The wonderful life of my friend Clifford Chapman: “Pete.”
Pete was born Dec. 23, 1925 in Ellaville, Ga., to Jesse Martin and Ida Elizabeth Chapman. He is the youngest of six children: Margaret “Peggy” Elizabeth, Jesses “Jay” Asbury, Gertrude Trudy” Anna, William “Bill” Henry and Marion Chesterfield-Whitey (passed away at 10 years old in 1934). Pete arrived in Le Grand by train on Dec. 21, 1927, two days before his second birthday. His family farmed 40 acres of share crop. He attended Savanah Elementary, from grades 1-6, in a one-room schoolhouse. Mrs. Jackson was his teacher. Four classmates continued their education at Le Grand High School and graduated in 1943.
Pete enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in November 1943 and was called to active duty in 1944. After basic training, before deployment when on leave, a true highlight was to attend the 1944 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Ill.
Pete was shipped out from Newport, Va.; the WA MANN Troopship was on an unknown course to the crew, zigzagging across the Pacific Ocean to avoid enemy submarines. The ship passed the Rock of Gibraltar. They sailed past to Egypt through the Suez Canal, in the Red Sea waters, through the Gulf of Aden to the approaching to the Arabian Sea. The crew traded U.S. dollars for rupees, the Indian currency. This is where they got their clue to their first post. The total passage took 30-31 days. They docked at Bombay, India, today known as Mumbai, India. (Ceylon is now Ski Lanka.)
Pete worked at the post exchange. He traveled by train and saw many places in India. He traveled to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the beautiful mountain village Ranikhet near the Tibetan Boarder.
The war ended in 1945. Pete then worked at the Dum Airfield as a solider while waiting to be sent home. This was a busy time. Troopship docked at Calcutta now known as Kolkata. He then sailed via the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean to the U.S. He was discharged in March 1946.
Pete married June, the love of his life, in April 1965. They were married 42-½ years before June passed away. They spent their honeymoon on the Klamath River at Happy Camp. Pete introduced June to steelhead fishing. Throughout their lives, they enjoyed road trips in the mountains and across the country and of course fishing; best time of his life was spent with June.
Pete loved his family: his stepson Ronnie and his wife Linda. He enjoyed watching their two boys, Jay and Chad, grow up. We shared many good times.
Pete worked for the Merced County Road Department for 48-½ years. There he became good friends with Mel Reding from Planada. They grew up in the same community and knew each other as youngsters. They ended up working together at the road department for 29 years. They would talk about it every day.
Pete was an avid outdoorsman. Over the years he had many fishing and hunting buddies; Bob Stickles, Mel Preston, Cliff Turner; brothers Jay and Bill. He went on hunting trips to Montana with Ronnie, grandson Mell Preston and nephews David and Martin Ramirez. He stayed at Wisdom, Mon., at the Nez Perce-Huntley family (Blake and Brenda) run motel. They were like family to Pete. Martin Ramirez and Pete spent Thanksgivings together during many of their hunts with the Huntley family. One year during Thanksgiving grace, Blake added, “Dear Lord, I pray that if I live to be old, I would like to be just as Pete. He is one of the nicest people I’ve known.”
Many Sundays, Martin took Pete to breakfast and shopping. He was a good friend. After shopping, they would watch a ballgame at Pete’s house and nap in the afternoon.
Pete was a charter member of the American Legion Post 660. He was an active member for 73 years. Pete went on to retire from the Merced Country Road Department.
He was a lifetime member of the Central Valley Chapter of Maintenance Association of California. Rene, his longtime friend from the days of the Merced County Road Department, signed him up for the Honor Flight in 2016. She escorted him to Washington D.C. for a trip of a lifetime.
Pete would often times say that he had a good life and still is enjoying good company. He will be truly missed but never forgotten by all those who knew him.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Plainsburgh Cemetery, Le Grand High School or the American Legion in Le Grand.