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William Cleary

January 8, 1921 - April 26, 2011 OKLAHOMA CITY William B. Cleary, age 90, of Oklahoma City, died April 26, 2011. He was the son of the late John K. Cleary and Helen B. Cleary of Ponca City. He was a graduate of Los Alamos Reserve High School, attended Cal Tech, and graduated from Yale University, Class of 1943, with a B.A. in English. Late in 2003 he wrote a classmate that he couldn't imagine anyone living a happier, more satisfying, rewarding and adventuresome life. After serving 31/2 years as a Navy Destroyer Officer on the U.S.S. Jouett, DD396, participating in the D-Day Normandy Invasion and the Southern France Invasion, he entered the oil business as a roughneck for Fred Manning Drilling in 1946. Subsequently he was a file clerk for Stanolind, an independent lease broker, and formed the first of several oil and gas companies bearing his name in 1950. In 1973, he merged Cleary Petroleum Corporation with W.R. Grace and became an independent producer again in 1976. He estimated that he had drilled over 1500 wells in Canada, the Rockies, the Mid-Continent, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. He was a member of the National Petroleum Council and President of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. He loved his family, his Country, his profession, sports, the arts, public service, and his many friends. He was an avid skier for more than 60 years. He was a member of the fledgling Cal Tech and Yale ski teams. He considered himself a fair tennis player and golfer, a good fly fisherman, and a very good pilot. He was Club Champion of Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club in 1959 with a 6 handicap. As a 3000+ hour pilot (since 1940) he held a private pilot’s license with instrument and multi-engine ratings, and commercial glider ratings. His glider school at Guthrie during the 1960's trained over 200 individuals to fly sailplanes. He was the first pilot to earn the FAI 3 Diamonds Award in a low performance (1-26 class) sailplane. One diamond included a glider flight to over 35,000'. He was 1-26 class national champion in 1971 and in 1976 participated in a 6 pilot transcontinental 11 stop sailplane race from Los Angeles to Washington DC. He served 2 years as national president of the 15,000 member Soaring Society of America earning soaring's highest award, the Warren Eaton Trophy. In the arts he served as president of the Oklahoma Art Museum, the Oklahoma Symphony Society and founding President of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra which he considered his most rewarding achievement. He was president of the Economic Club of Oklahoma City, Committee of 100, was King of the Oklahoma City Beaux Arts Ball, and served on other boards including the Salvation Army and COTDA. He was a member of the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, Petroleum Club, Yale Club of New York, and the Elihu Club. He loved the United States and during his 13 years as a competition sailplane pilot with his generally patient family as his crew, traveled extensively in the more remote parts of the country. He was also an avid photographer. He felt strongly that a rewarding life would not have been possible without the steadfast if sometimes grudging support of his family and particularly his late wife, Helen. They were married nearly 63 years, and she shared his sense of humor. What a life! He is survived by daughters Louise Cleary and husband Bill Churchill of Edmond and Anne Steninger of Oklahoma City,son Douglas Cleary and wife Kelli of Edmond, grandchildren Ian Steninger, Scott Steninger, Connor Cleary and Miranda Cleary, and great grandson Kane Michael Horton. In lieu of flowers the family requests that contributions be made to: The OKC Philharmonic, 428 W. California, Ste 210, OKC 73102, the OKC Museum of Art, 415 Couch Dr., OKC 73102, or the charity of your choice. A memorial service will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4400 N. Shartel, OKC on Monday May 9, 2011 at 2 pm followed by a reception in the Garden Court at the church.

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Posted: 5/12/2011


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