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Elburn handyman retires at age 88

ELBURN – Dean Clayton knows a little about a lot of things, and for the past 40 years, the Elburn resident has used those handyman skills to help others.

Now 88, Clayton believes he’s about due for retirement. He made it official Thursday and ended his employment with Geneva Ace Hardware.

“I’m going to miss it,” he said. “I enjoyed working there.”

The St. Paul, Minn., native said he acquired his skills through experience. He learned to weld in high school and gained electrical experience at radio school.

“I was really looking for anything I could get,” Clayton said. “It was tough back [in the 1940s].”

His first job was with the American Hoist and Derrick Company in St. Paul. There, he said, he helped rebuild gantry cranes that had been bombed at Pearl Harbor. The cranes could lift battleships so barnacles could be scraped off.

As an employee with Northwest Airlines, Clayton said he worked on B-24s until the end of World War II. He would do whatever was necessary, such as electrical, sheet metal and riveting.

His mother’s move to Illinois prompted him to move to Harvard, he said, and he relocated to Elburn about 30 years ago for a job.

In the Tri-Cities, Clayton worked at Pheasant Run Resort, where he spent three years in the maintenance department, and at Ace Hardware stores in St. Charles and Geneva.

“I took care mostly of electrical and plumbing problems,” Clayton said. “Of course, I was doing side jobs on my own.”

Clayton said he enjoyed working in customer service. He would teach customers how to fix their problem, and it would be gratifying when they’d return with success stories.

When he didn’t have the solution, he knew people who did.

“I’ve been stumped a lot of times,” he said.

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