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Clayton Thomas Whitted

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Clayton Thomas Whitted Clayton Thomas Whitted
YARNELL, AZ (CBS5) -

Clayton Thomas Whitted was born to Carl and Kathleen Whitted. He was welcomed by two sisters, Carmen and Cheryl. Clayton was raised in Prescott.

From a young age, Clayton had a strong love for life and the outdoors. As he grew his love for the outdoors also grew, as did his list of hobbies which included hiking, biking, running, fishing, hunting and kayaking to name a few. Clayton was also a skilled woodworker and enjoyed making anything that he could give to someone else. Clayton attended Mile High Middle School and then went on to attend Prescott High School where he played football, basketball and ran track.  Clayton enjoyed playing football and basketball but he loved the friendships that he gained more than the games that they won. Clayton graduated in 2004. Clayton continued his education through Yavapai College and Arizona State University, gaining more knowledge of fire science.

As his scholastic success developed so did his desire to climb taller mountains and reach higher goals. Right out of high school Clayton pursued his longtime dream of becoming a firefighter and accepted a position with the Prescott Hotshots. The job was a perfect fit for Clayton as it included being outdoors and working hard, both of which Clayton loved.

After serving and loving his job for a few years, life and God had different plans for Clayton. When his mother took a fall and began having difficulty with her memory Clayton left part way through fire season to return home to his parents. Clayton walked by his dad's side as they journeyed through his mom's diagnosis of cancer. While Clayton was home God's plan began to unfold and Clayton took a full time position with the Heights Church youth and became the junior high pastor. This was a wonderful fit for Clayton and he was able to use his gifts of ministry as he mentored hundreds of young teens. Clayton was somebody that the kids could look up to, he could relate to them and he loved them just as they were.  Clayton's mom was taken to be with the Lord in December of 2007.

The next spring, Clayton's love for fighting fire led him to resume his career and he took a position with the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Though Clayton had re-entered the world of firefighting he continued to lead Bible studies and prayer groups. He never failed to put God first. Clayton loved the men that he served with and this was undoubtedly expressed in his relationships and evidenced by crew member's names being written in the cover of his bible, reminding him to pray daily for them and their families. Clayton's work with the Granite Mountain Hotshots expanded, as did his responsibility when he became a squad leader in May 2010.

Soon after, he was introduced to Kristi Hoffman, who quickly captured Clayton's attention and his heart. He asked Kristi to marry him in a hot air balloon, which displayed his fun-loving personality, and they were united in marriage on Feb. 12, 2011. Clayton always made everyone feel like they were his best friend. The more anyone got to know Clayton he became less like a friend and more like a brother. Clayton's heart was so selfless and he was willing to sacrifice for others as he would for his own family because in Clayton's heart many people were family to him. If you met Clayton even for a brief moment, you experienced this. Clayton spent his life serving in the community and helping numerous organizations and people alike. Clayton's giving personality and selfless character always made everyone feel that they were the most important person to him. His desire was to put others and their needs before his own. Clayton's unique personality and contagious smile paired with his laughter and hugs were an example to all who met him of what it meant to love fully.

Clayton was a successful and humble young man. He achieved many goals by making his 1, 5 and 10-year plans. Clayton's plans, though wonderful in and of themselves, tied directly into God's plan and that is something Clayton knew well. Clayton's desire was that everyone he came into contact with might experience the same love he knew, the love of God, through his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Though Prescott may mourn the loss of the irreplaceable presence of Clayton Whitted, though the nation may mourn the loss of a brave firefighter, and though the world may mourn this tragedy, we will choose to celebrate that Clayton did much for the Lord during his time on Earth. The loss we incurred as a family, community and country on Sunday evening June 30, 2013 will never fully heal, but we stand united knowing that very same evening Clayton was ushered into eternity with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Clayton's family said he would want nothing more than for each and every soul to know God, to know His love and to have eternal Salvation through Jesus Christ. 

Full of heart and determination, Whitted might not have been the biggest guy around, but he was among the hardest-working. His former Prescott High School coach, Lou Beneitone, said Whitted was a "wonderful kid" who always had a big smile on his face. Whitted played for the football team as an offensive and defensive lineman.

"He was a smart young man with a great personality, just a wonderful personality," said Beneitone. "When he walked into a room, he could really light it up."

Beneitone said Whitted loved being a firefighter and was well-respected among his crew. He said he ran into Whitted about two months ago and they shook hands and hugged, and talked about the upcoming fire season.

"I told him to be careful," Beneitone said.

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