Ellis Linwood Clayton Sprouse, age 80, of Crozet, Virginia, died on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, at his home with his wife.
Born November 8, 1942 in Charlottesville, Virginia, he was the son of Ellis Angles Sprouse and Irene Shifflett Sprouse. He was preceded in death by both parents, his infant sister, Jacqueline and his infant grandson, Ryan.
Known by many as Clay, or Sonny to most, and Papa to his grandkids. How do you articulate the life and accomplishments of an extraordinary man who, in his last few years was the “toughest man I ever knew.” Sonny had a gift of leaving anyone he spoke with a better person and a little bit brighter. Sonny was a self-taught expert in all trades. However, his passion was farming. He grew up helping his dad in the hay and corn fields and caring for cattle with many trips to the livestock market. He worked before and after school and before and after work his entire life.
Sonny met his wife while driving bus #13 for Albemarle High School in 1961. They were married three years later and moved to Alexandria to work for Woodson Oil Company. Sonny would drive home every weekend to work on the farm and plan the development of what is now Beaver Hill Village in Crozet with his parents. In 1965, Sonny and Nancy purchased their first home on the property. It took about 10 years to fully develop and populate the 43 park sites with each needing electricity, plumbing, sewer, and on-going maintenance. Sonny did this all while farming and maintaining his full-time job.
Sonny officially retired from what is now the Holiday Inn on Emmett Street in 2000 after 28 years as their chief maintenance engineer. Unofficially, however, he did not retire, as he continued to farm for several more years and take care of the park following his father’s death in 1999. Being diagnosed with prostatic cancer did not derail him from working side by side with his son, Jeff. Sonny had already earned his “jack of all trades'' reputation, but he continued to hone his knowledge of maintaining, building and restoring homes, and commercial properties. Over the next 20 years Sonny managed the building or renovations of at least a dozen residential homes. Some well-known projects he was responsible for include Brownsville Market in Crozet, Tavern on the James in Scottsville, Legacy Markets in Shadwell, Crozet, and Culpeper, and Legacy Car Wash in Crozet, his last major project.
Sonny was a member of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church. He was extremely generous and enjoyed volunteering his knowledge and free time to mow the grounds, care for the maintenance needs of the church, parish hall and mission house. Much of his work was behind the scenes and done quietly.
Despite working ceaselessly, Sonny managed to enjoy his down time. He loved the OBX, dining at Tale of the Whale with a bowl of she crab soup and visiting the lighthouses. He enjoyed fishing on the Potomac or in the farm pond. He appreciated being outside whether mowing grass or riding the tractor. He adored his three great-grandsons and never missed a Sunday family dinner. As an engaging storyteller and historian, his playful personality always made him a joy to be around. Those who were lucky to spend time with him learned something new in every conversation.
Sonny fought great battles with several medical issues, including cancer, diabetes and kidney disease. He began dialysis in 2019 and came to manage his daily at home care for 3 years, all while he endured many doctor visits. Sonny was fortunate to have family members support him and Nancy during trying times and always enjoyed visits from friends even on rough days. In his final few months, he spent much time with his granddaughter, Lauren, who was his daily dialysis caregiver. After years of treatments, anxiety, and occasional periods of hope, his body or mind could no longer endure the pain.
Sonny is survived by his wife of 59 years, Nancy; and his only son, Jeff, and his wife Michelle of Greenwood, Virginia; his grandson, Hunter Loose of Keswick, Virginia; his granddaughter, Lauren Wood and her husband Dwayne and their sons Wade and Walker of Earlysville, Virginia; his grandson, Logan, and his wife Taylor and son Easton of Greenwood, Virginia; his granddaughter, Jordan, of Greenwood, Virginia; his sister-in-law, Bettie Hutcherson, and her husband Jim of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, and their children, Brian Hutcherson, and his wife Amy and their daughters, Kate and Maggie of Fishersville, Virginia, and Karen Douglas and her husband Scott of Christiansburg, Virginia. He is also survived by two sisters.
A special thank you to the medical staff at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, the University of Virginia Dialysis Center, the Western Albemarle Rescue Squad, the Crozet Fire Department, and Officer Taylor.
Services will be held Sunday, October 15, 2023 at 2 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church located at 4708 Dick Woods Road Charlottesville, Virginia. The Rev. Anthony Andres and The Venerable Brian Hutcherson will officiate. Following the service will be a graveside burial.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church at P. O. Box 351 Ivy, Virginia 22945.
Condolences may be sent to the family at on the Tribute Wall.