Norris Vaux Claytor, 81, of Radnor, an innovative health-care executive, lifelong conservationist, and ardent animal lover, died at home Sunday, Aug. 8, of latent complications from long-ago cancer treatment.
A former associate executive director of strategic planning at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Claytor improved patient access to health care, and gained certification for early organ transplantations. During his time at HUP, from 1982-94, he also oversaw the building of the first emergency trauma service heliport.
Earlier, he was vice president of strategic planning at Fox Chase Cancer Center, vice president of a consulting firm for regional hospitals, a human resources executive at Pennsylvania Hospital, and the executive director for Philadelphia Conservationists and Natural Lands Trust.
Robust, independent, and enamored with the outdoors, people called him a force of nature. He had a magnetic presence and took his children flying, skydiving, camping, fishing, sailing, and motorcycling.
“He was larger than life,” said his wife, Virginia Robertson. “He had a colossal soul in service and in action.”
Among numerous notable ancestors of Mr. Claytor was Jared Ingersoll Jr., his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather and a signer of the U.S. Constitution. A great-great-grandfather, Richard Vaux, was the mayor of Philadelphia in 1856 and later a U.S. representative from Pennsylvania.
Animals were central to Mr. Claytor, and he liked to pal around with dogs, calling them his “business associates.” He was on boards at the Philadelphia Zoo, Nature Conservancy, Schuylkill River Greenway Association, and Upper Merion Park and Historic Foundation.
Ever the negotiator, he brokered a deal between landowners and the Upper Merion government to create an 89-acre nature preserve, now the McKaig Nature Education Center.
Born Sept. 12, 1939, in Philadelphia, Mr. Claytor grew up on a bucolic farm in Spring House, Montgomery County. He attended Chestnut Hill Academy at first, and then moved to and graduated from St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., in 1958.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ursinus College in 1964, and joined the historic First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, an elite unit of the Pennsylvania National Guard. In 1965, at 26, he became one of the unit’s youngest first sergeants.
Among the recent comments on the troop’s Facebook page was: “I mourn the passing of this kind and joyful man.”
Using empathy and energy, Mr. Claytor was a master collaborator. His son Brannon said his father’s “natural charisma and emotional intelligence” brought people together and projects to fruition. “He made personal connections,” his son said.
Privately, Mr. Claytor liked to write detailed letters to family, friends, and those he saw in need of a note. He mentored young people, offered financial support, and made it a point to generally keep an eye on those around him.
“There was no animal or person that could not find refuge at his farm,” the family wrote in a tribute.
Mr. Claytor married Lynda Leonard, and they had three sons and a daughter. After a divorce, he met Robertson in 1990, and they married in 2005. They traveled, experienced lots of nature, and savored time together on their farm in Radnor.
He spent 40 years as a member, five as governor, of the social and fishing club State in Schuylkill, also known as the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania. He first battled cancer in 2005.
“He had a magnificent sense of humor, a positivity about life,” his wife said. “He was kind of electric.”
In addition to his wife, son, and former wife, Mr. Claytor is survived by sons Tom and Warren, daughter Cassandra Carroll, eight grandchildren, a sister, and other relatives. A brother and grandson died earlier.
A service is to be held Saturday, Sept. 4, at 2 p.m., at St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh, 7020 Camp Hill Rd., Fort Washington, Pa. 19034.
Donations in his name may be made to the Wildlife Conservation Network, 209 Mississippi St., San Francisco, Calif. 94107, and the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, Military Heritage and Educational Foundation Inc. 22 S. 23rd St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19103.