Clayton Grover Photo courtesy Grover family

Hundreds of people are expected to gather Friday at Woolwich-Wiscasset Baptist Church to mourn and honor Clayton Grover, a legendary figure at Bath Iron Works, who died Oct. 4 after a brief illness. He was 87.

Mr. Grover started his career at BIW as a pipe coverer at age 19. For the next 67 years, he performed every job in the pipe covering trade and earned the respect and admiration of everyone across the shipyard.

“Clayton had a fantastic work ethic,” said Terry Collins of West Bath, who has worked at BIW since 1979. “He kept the ships provided with miles of thermal tape, miles of oil shields, and thousands of the filter bags that we make. He was such a wonderful man.”

Mr. Grover went to work at BIW on Aug. 22, 1952. A year later, he left to join the Army and served for two years during the Korean War. Upon his discharge, he returned to the Bath shipyard and never left.

At the time of his passing, Mr. Grover had still been working sewing flushing bags – strips of fiberglass used to wrap ship’s pipes – in the same department he started in as a pipe coverer 67 years ago.

Mr. Grover reminisced about the year he started in a video on the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers website.

“When I came in ’52, this yard, I used to say you could throw a rock across it,” Grover said in the video. “There was a ship going down the river every three weeks.”

Mr. Grover, who was a member of Local 6 of the IAM, was remembered by his colleagues Tuesday as a dedicated worker who made an impact on many people’s lives. Collins said Mr. Grover, who was known for singing at his sewing machine, was a mentor and friend to many at the shipyard.

“He was a very talented man,” she said. “When I first started, he taught us young pups how to cover pipe out on the ships. As he became more mature, they put him in the cutting room cutting out pads.

“He taught me how to cut out the glass for the pads. He taught me how to sew (thermal tape) on the sewing machine and oil sheer material on the sewing machine. Those are some of the things he taught us to do.”

Collins said every day at 2 p.m., a few workers would gather in Grover’s cage for an “illegal” coffee break and talk about the football pool. She said they played cribbage at lunchtime.

“He could count a hand without even looking at it,” Collins said. “He was sharp as a tack, I’ll tell you.”

One highlight among many in his life was serving as grand marshal for the Bath Heritage Days parade in 2006. Another came in 2013, when Mr. Grover raised one of six flags over the steel sculpture of the schooner Wyoming at the Maine Maritime Museum. For one of his work anniversaries, he was recognized with his own parking spot in front of the gate at the shipyard.

“He was an amazing man,” Collins said. “I had the hardest time today when I walked in. I’ll miss seeing him in his chair and hearing him sing. Right now, I see him all over the cage.”

On the home front, he was a loving husband to Shirley Grover for 60 years, until her death in 2016. The couple lived in Newcastle and raised eight children.

Their daughter, Joyce Grover, of Fairfield, said Wednesday that he loved his family unconditionally.

“There were eight of us,” his daughter said. “The boys’ bedroom looked like an Army barracks because of the bunk beds in there. He was the best father.”

Mr. Grover and his wife enjoyed spending time at their camp on First Roach Pond at South Inlet Wilderness Campground in Frenchtown.

“He was quite the celebrity up there,” his daughter said. “He loved the people … his lot was on top of the hill. At night, everyone would gather around the fire and have a good time.”

A memorial service for Grover will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at the Woolwich-Wiscasset Baptist Church, 15 Fellowship Drive, Woolwich.

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