Nelson R. Lay Jr.

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SUTTON - Nelson Ransome Lay Jr., of Sutton, passed away peacefully Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, at the age of 85 in St. Johnsbury.

He was born Sept. 14, 1925, in Fort Covington, N.Y., one of three children born to Nelson and Isabelle (Mayberry) Lay. The family relocated to Island Pond, where Nelson's father was employed as an engineer for the Canadian National Railroad. The move to Island Pond introduced Nelson to the joys of hunting and fishing, pastimes he enjoyed immensely for the entirety of his life, culminating in the bagging of a 13-point trophy buck at the tender age of 65. The buck garnered top prize for "most atypical rack" at the Vermont Sportsman Show and today hangs prominently in the family camp at Seymour Lake alongside another trophy buck and several antlers of other deer bagged by Nelson over the many joyful seasons he spent hunting the woods of northern Vermont.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Nelson left high school and joined the Navy at age 17. He served in the Pacific Theater as a radioman/gunner on a PBY Hedron Airframe. After the war ended, he returned to Vermont and finished his high school studies, graduating from St. Johnsbury Academy. He later attended the University of Vermont and received his associate degree from Champlain College.

Nelson became one of the earliest Vermont State Police troopers, beginning his career in Bradford in 1949. During the height of his active duty as a detective, Nelson was recognized as the top homicide detective in Vermont. He was a top marksman with a pistol and competed in national competitions. Nelson retired as a captain and troop commander of the St. Johnsbury barracks, Troop C, following more than 30 years of distinguished service. Perhaps the best legacy of Nelson's tenure with the state police was his belief that people, especially youngsters, were deserving of a second chance and were better served by a well-timed "talking to" than a ticket or permanent arrest record.

Nelson married Shirley Carey in Montpelier on Oct. 4, 1952, and together they raised five children, living in multiple Vermont communities including Bradford, Rutland, Waterbury Center and Sutton, moves necessitated by Nelson's career in the state police.

After building their "dream home" in Sutton, Nelson declined career moves that would necessitate relocation and on retirement from the Vermont State Police maintained his "gentleman's farm" there. In retirement, Nelson served as a rural mail carrier and on the Sutton Select Board and drove a school bus. He enjoyed many outdoor activities throughout his life, and with the help of good friends, built a summer camp for his family on Lake Seymour. He spent many hours listening to the Boston Red Sox on the radio, especially the games against the Yankees.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Shirley, of Sutton; five children: Douglas Lay and wife Kathy, of Newport Center, Maureen Russell, of Quechee, Theresa Lay-Sleeper and husband Ron, of Cabot, Daniel Lay and wife Staci, of Brunswick, Maine, and David Lay, of Sutton; and eight grandchildren: Devin and Derick Lay, Morgan Russell, Ethan, Orion and Theron Lay-Sleeper, and Declan and Hannah Lay.

He is also survived by his sister Sherwood Riddell and her husband, Doug, of Denver, and Shirley's two sisters, Margaret Larned, of Florida, and Betty Blouin, of Montpelier, as well as many nieces and nephews throughout the country. Nelson was predeceased by his sister Norma Smith, of Tacoma, Wash.

Friends may honor Nelson by calling on the family at the Guibord Funeral Home in Lyndonville on Monday, Feb. 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. On Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m., a Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at St. Elizabeth Church in Lyndonville. Interment will be in the Sutton Village Cemetery on May 28 at 1 p.m.

Should friends desire, contributions in his memory may be made to St. Elizabeth Church, 49 Winter St., St. Johnsbury VT 05819, or to St. Johnsbury Health & Rehab Center (marked for the Employee Activity Fund), 1248 Hospital Drive, St. Johnsbury VT 05819.

Memories and condolences may be expressed privately with the family at

Guibord Funeral Home is located on the corner of Main and Center streets in Lyndonville.
Published in Times Argus on Feb. 9, 2011
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