Sad News: Bob Clay, Noted Ball Jar Collector, Has Passed

Robert 'Bob' Alan Cray

Bob and Vicky Clay

Screen shot of Bob's L.O.T.J. interview. 
Photos by Bruce Schank.

News just reached the fruit jar hobby that Robert Clay passed away in March. Our sincere condolences to his wife Vicky, and their family.

Bob was a long-time collector of Ball jars. Here is his obituary, as well as an excerpt from the Legends of the Jar interview that Bruce Schank wrote, and then some comments from Bob's friends on the Ball Jar Collectors forum.

Robert (Bob) Alan Clay, lifelong Okmulgee resident, passed away Thursday, March 3, 2016 at the age of 62.  He was born June 4, 1953 in Okmulgee to the late William Jack and Margaret (Bailey) Clay.  He attended Okmulgee Schools from 1st-12th grade and graduated from Okmulgee High School where he was on the Scholastic Honor Roll.  Robert worked at Beeline Bowl, where he was manager for several years.  Robert married Vickie Lee Holloway on August 21, 1973 in Morris.  He worked for Ball Glass Container Corporation for 20 years, where he worked his way up to line supervisor.  After the merger with Incon Glass, Robert returned to a union position in Quality Control.  Robert returned to OSU Okmulgee after the closure of the glass plant and graduated in 1997 on the Provosts Honor Roll with a degree of Associate of Applied Science in Digital Graphics Technology.  He then went to work for Alpha Graphics as a Production Scheduler then years later worked for Sherwin-Williams.  He was a member of Cornerstone Foursquare Church.
Robert was a devoted husband, brother, uncle and friend.
He was preceded in death by his parents and grandmother, Hazel Beatta Clay.  
Survivors include his wife of 42 years, Vickie Clay, a sister, Dr. Marjorie Clay, PhD, Worcester, Mass., and father and mother-in-law, Ray Holloway and Alta Holloway of Preston.
Friends may visit the funeral home on Monday from 9:00 A.M. – 8:00 P.M.
A funeral service will be held 2:00 P.M., Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at the Cornerstone Foursquare Church with Pastor Mickey Baldwin officiating.  Interment will follow in the Okmulgee Cemetery.  Casketbearers will be Brian Summers, Randy Ray, Shawn Pye, Shane Stogner, Steve Muzljakovich and Robert Walker.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the McClendon-Winters Funeral Home of Okmulgee.
Memories, condolences, photos and videos may be shared with the family on Robert’s Tribute Page at -- [Source:]


Alas, The Legends of the Jars website is offline now, but thankfully the internet has stored the Bob Clay interview here, where you can read it in full, with photos.
Here is a text excerpt:

Bob worked  for Ball Corporation for almost 20 years and  collected fruit jars for over 30 years. Bob had some of the most  desirable and rare Ball jars known at one time and his colored ball jar collection was practically untouchable. Bob claims to have been  addicted to fruit jar collecting  since 1975 as the result of a  Christmas gift his sister gave him  that year of a plain old ordinary ''3L Balll MASON'' quart jar. Bob  begun working for Ball in August  of 1975 at the former PINE plant  that Ball bought in 1929 in  Okmulgee and then  subsequently ran it until 1994.  Bob’s sister thought it appropriate that he  should have an old jar the company had made  nearly ¾ of a century earlier. If  she only knew then what she had started.

By 1980, as Bob would put it, he was completely  eaten up with fruit jar collecting. Since he  worked for Ball, his primary focus was Ball jars,  but anything odd he came across was fair game.  By the mid 1980s, Bob began attending shows  and selling jars to support his  ever growing habit. Bob said “this hobby can be more  addictive than any drug  known to mankind. At least  with drugs or alcohol,  support groups are easy to  find. I subscribed to every  publication I could. I read  everything I could get my  hands on. I got to know as  many of the 'big names' in  the hobby as I could. My best  mentor was Dick Roller,  (considered by many as  America's "premiere Fruit jar  expert" at the time) and I  helped him as much as I  could with the Ball section of  his book, the Standard Fruit Jar  Reference. I couldn't begin to list  all the people that have helped  me along the way though.”  

Working for Ball opened up many  doors for Bob. He got to meet  such notable people as Bill  Brantley, author of A Collector's  Guide to Ball Jars. Bob also met  with Mr. Edmund F. Ball several  times.  “He (Edmund Ball) even  came to my home to view my jars. Plus Ball did  an article on my jars in their quarterly corporate  magazine, The Ball Line. (vol. 36, number 4,  1981) Actually working with the forming  machines as they made jars has really helped  me understand how the manufacturing  processes worked a hundred years ago.”  

Bob related ... an interesting story about a  black Ball Mason quart jar he bought  in 1987 from Bob Rhineburger. This  particular jar sat on Bob  Rhineburger’s table all day at the  January 1987 Indy Show without a  buyer. Bob’s friend John Granda  fortunately called Bob to tell him  about this jar and how it was THE  darkest jar he had ever seen or come  across and how everyone complained  the asking price was $450 yet the  embossing was weak. Well, Bob  trusting John’s color sense called Mr.  Rhineburger and asked him to bring  the jar to the St. Louis Show which he  did. Bob figured he could make his  own determination about the  embossing and the color. Well, as  soon as Bob laid eyes on that black  quart Balll Mason jar it was an instant sale.  According to Bob he was even criticized at the time by some people. How could he pay that  much for a jar with  weak embossing?  Bob’s reply; “it’s Black  for cryin out loud and  you can still see it’s a  Ball jar!” 

One of Bob’s fondest jar memories is of the  1988 St. Louis show. By then Bob had made up  his mind that he was going to get rid of the bulk  of his collection of over 3000 jars and whittle it  down substantially to about 100 of the best jars  and sink the proceeds of those sales into  colored Ball jars, which were somewhat more  reasonably obtainable at the time compared to  other rare colored jars.  Bob tells the story as follows: 

“So I pull into the  hotel in St. Louis with a pickup load  of jars, cash in my pockets and  thoughts of a wonderful evening  and day ahead. I wasn’t in my  room 20 minutes when the phone  rang. It was an old friend, Bill  Dudley that had just checked in  and wanted to visit. He said he  brought a jar or two I might be  interested in. So I walk down to his  room and the door is slightly ajar  so I open it and go on in. On the far  side of the bed sat Bill, with a sly  grin from ear to ear. On the bed  sat the most beautiful amber quart  Balll STANDARD I’d ever cast eyes on. My  mouth dropped a little  bit and I tried to hide  the tiny bit of drool  escaping the left side  of my lips. “Nice jar  Bill,” I said to him…and  he reached down into  a box and pulled out  another which was  more olive amber this  time, but still a  fabulous color. As my  knees weakened, he  pulled out a nice olive  green with amber swirls and another and then  still one more. So he sat them all on the bed  grinning like a Cheshire cat the whole time.  At that moment I was begging God for mercy  and I think someone helped me into a chair  there. In less than a minute, he’d made the  whole show a moot point. It couldn’t get any  better than this, (at least for me anyway.) It  probably took me about 20 minutes before I  could even ask, “How much?” Knowing there  was no way I was prepared for  this. But Bill let me give him the  cash I had for the moment and  after the next day’s sales, I was  able to pay him the entire  amount. I was able to come  home with five fabulously  colored Balll STANDARD quarts,  all at one time. It was only after  getting them home that I  realized that four of them had  been made in the same mould.  (Roman numeral VII.)  

One of the things Bob has  always found to be odd; both back then as well as today are some people’s  reactions to his paying what amounted to a  good sum of money for a ‘lowly’ Ball jar. Bob  said; “Ball jars have never had the ‘status’ that  even colored 1858s have had to collectors, let  alone the early closure collectors” Bob states  and “even though lovely to look at, it was still  “just” a Ball jar. Back in the 70's, Ball jars were,  to most collectors, "riff‐raff" jars. I can  remember a friend buying a root beer amber  Balll MASON quart for $70 at a show! Just not  much interest in Ball stuff, it was just "too  common. First, some  people said I was just nuts  and after awhile, they  began saying I was trying to  drive prices up for everyone  and then sometimes even  sharper criticism floated  around. But as with any  collectible, I simply bought  what I liked and only paid  prices I considered to be fair  for myself. When it came  time to sell my collection,  suffice it to say, quality over  quantity made a worthwhile  investment. “   

Bob has always been willing  to share the knowledge he  gained in nearly 35 years of  collecting. Bob claims that if  he has done anything truly worthwhile at all for  this hobby it’s that he took a stand against  sellers on eBay that were selling reproduction  jars as authentic jars. In 2001 Bob had several  ‘info‐auctions’ and wrote articles about the  fakes we often see on eBay for sale. Bob and a  few others were called the ‘eBay jar police’ for  several years for actually getting a few sellers  busted off eBay for their lying habits.  

Although Bob has now sold off his vast  incredible collection, he still has a few jars  floating around his home... but nothing good to  speak of he claims. Bob is a very humble guy  and told me, “although I considered myself a  serious collector…wanting to know all I could  possibly find out about any particular jar I had, I  do not in any way consider myself a 'legend' in  the hobby. That descriptor I reserve for the  many outstanding collectors and mentors that  have passed before me and mentored many of  us.” Throughout  the 1990s, Bob dispersed his  collection; bought the best colored  Ball jars he could find only to  disperse those also. 

In summation: Bob says; “We are  merely caretakers of a bit of history  for the time being. What are really  important are the many  relationships you gain simply  because of a melted hunk of soda  ash and sand. The people you meet,  the friendships you make, the bonds  of being around similarly crazed  people, the knowledge you gain and the fun you  experience FAR outweigh the jars matter how fabulous the  collection. Then you understand the TRUE joy of  this hobby."

Comments from Bob's friends on the Ball Jar Forum,where Bob used the nickname 'Old Has-Been' :

Jeff Klingler: "Bob was one of the Original creators of this site, a long time BALL Corp employee and was the guy who really put colored BALL jars on the map. In recent years bob has not had internet access and no computer, so he hasn't been able to post on this site in 2-3 years. But if you go back and read some of his posts here, you will see how much knowledge and info he contributed to this site and to the fruit jar hobby in general. Bob even had a website years ago that that MANY people linked to when determining the age of a BALL jar.

So this is a real big loss to the fruit jar collecting hobby, and to all of us BALL jar collectors. even though i never met him in person, we sure had a lot of fun with the discussions on this site all those years. he sure will be missed.

RIP bob, aka Old Has Been."

Joe Coulson: "I am very sad to hear that news.  I had the privilege of meeting Bob at the St. Louis Bottle Show in 2011, and it truly was a special occasion[1].  I got to hear firsthand about the "pick to pack" ratio tracking that he invented at the Okmulgee Ball Plant, and several other stories.  He was a very positive and encouraging person who has inspired me to dig deep into Ball jar collecting and Ball jar history.  The volumes of glass manufacturing wisdom that he has left as a legacy on this site clearly demonstrates the expertise that he had and the love he had for the hobby. I'm glad we had Bob's involvement during the formative years of this site. "

Rob: "Bob.. will be missed by many ....He had a huge effect on many Collectors .We are forever indebted to him for great volumes of his knowledge of Ball made jars...
Preserved forever in the posts here on this forum ..."

Michael: "Bob Clay was my mentor. 

He took me under his wing and we had SO MANY great conversations. He is the reason I collect what I collect ... he LOVED Ball Specials too Happy

Bob Clay is THE reason this community exists ... He was my inspiration ... it was all of his knowledge, and his willingness to share it, that inspired me to create a place to catalog and save these facts, figures, opinions and great storeis for the benefit of new, young collectors like myself. He freely shared EVERYTHING he knew with us. He did for us what other did for him ... and he gladly passed along his passion for the hobby. As others have said, just search any early topics on this site and see for yourself the kind of man Bob Clay was. 

You are missed my friend and I feel a bit of shame that I lost contact with you. 

 Rest in Peace Bob"

Bruce Schank: "I write these words with a heavy heart. My long time protoge and friend in the fruit jar hobby has passed on into eternity. Bob Clay was more than just a fellow collector and far more than just an acquaintance, and although we only met but once in three plus decades, we established a thriving friendship over those years that went far beyond fruit jars.
Often life gives us pain we don't think we can endure. When someone is taken from us unexpectedly, it leaves a gaping hole in our life that nothing else can ever take its place. Each of us in our own right is intrinsically valuable to God for after all, we are made in his image, then loved ones are a given, then good friends and finally acquaintances. And even if seemingly no one else cares, there's always that someone who does.
Well, Bob was that someone. I've known a lot of people in my life but Bob was genuinely a decent human being. He was of the old school. His word was his creed and he stood by it no matter what. There was no guessing with Bob. You always knew where he and you stood. He never wavered in his friendship.
Bob almost singe handedly managed to put Ball jars on the collecting map and they're still there to this day and going strong as ever. His knowledge and enthusiasm for the hobby will be sorely missed. Bob and I spent endless hours discussing jars on the phone and via email sharing each others knowledge. More importantly in the last 10 years we went from jars to a level of friendship only two truly good buddies can ever understand.
I already miss my conversations with Bob. He was a special part of my life and so much so as to be a very small part of my inner circle of true friends. Bob can never be replaced with anyone or anything else. That's impossible because Bob was truly a unique person. With that said, I do have one hope and that hope is we'll meet again one day soon enough because Bob trusted in the Savior Jesus Christ as I do.
Everyone should enjoy this life and be ever grateful to God for everything they have and all of the blessings He richly bestows on us. Always share a part of yourself with others without reservation and remember to have a mindset that eternity can call you at any time."

Read Bob Clay's comments about attending one of the St. Louis bottle shows here.

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