was his true passion. He particularly loved to breathe life back into the neglected, the run-down, and the forgotten. He built, renovated and owned office/warehouse, single family, apartment, multi-tenant office, retail, and industrial properties throughout Central Ohio. Notable projects include his development along the I-670 Corridor on Old Leonard and Taylor Avenues. Both as an independent investor and part owner of Our Masonry Company, Inc., he renovated old livestock auction buildings, restored an historic schoolhouse, and built numerous buildings in the area for many companies. He also developed multi-tenant office/warehouse complexes on Starr Avenue, Corrugated Way, and Essex Avenue, and renovated the historic Clock Tower Building in Plain City, Ohio.
He was most proud of his largest renovation project, RiversEdge Corporate Center at 1335 Dublin Road. Formerly the Arlington Arms Motel, Clayton acquired the 125,000 square foot property in 1988 and converted it to a multi-tenant office complex with “the finest tenants in Columbus.” A small portion of his extensive antique collection is housed there in his office, where he worked until his final days. He couldn’t have done so without his dedicated “crew”: Roger, Bruce, Boot, his nephew Joe, Melinda, and his wife, Kathy, who supported and worked with him on every project.
Clayton was an avid collector of antiques and often frequented flea markets, garage sales, and auctions. He filled his buildings with his treasures—wood planes and tools, cast iron dogs, pedal tractors, and more—covering every square inch of wall space. He enjoyed woodworking, watching Westerns, and reading. He preferred driving to flying and often took long road trips with his wife and family, traveling across much of the United States. He loved dining out, especially going to breakfast—way too early in the morning, if you ask his kids!
Clayton was incredibly generous, loved his family and friends dearly, and continued to make new friends even in his final days. As a small business owner, he went out of his way to support other small businesses, contractors, tradespeople, business professionals, and realtors, all of whom he counted as friends. He also loved his pets: Sid, Little Guy, and Ben & Annie, who provided great comfort to him over the years.
Living to the age of 90, but young in spirit, Clayton was not a stranger to loss of family, friends, and loved ones. We are thankful to have had him in our lives for so long.
The family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to the staff, nurses, and friends at Glenwood Alzheimer's Special Care Center and Capital City Hospice for their friendship and dedicated care.
Private interment at Resurrection Cemetery. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, August 12, 2018 at Northwest Christian Church, 1340 Fishinger Rd., where family will receive friends from 1:00 until time of service, reception immediately following. In lieu of flowers, consider a donation to support dementia research via the Clayton Ross Tribute Page at http://bit.ly/ClaytonRoss.