Dora students shocked over classmate’s death

Mike Linn

DORA — Almost two dozen Dora High School students squeezed into the principal’s office Monday to remember Clayton Stokes, an energetic and mischievous junior who died late Saturday night in an automobile accident.
Students were in shock throughout the day, where instruction in classes was exchanged for memorial talks about the funny, charismatic and friendly 16-year-old from Causey, officials said.
“Here at Dora High School, where we have seventh through 12th grade and there’s about 90 kids, when you lose a kid it affects every single one of them,” Dora Principal Bill Stockton said. “We’re a lot like a family.”
Stokes was traveling south on New Mexico Highway 206 about seven miles south of Portales when his 1998 Toyota pickup left the road. Police said the youngster overcorrected, which then caused him to lose control of the vehicle. The pickup flipped over several times, ejecting Stokes through the driver’s-side window, said Sgt. Jeff Vick of the New Mexico State Police.
Vick said Stokes was not wearing his seat belt.
Cathi Stokes, Clayton’s mother, said Monday her son was a “true gift, always happy, always busy.”
She said when she was pregnant with Clayton, doctors feared complications because Cathi has diabetes. The doctors asked Cathi if she wanted to give the baby up to protect her own safety.
“I told myself God wouldn’t give me something I couldn’t handle … we got a perfect baby,” Cathi said.
“But (God) didn’t have to give him so much energy,” she said with a laugh. “Clayton was orneriness a mile long. He loved to laugh, have fun and make others laugh. He was very thoughtful; he took good care of his mama.”
Dora students recalled not long ago that Clayton was attempting to dry his basketball socks by hanging them out the window of the school bus.
Clayton was the starting point guard on Dora High’s basketball team and earned the nickname “spark plug,” for his get-up-and-go mentality.
Dora junior Travis Belcher recalled a few cold days last week when Clayton and some other friends stopped on the side of the road to jump in snow drifts.
“He wasn’t scared to have fun,” Belcher said. “I never met anybody who didn’t like him. He was a good guy.”
Added Dora junior Efrain Lopez: “He was the friendliest guy here.”
Dora High student D’Shawn Pettigrew said she’ll miss the question Clayton was known to ask daily: “I’ll miss somebody saying did anybody do their homework?,” she said, her eyes soggy with tears.
As a token of their love for Clayton, the junior class went to his home on Monday and presented his family with a check for funeral expenses. The money came from fund-raisers set aside for prom and other activities. In all, Dora High students will donate between $6,000 and $7,000 to Clayton’s family, Stockton said.
“He always had a smile on his face,” Stockton said. “… And I never really knew if that smile was ‘hey, look what I got away with,’ or the smile meant ‘hey, I’m happy to see you.’”