Richard Clayman was first elected to the Chelsea School Committee in 1971, becoming one of the youngest members and chairpersons in the history of this city. He later won election to the Board of Alderman, serving two terms in office, the latter as its president.
Even before deciding to pursue public office in his hometown, Richard Clayman, with his sparkling personality, wit, intellect, and a manner that made everyone feel they were special in his presence, had been a positive influence on young people, like the kids on Cottage Street who idolized this young, handsome attorney with big dreams and an even bigger heart.
One of those kids was Jay Ash, who grasped that early inspiration and friendship from his neighbor and launched himself on a career that would take him to basketball and academic excellence at Clark University and on a road to public service that continues today as Chelsea’s eminent city manager.
Jay Ash was one of hundreds of friends, family members, professional colleagues, and associates who attended a beautiful funeral service for Richard Clayman, who died on May 1 at the age of 65. People from all walks of life came to pay their respects to a man who helped so many people in unsung fashion.
Ash reflected on the life and contributions of Richard Clayman, who grew up in this city, graduated from Chelsea High School in 1965, and after completing his studies at Suffolk Law School and working in the Office of Suffolk County District Attorney Garrett Byrne, began a law practice that remains situated on Everett Avenue.
“Our entire community has lost one of our greatest champions with the passing of Richie Clayman,” said Ash. “He meant so much to so many. He was a terrific lawyer and an even better friend, especially to those who needed someone to look out after and believe in them. He was an icon and his name was synonymous with Chelsea and vice-versa. I’m not sure we’ll ever see anyone like him again, which amplifies our loss.”
Ash, who served as chief of staff for State Rep. and Chairman of the House Ways Means Committee Richard Voke, a lifelong friend and professional law associate of Richard Clayman, talked about the great influence that Mr. Clayman had on his life as a youth.
“On a personal note, I knew Richie all my life,” said Ash. “He was the guy who got me interested in politics when he encouraged me, as a young boy growing up just doors from him on Cottage Street, to get involved in volunteering in his campaign for School Committee. From there, he stayed interested in and mentored me, and taught me a lot about public service and the virtues of helping others in need.”
Richard Voke first met Richard Clayman at Chelsea High School where they were students one grade apart. Mr. Voke attended Suffolk University. Mr. Clayman attended Boston State College.
In 1970, the future Suffolk Law School graduates were reunited when they worked together on the campaign for Suffolk County District Attorney Garrett Byrne and later as assistant district attorneys for Suffolk County.
In 1975, the two brilliant, ambitious attorneys started a law practice. Soon after, they launched a real estate business. Two of Chelsea’s greatest and most successful attorneys and businessmen had been associated in one form on another right up until Mr. Clayman’s passing last week.
Stephen Clayman was also instrumental in the success of the family’s real estate business. The brothers were known for their generosity and acts of kindness, often helping people in times of need.
Voke said he treasured the friendship that he had with Richie Clayman, a man who lived each day to its fullest.
“Richie Clayman was full of life and a joy to be with and around,” said Voke. “It was a joy to watch how he treated people and how he cared about people. He had an expression, ‘Don’t forget the shoeshine man,’ and what he meant by that was that he helped all kinds of people and the more help they needed, the more he was helpful for them.”
Voke said his law partner would receive phone calls from people all hours of the day seeking his assistance and guidance.
“And Richard would always respond – I’ve never known him to be curt with anybody. I never knew him to wish anybody ill. And he was very, very generous to many, many people. He was very kind and generous such as helping kids through school over the years, helping people with mental illness or family problems. As he got older, he helped even more people. He had a real mission and the mission got stronger, not weaker. He didn’t fade with age, he grasped more and more. He had a remarkable life.”
In his professional life, Richard Clayman was always excellently attired, a picture of handsomeness, elegance and fitness with a vibrancy for life and who so much enjoyed being in the company of his wife, Deborah Clayman, his daughters, attorneys Katie Clayman Huggard and Erica Colombo, and his friends.
“Richie loved being well dressed,” recalled Voke. “He loved his ties. I couldn’t guess how many ties he had. He loved his suits. He always kept himself in perfect weight. He was always well dressed and well attired. That was part of what he wanted to be and what he was.”
Voke was a state representative for 20 years and he said he could always count on the support of his friend, Richard Clayman, who served as his campaign chairman and treasurer.
“He was a great friend,” said Voke. “I can’t ever remember him not being there for me. He was a solid, solid guy with great ethical standards and he lived them.”
Monday at Temple Emmanuel, the synagogue where Mr. Clayman served as president, attended High Holiday services and was admired deeply by its members, people paid tribute to Richard Clayman.
The gift Mr. Clayman gave to all who all knew him was aptly stated by his daughter, Katie, – who told the capacity throng, “Richie Clayman loved the people in this city. He never forgot his roots and he was so proud of being from Chelsea. He helped people. His life was about helping people.”
Erica Colombo joined Katie on the bema as they each delivered thoughtful remembrances with the composure and grace that would have made their father so proud.
“What I’ll never forget is how he made me feel uniquely special – I was the most important kid in the room,” said Erica, recalling a first grade field trip when she saw this legendary figure and first realized what a “big shot” Richard Clayman was in his beautiful suit and tie.
“What I’ve come to realize is that everyone feels this way when they are with Richard. I would be willing to bet that each and every person sitting here this morning feels as though they are Richard’s favorite – and that’s because he had a way of making people feel that they are the most special.”
Colombo also recalled the strong and loving relationship that Richard shared with her mother, Deborah Clayman, who was such a vital source of strength, support and encouragement during their unbreakable friendship and the challenging days of an illness that would take her husband’s life far too soon.
“I know one of the things that Richard admired most about my mother is her incredible strength. He revered her, he treasured her, he was immersed in her. All he ever wanted was for her to be happy. He’d give her the world if he could’ve. He brought so much love into her life that could never be expressed in words.”
Deborah and Richard Clayman were married in October, 2005. They had been a couple for 22 years.
“They were 22 wonderful, wonderful years, the best years of my life,” Deborah Clayman said. “He was the best husband, the best father, the best friend, the same thing that everyone else knows about Richard: there’ll never be another Richard Clayman ever, and he gave me the best 22 years of my life.”