NOVEMBER 2, 2017 – Like so many Jews who grew up on the hardscrabble streets of Chelsea, Richie Clayman wore his love for his city and his family on his sleeve. Whether he was walking down his hometown’s Broadway, meeting a judge in court, or on a beach in Aruba, he’d offer up his hand and announce, “I’m Richie Clayman from Chelsea.”
Clayman was 65 when he died in 2013 after a bout with cancer, but has not been forgotten by his family and close friends. Clayman, who offered legal advice to anyone who asked and spent much of his life giving back to his beloved Chelsea, graduated from Suffolk Law School in 1972. On Nov. 8, he will be honored once again when family, friends, and colleagues announce the first Richard I. Clayman Scholarship, which will be given to a deserving Suffolk Law School student.
“My dad had such a love and passion for the city of Chelsea, and he worked so hard to give people – specifically, a lot of kids – opportunities, so in this case we were able to identify a student from Chelsea for the first scholarship,” said Kate Clayman, Richie’s daughter, who was raised and still lives in Swampscott. She followed her father’s footsteps and went to Suffolk Law and became an attorney.
Hard by the Tobin Bridge, old-timers remember Clayman as a Chelsea guy who was always well-dressed, eager to lend an ear, and sharp in the courtroom. The son of a pharmacist, he was one of the youngest residents ever elected to the Chelsea School Committee in 1971.
After law school, he opened a law office with Richie Voke, a former House majority leader. He served as legal counsel in several high profile cases, representing Theodore Landsmark, an African-American who was attacked with an American flag during an anti-busing protest near Boston City Hall in 1976; and the siblings of Charles Stuart, who jumped off the Tobin Bridge after being accused of killing his wife in 1990.
For Kate, Richie Clayman was the best father a child could have. “I’ve always felt like I hit the lottery having him as my dad,” said Kate, who helped establish the scholarship, along with her father’s brother, Steve, and some of his friends. “He was everything to me: my best friend, my confidant … we spoke easily 10 times a day, the conversation would go something like this, ‘You all right? You need anything?”
While she was in elementary school, her father would place his business card in with her lunch every day, and on the back he would write “Dada loves you.” When she worked as a waitress, he visited her during every shift she worked. And on her first day as a lawyer in the district attorney’s office, Richie waltzed into court, strolled to the bar, and asked her if she was OK, before leaving her with a good luck kiss.
He also wore his Judaism on his sleeve, said Kate. He was president of Chelsea’s Temple Emanuel, and he always seemed to be talking about rachmones, or compassion, in Yiddish.
“To me rachmones meant my dad,” said Kate. “He embodied rachmones, and he centered his life around that. He said to me all the time, ‘You’ve got to help people, you’ve got to be good to people.’”
Kate seems to always be thinking about her father. She named her daughter Chelsea, and her son’s middle name is Clay. On Nov. 8, she’ll beam when his spirit will return and lots of Richie Clayman stories will be told once again.
The tales will be irreverent, kind, funny, and filled with a sense of honesty about a Chelsea kid who never forgot his roots, and the people he loved.