1938 Clair 2023

Joseph Clair Carling

December 27, 1938 — December 28, 2023

Bountiful, UT

Our beloved husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, and friend Joseph Clair Carling passed away at age 85 on Thursday, December 28, 2023, surrounded by his loving family in Bountiful, Utah, following his courageous battle with cancer.

Clair was born December 27, 1938, in Logan, Utah the oldest son of Joseph Giles Carling and Gladys Elizabeth Gessel. He grew up on Kensington Avenue in Salt Lake City. He spent many summers on a family farm in Fillmore, Utah, and a few working and playing in a band in Yellowstone National Park. Clair graduated from South High School in 1957. He ran on the track team, played football, was a student body officer, and Valedictorian of his class. Clair was a Rhodes Scholar Alternate but chose to accept his appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy and pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

Clair met and married Kay Hammond of Colorado Springs on June 8, 1961, and were sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Together they raised six children: Leasa Anderson (Steve), Cynda Melville (Alan), Chris (Julie), Bryan (Gina), Janilee Watts, and JB (Rachel). Kay passed away in July 2001.

Clair and Mary Kay Pearson were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on September 18, 2002. He welcomed Mary Kay’s daughters and family members Stephanie Jester (Bryan), Holly Wilcox (Tyler), and Kristine Crofts (Gordy). He is also survived by 33 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren. Additionally, he is survived by siblings Kathy Wilson, Marilee Latta, Nick Carling, and Betsy Bernhisel (Kurt). He is preceded in death by his parents, his wife Kay, and grandsons Kevin Anderson and Zachary Bagley.

Clair had a love of piano and music from an early age. His mother taught him the basics, but he earned his own money for piano lessons taught at the McCune Mansion. He often walked or rode his bike to take lessons from a professional instructor there. He excelled in this talent and eventually turned down the option of a career as a concert pianist, opting for his first love, flight. Clair was accepted into the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He graduated in the top 5 of the class of 1961, the 3rd class from the Academy.

Clair’s Air Force career took him and his family to many places including Arizona, Texas, the Philippines, California, Colorado, Virginia, and Ohio. He defended the United States as he flew combat in Vietnam as well as reconnaissance missions and went on to be a fighter test pilot with over 3,000 flying hours in high performance jet fighters. Captain, and later Major, Clair Carling served directly under the leadership of Chuck Yeager, who was first to break the sound barrier. A highlight of his career was overseeing all test flights for the Air Force’s new fleet of F-15 Eagle fighter jets in the mid-1970’s. With a top speed of 1,875 mph, the F-15 Eagle was an all-weather, extremely maneuverable tactical fighter designed to provide and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield for the U.S. Air Force. USAF Colonel Carling – as he commanded the thrust of those twin Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-100, 220 turbofan engines with afterburners, pulling up to 9 g-forces and soaring sometimes straight vertically to altitudes above 63,000 feet – was in the prime of life and at the height of his military career.

His prowess as a smart and capable pilot eventually landed him squarely on the short list of military pilot candidates considered for training to become the first of NASA’s Space Shuttle Pilots. Instead of taking to outer space, then Colonel Clair Carling took a position at the Air Force Space Division as a Deputy Program Director for the Air Force Space Navigation Systems. He was intimately involved in development and testing of the iconic Global Positioning System (GPS). He later finished his military career as System Program Director over acquisition and operation of the upper booster system for the Space Shuttle receiving the Legion of Merit Award.

Following retirement from the Air Force, Clair began a second career at the age of 44 with Sperry/Unisys/Lockheed/L3 Harris as Vice President of Air Force Programs responsible for business development and management of over 30 government data link programs including Predator and Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV “drones”). As one of the company’s key government liaisons in the development of these drones, Clair helped transform military combat in his role in helping the United States military expand its drone capabilities to include laser guidance, which were effective in Operation Allied Force in Kosovo and became an important part of US responses to rising threats from the al Qaeda terrorist organization and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

To know Clair was to be very impressed by him. Not only was his vast knowledge of important things striking, his capable mind and hands always at work, and his ability to love, educate and entertain constantly being refined, throughout his life he pursued and perfected multiple additional talents including water-color painting (which he also loved dearly and became quite accomplished at), balsa wood model airplane design, computer hardware, small engine repair, writing, and more.

Two master’s degrees, one in Aeronautical Engineering and the other in Systems Management, together with practical application, led to an intimate knowledge of math (backwards and forwards), physics, jet propulsion, and other disciplines. Clair can identify any problem, fix any broken thing, and map a plan that would achieve any goal. Those fortunate enough to live with, train with, be raised by, or be taught by him have been privileged beyond measure. Whether under a star-filled sky or at the living room fire, Clair had a unique ability to open the understanding and expand the minds of those lucky enough to be at his side as he spoke of physics, astronomy or shared feelings about the wonders of existence itself. Children have argued for millennia over “my dad is smarter than yours,” but Clair’s children have always known the truth…that their dad really is “the smartest of them all.”

After retirement, Clair and Mary Kay served as missionaries in the Addiction Recovery Program. They served for 10 years holding weekly meetings with recovering addicts, sharing their love, experience, and testimonies. The couple also served for several years as Bountiful Temple workers. Clair has always looked at others without judgement, seeing only their best potential, never judging – certainly one of his most admirable qualities.

Outside of his professional careers, Clair was a devoted husband, father and outdoorsman who enjoyed expanding his knowledge and skills wherever and whenever opportunity arose. Let it be remembered that Clair was capable and always performed well, in fact excelled, under pressure. His achievements and never-ending pursuit of understanding and perfection were only frustrated by the limitations of this life. Congratulations, Clair, on never failing, always achieving, and soaring to the greatest heights possible. You have lived a life others can only envy and admire.

Clair passed away in peace during the quiet, very early hours of a mild winter morning. It was fitting that during his final moments, three mule deer walked in silence through the oak brush and aspens just feet beneath the window where he lay. Clair loved wild things and wild places like no other. Boating and fishing at Lake Powell and hunting the mountains of Southern Utah held special places in his heart and on his calendar. Throughout his life, he shared that passion with those he loved.

Funeral services and viewings will be held at the North Canyon 6th Ward located at 965 East Oakwood Drive, Bountiful, Utah 84010.  Viewings: Friday, January 5th, 2024, from 5:00 –7:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 6th, 2024, from 9:30–10:30 a.m. Funeral Services will begin Saturday, January 6th, 2024, at 11:00 a.m.

Join Clair’s Funeral Services virtually: https://zoom.us/j/92729800045?pwd=Q0llUm0zMGd6WGZSeEU1eHIxa3Uydz09

Clair requests that in lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations be made to any of the following non-profit charitable organizations:

  • Hunts for the Brave
  • The Other Side Academy
  • Red Barn Academy
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joseph Clair Carling, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, January 5, 2024

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Mountain time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Saturday, January 6, 2024

9:30 - 10:30 am (Mountain time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Saturday, January 6, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Mountain time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Visits: 2121

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree