Lieutenant Commander Clayton (Ski) Lowell Novotney was born January 17, 1927 in Brainerd, Minnesota to Paul and Elsie Novotney, and three siblings. Ski passed November 25, 2019 at Mercy Hospice in Durango, Colorado surrounded by his adopted family (his closest friends). He was 92 years old.
He started working young and finished school through the 8th grade. Then at the age of 16, he left home to work as a machine apprentice for the Northern Pacific Railroad for $0.53 per hour. Ski enlisted in the Navy in June of 1944 at the age of 17 as a seaman apprentice. He served 30 years, 3 months, and 3 days with the Navy.
During his Navy career, he served in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Guam, California, many months on the Pacific Ocean, and lastly as a Chief Security Officer on Kodiak Island. His first ship assignment was the USS Yorktown during WWII. He also served on the USS Saratoga, USS Cunningham, USS Diphda, USS Navasota, USS Jason, USS Mauna Kea, multiple destroyers, and a hospital ship Repose. He volunteered for multiple assignments and loved repairing ships.
Mr. Novotney was assigned as the Chief Engineer for the USS Mauna Kea (68-70) during the Vietnam War. On the ship he contained a fire in the emergency diesel generator room single handedly and with complete disregard for his own safety. During this assignment, he was promoted to the grade of Lieutenant Commander. Those who served under him remembered him as "the god of engineers" and said he was tough but fair. He was a mentor to his men. He molded them into fine sailors and even wrote a letter of recommendation for at least one crewmember to take into his civilian life.
On a later assignment he instructed engineering at the U.S. Naval Station Fleet Training Center and at the Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
Following his retirement from the Navy, he joined the San Diego Police Reserves and worked his way through the ranks to a Lieutenant. During his time in San Diego, he gained his license for the Merchant Marines. He was assigned to Supervisor of Shipbuilding as a ship surveyor in the U.S. and London; he then was promoted to Supervisor Ship Surveyor. While in the Merchant Marines, his served in Desert Storm for his last deployment.
After living in London, he moved back to Pico Rivera, California to work for NASA's space program as a Quality Assurance Supervisor, and afterward for DATC (Now SIMA) as a machinist Leader.
During his seven years on the Diphda, he took time to pass the Navy's GED test. He used his G.I. bill, after retirement from the Navy, to graduate from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science degree. Later in his career, he took time off to go to horseshoeing school in Oklahoma City, OK and in his eighties, received his high school diploma from Durango High School.
Ski's first wife, Opal, followed him through multiple moves and service during and after his Navy career. Opal later passed from Alzheimer's disease. Ski met Rose Harris, his second wife in 1993 in California. They moved to Durango, Colorado in 1996 to a small farm on Sunnyside Mesa. They later eloped in Aztec to make their relationship official in 2009, and were married until Rose, the love of his life, passed away in 2015. They loved to travel.
Ski loved his horses and donating time to the VFW, the Elks and was a 32nd degree Mason. He enjoyed visiting with friends and going down to the "V" (VFW) on Friday nights to listen to Karaoke and to have a few beers.
His friends enjoyed his company, generosity, sense of humor and kind soul.
In 2009, he accompanied Capt. Sells to the Mauna Kea Reunion in San Antonio, TX. He stood at the podium with Capt. Sells and he emotionally told the story of Novotney putting out the fire in the generator room. Capt. Sells said, "a fire onboard a ship is a bitch" and he said he and much of the crew might not be here today if it were not for LCDR Novotney. All of his shipmates owe him a debt of gratitude.
Novotney on tour in Washington, DC.
Our highlighted shipmate:
LCDR Clayton "Ski" Novotney...
USS MAUNA KEA AE-22 Reunions
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Ski Novotney with Captain Warren Sells in 2009
in San Antonio, Texas
-uy Copyright © Susan Cannon.