Calvin E. Lay of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, a former president of the Seneca Nation of Indians who was active for decades in civic affairs, died Sunday in Gowanda Nursing Home after a short illness. He was 86.
Mr. Lay was born in Red House, near Salamanca. He was educated at the Thomas Indian School. He was involved in Seneca Nation politics and was elected to serve the nation in various governmental positions throughout his life.
He served in the Army's 102nd Infantry Division during World War II and saw combat in France and Belgium. He was a member of Iroquois Post 1587, American Legion, and at various times served as chaplain, treasurer and commander.
Mr. Lay, a member of the Deer Clan, served as a Seneca Nation marshal in 1952; as a peacemaker in 1968, 1993 and 1997; and was elected to serve four terms on the Tribal Council in 1956, 1970, 1972 and 1980. He served as Seneca Nation treasurer from 1974 to 1976. He served two terms as president, the first from 1976 to 1978. In 1984, he ran as an independent candidate for president and won, in what was considered a historic victory in Seneca Nation politics.
He also served on the boards of the Seneca Nation Library, the Seneca Nation Iroquois Museum, which he helped found, and Tri-County and Lake Shore hospitals. He was an exempt member of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation Volunteer Fire Department. He was also a Masonic Lodge member.
"Cal Lay was an honest and humble, dyed-in-the-wool servant of the Seneca Nation," President Robert Odawi Porter said. "The Seneca Nation is extremely grateful for Cal's lifelong service and contributions to the Seneca Nation. We are also indebted to him for his courage and service in World War II. When we speak to our Seneca children of Seneca men and women who are good role models from which we can all learn, Cal Lay is among those exemplary citizens who was willing to go the extra mile, make sacrifices for his people and defend the best interests of the Seneca Nation. He will be sorely missed."
Survivors include his wife of 63 years, the former Corinne Parker; a son, Douglas; a daughter, Eileen Marx; and a sister, June Heron.
A service will be at 11 a.m. Friday in Wright Memorial Presbyterian Church, Route 438, Cattaraugus Indian Reservation.