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No time for retirement: 60 years at BIW for 80-year-old Clayton Grover

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No time for retirement: 60 years at BIW for 80-year-old Clayton Grover

BATH — People pushing 80 are expected to be deeply into retirement.

But Clayton Grover still travels from his Newcastle home to Bath Iron Works, where he has worked for six decades.

It's an important year for Grover. Along with reaching 60 years at BIW in August and turning 80 the next month, he also was grand marshal in Bath's Independence Day parade, a cornerstone of the city's annual Heritage Days celebration.

"I'm honored; they asked me to think about it, and they really wanted me to (do it), so I said, 'well, I'll try it, and see what happens,'" he said, laughing.

After growing up in Wiscasset and graduating from its high school, Grover started work at BIW in 1952 as a pipe-coverer, a position he has held for almost all his time at the shipyard. The U.S.S. Mitscher, the first ship on which he worked, was delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1953; Grover figures he has worked on a total of 100 vessels.

The U.S. was at war with North Korea for two years when Grover started at BIW, and in 1953 he left the shipyard to join the U.S. Army. Although he anticipated being sent overseas, the war came to an end as he completed basic training, and he spent the rest of his enlistment in Oklahoma before returning to BIW.

Grover has witnessed significant expansion at the shipyard. Once, "you could almost throw a rock across it," he said, but now it could take a half hour to walk around the place.

The materials he has used to cover pipes has changed, for the better. Gone are the days of asbestos, replace by woven glass.

Grover's wife of 56 years, Shirley, was among those with him in the Heritage Days parade. They raised eight children, and now have 21 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

The key to bringing up so many kids? "Work," Grover said simply. "I'm very fortunate that I had a job in here. We struggled at times, but we got by."

Grover rode in the parade's lead car on Wednesday, driven by former BIW President William Haggett.

"I played baseball with Bill in 1949," Grover said. "I came over here to play on the Junior Legion baseball team. And we were champion; I might throw that in."

Grover said he fondly remembers Haggett's father, who also worked at the shipyard, and his first foreman was Haggett's uncle.

As for when or if he will retire, Grover said with a laugh, "I'm taking it one day at a time, and see if the decision is mine or God's. He might want to take me before I make up my mind. And if he does, I'm not gonna worry about it."

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.