Fort Lewis Athletic Hall of Famer dies

DURANGO — Fort Lewis College Athletic Hall of Famer Clay Vern Bader died at his home in nearby Mancos on Friday, Aug. 24.

He was 91.

Bader was inducted into the FLC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994. He played football and basketball at Fort Lewis A&M College from 1939-41 and was among the college’s last surviving athletes from the 1930s.

“Clay Bader’s influence on Fort Lewis extends far beyond being a team captain and standout athlete — it extends to the college’s very roots and continued until his passing,” said FLC Assistant Director of Athletics Chris Aaland, who worked with Bader on several occasions during the past 20 years on a variety of Fort Lewis athletic, alumni and Foundation events.

“Fort Lewis College and our unique and diverse history were very important to him and his family,” added Aaland, who served as FLC’s Director of Alumni Relations from 2006-10. “The entire campus and the Skyhawk athletic family are indebted to the Baders and will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

The Bader family association with Fort Lewis began in 1916 when Clay’s father, Ernest, was hired as a farm manager of the old agricultural high school. The elder Bader eventually became the first dean of the junior college that was established in the late 1920s on the former U.S. Army post south of Hesperus.

Bader was born to Ernest and Mary (Ames) Bader on July 4, 1921, on the Old Fort campus. He attended grade school and junior college at Fort Lewis and graduated from Durango High School in 1939. He met his future wife of 68 years, Jean Kelly, at Fort Lewis, where he attended junior college. He later graduated from Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now Colorado State University).

Bader was immediately inducted into the Navy and sent to Northwestern Midshipman School in Chicago. He underwent further training at Harvard University, sending for his Jean, whom he married in 1943 in Melrose, Mass. Bader went on to be a communications lieutenant for the Command of the South Pacific for 18 months.

After returning from World War II, he moved to Mancos and began ranching with his in-laws, Mary and Ira Kelly. The Baders ranched together for nearly 50 years.

Bader served as president of FLC’s Alumni Association Board of Directors and was a longtime member of the FLC Foundation Board of Directors. In 1990, for their long and distinguished history of service to his alma mater and Southwest Colorado, the Baders were named recipients of the Fort Lewis College Distinguished Service Award.

Bader’s extensive community service included serving as a Montezuma County commissioner for two terms, during which time the county secured the property that now hosts the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. As a member of the Mancos Masonic Lodge, he was named the worshipful master in 1956, 1984, 1985 and 1993, and was named the inspector general honorary of the 33rd degree in 2007. He was a lifelong member and president of the Mancos Cattleman’s Association, a member of the Southwestern Livestock Association for more than 50 years, serving as president and twice named Man of the Year. For 12 years, Bader served on the San Juan National Forest Advisory Board, including several years as chairman. Bader was a member of the Mancos Water Conservancy District for 28 years, was on the Colorado State Groundwater Commission, was on the Federal Land Bank Board for 18 years and was chairman several times, he was a member of the Mesa Verde Museum Association for 15 years (the chairman three times) and was a member of the Escalante Shrine Club of the Al Kaly Shriners, also serving as president.

Bader is survived by his wife of 68 years, Jean; children Margie Russell of Mancos and Kelly Clay Bader of Kim, Colo. Siblings Margaret Crawford of Golden, Floy Singleton of Paonia and Bill Bader of Spokane, Wash. Bader had five grandchildren and one great-grandson.