Derrick Claytor, who worked the night shift in Facilities Operations at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, passed away after a short battle with pancreatic cancer on May 2. He was 52.
“He liked to work, work, work,” said his wife of 14 years, Kira Miller-Claytor. “He liked to work, no matter what job he was doing. He enjoyed it. The only time he would relax was vacation.”
Indeed, Claytor was known around Lincoln Center for his love of overtime, even going so far as to compete with colleagues to snag available shifts before someone else grabbed them, said Donna Vernicek, who supervised the night shift.
“We would always joke that his check was so heavy that we’d all have to carry it out for him,” Vernicek said with a laugh.
Vernicek said that Claytor’s enthusiasm was infectious for the entire crew; he lifted moral with the smile he wore nearly every day. He began at Fordham in 2016 after spending more than 20 years working nearby at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).
“Derrick was always positive and he brought that out in everyone, nothing ever bothered him, he always put himself second, and whatever needed to be done he lent a hand,” she said. “Fordham was lucky to have him and I was grateful to work with him.”
Jennifer McCulloch, director of events and strategic partnerships at NYIT, said the NYIT team will also remember him for his hard work and his smile. He often spent long nighttime hours alone on their campus and even when he didn’t see colleagues from the daytime shift, he’d leave behind notes that included a smiley face.
“He was always very jovial and always he took a lot of pride in doing his job the best he could,” said McCulloch.
Vernicek said that whenever she had a new employee she sent them to be trained by Claytor. It’s an experience that Brian McCarthy recalls having when he worked at NYIT, before he and Claytor moved on to Fordham.
“He would always look out for the other guys and teach you the way to work smarter, not harder, because you’re in it for the long haul,” recalled McCarthy.
McCarthy said that Claytor kept his emotions in check and “played everything close to the vest,” except when it came to his family—and his 13-year-old son Derrick junior in particular. He had known his wife Kira for six years before they married and helped raise his stepson, Ricardo Nelson. But in Derrick junior he found a traveling partner. The two would travel the world together, from Egypt to Dubai.
“It was all about his son and his wife; they went on a lot of cruises. He was always dreaming for the next vacation because he worked so hard,” said McCarthy, noting frequent trips to the South to visit family he had there as well.
Born and bred in Brooklyn, Claytor was raised by his mother and stepfather. Each summer, he and his sister Kim Cummings-Reed were sent to stay with his maternal grandparents in West Virginia. He would later go on to attend high school in Albany, Georgia, and develop a love for football and the New York Giants. He eventually returned to Brooklyn and began his career.
After his NYIT night shift McCarthy recalled that Claytor would go back to Brooklyn to take Derrick junior to school, go home and rest, wake up, then go to pick his son up from school and spend a bit of time with him before reporting for the next shift.
“He would live at work if he could,” said McCarthy. “He was very loyal and it rubbed off on everyone else. It made you work harder. He was a presence, a great leader, a motivator.”