In Memoriam - Denise Clay

Denise Clay's memorial banner by Donna Blackhall


RINA Employment: November 25, 1996 – March 7, 2021

Denise ClayDenise Clay began her career with RINA in November of 1996 as the administrative assistant for RINA’s Fremont office. Jay Gilson, then head of the Fremont office, remembers, “At first she was a real neophyte about the tax returns and how to get them in a state that we could send to clients. She progressed at a fast pace and and could soon tackle multi-state consolidated corporate tax returns without any hesitation”

“Denise Clay was a dedicated member of RINA’s family whose work reflected the quality she wanted the world to see,” recalls Ed Fahey, a past firm president who Denise worked with. “Nothing was worth doing unless she could give it her best,” he added.

Until illness forced her to focus on her health, Denise served as RINA’s Marketing Manager, assisting with the development of the firm's advertising, website and collateral material.  Denise also provided administrative support to the partners and accounting staff.  

Her strong organizational and computer skills have been put to use in many of the firm’s special projects. 

Denise is survived by her husband Larry, three grown children, grandchildren, and many coworkers who consider her a friend.

Denise was somebody who cared very deeply about what she did.

She always put everything into what she did. It mattered to her.

Her attention to detail was admired throughout RINA. She was committed to getting things right. It ate at her when something didn’t go perfectly, and she would fix it.

She cared very much about what she was doing, and the firm and its clients benefited from her skill and dedication.

She will be missed by all of us.

— Tom Neff

Denise Clay in 2005
Denise in 2005

I hired Denise in 1996 to be the sole administrative assistant for the Fremont office.  At first she was a real neophyte about the tax returns and how to get them in a state that we could send to clients.  She progressed at a fast pace and could soon tackle multi-state consolidated corporate tax returns without any hesitation.

The two things I remember and appreciate about Denise is 1) she was a momma bear - she looked out for everyone in the Fremont office and at the same time kept us both accountable for our commitments and  protected us without any hesitation and 2) she was the best administrative assistant I have ever had.  She was more of a partner than a subordinate.  She could read me when I was stressed and would help me take a deep breath.  She helped me keep  focused on the task at hand.  

And lastly when I locked myself out of the office early one morning, she came to work with wet hair and without getting breakfast so I could get to a meeting in Walnut Creek on time.  

Probably her best attribute is her willingness to laugh both with us , at us and at herself.  She was both the glue and the oil for the Fremont office and was an integral part of the success of the office.

I will miss her.

— Jay Gilson

In the 25 years of being Denise’s coworker and friend, I learned a lot about compassion and bravery.  She endured so much and will always be my example of faith, courage and strength.

Working on projects together over the years we had many opportunities to talk about life, our families, fears, concerns and celebrate our accomplishments.  
What I will always remember is how much she cherished family…including everyone at RINA.

— Joan Stockholm

Denise Clay was a dedicated member of RINA’s family whose work reflected the quality she wanted the world to see.  Nothing was worth doing unless she could give it her best.

Denise was the architect and watchdog of RINA’s marketing campaigns. She crafted RINA’s website, advertising and collateral materials with a relentless commitment to being sure the brand was always presented in the best possible light. She wanted to make the firm and each professional successful and would do anything asked to help a fellow worker.

Denise battled cancer with that same spirit – doing everything she could to live to see another day.

I am blessed to have known and worked with her.

— Ed Fahey

Denise and I became friends pretty quickly after her entrance to RINA.  I was always impressed by her ability to deep dive into something and keep a project organized and learn new things without much instruction no matter the storm that might be happening around her.  Family, friends and or work drama somehow she could filter out the noise and focus on the job at hand.  

Artwork by Donna Blackhall
Click for a full-size view

Donna Blackhall and Denise ClayWe spent many hours working through things together on lunches and visits on weekends. Much of the content of our conversations was like many friends, pouring out emotions and each offering the other solace and any wisdom we could draw from our experiences but mostly just listening.  

I wanted to do something for her that really was a visual representation of my vision of Denise and being an artist that ‘something’ was a drawing.  The image to the side was sent to her awhile back.  Its not amazing art perhaps but the idea behind it is that she was the strong center of family and friendships and I saw her with this tree like strength even through adversity.  

I know she didn’t always feel strong and courageous who does?  The fact is, she kept finding her strength to fight through every day.

— Donna Blackhall

Donna Blackhall and Denise Clay looking elegant
Donna Blackhall and Denise at Halloween

Denise was an incredible human being.  She cared about everyone.  I always knew she would be there for us whenever we needed her.  But the best part of the time I was lucky enough to share with her were our conversations when we stopped talking about work and started talking about family.  If you wanted to see a smile, just ask about the grandchildren.  They were everything to her.  She was an incredible mom and would do anything for her family.  She knew what was important in life and we will miss her.

— Robin Brotman

Denise in 2011
Denise in 2011

Denise was a loyal colleague to some and a special friend to many of us at RINA.

I had the privilege of working with Denise for many years and getting to know her and her family. Denise was a highly valuable and respected member of marketing department at RINA.

She was a wonderful employee who understood the meaning of the word "team."

She was always more focused on the good of the company and the department than on her own benefit. She worked with passion, integrity and energy.  

She will be greatly missed and everyone here is saddened by her passing. Our  thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time.

— Mario Amiri

I have known Denise since she first came to RINA and worked in the Fremont office.   Later she move to the Walnut Creek office where we often took walks or had lunch together.   We would chat about our families, work, new procedures, programs, and anything else on our minds. During those walks over the years, I discovered the love she had for family: her husband Larry; 3 children and her growing number of grandchildren. I remember the great joy she had each time she announced that there would be another grandchild arriving. 

I will always consider myself blessed to have known Denise and to be able to call her my good friend for the past 20+ years. She faced so many challenges in the last few years with such grace and strength that amazed all who knew her. Even while going through her own health challenges, she expressed concerned about how others were doing and if there was something she could do to help.

Denise is the strongest person I have ever met and she will always bring a smile when I think of her.


— Gayle Tostenson

Denise and Larry Clay
Denise and Husband Larry

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