‘The world’s luckiest F-86 pilot’
FRISCO – Part-time Frisco resident Skip Smith remembers fondly the times he shared with his good friend Bill Caffery. Typically the two would meet up three or four times a week in the late afternoon at the Moosejaw to talk over a beer.Caffery, a Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, was a simple man, who enjoyed telling jokes and conversed easily with people from all walks of life, Smith said.”He was very well-known in Frisco and Summit County. I can’t conceive anyone is as well-liked,” Smith said Thursday morning from his home in Rhode Island.Caffery, who lived in Frisco 27 years, died on Tuesday. He was 75.
Caffery is probably best known around town as the owner of the old Antiques and Collectibles shop on Third Avenue and Main Street in Frisco. He would drive near and far in his old white truck with elevator weights placed in the truck bed for traction to deliver antiques to other stores, Smith said.Two weeks ago, Smith was in Redstone near Aspen, and Caffery asked him to stop in and say hello to an owner of a small antique shop there. Smith met up with the man, and they began talking. Smith told him that Caffery was ill.”He was physically upset. I bumped into him the next day he said, ‘ You know I didn’t sleep a wink last night, just up thinking about Bill,'” Smith said.Caffery moved to Summit County in 1979 with his wife, Sharil, and their children. Before he ventured into the antique business, he worked for Copper Mountain Resort and Centron Corporation. Caffery also served on the Summit School District Board and volunteered at local elementary schools for Veteran’s Day and the Christmas holiday.By the time he moved to Summit County, Caffery was already a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel decorated with many awards, and many stories to tell.
In June 1954, the 24-year-old Second Lt. Caffery was flying an F-80 jet when mechanical trouble forced him to make a crash landing in a dry lake bed near Las Vegas, according to old newspaper articles from his native Iowa. He broke his back and shattered his right ankle in the accident. Then, Caffery was at the helm of am F-86 jet when he avoided a second potentially life-threatening incident while flying over the Arctic.The jet’s Plexiglas covering flew off the cockpit, taking Caffery’s oxygen mask and helmet along. He passed out twice, but still managed to pull the plane out of a dive and land safely at his base.An Air Force magazine called Caffery “the world’s luckiest F-86 pilot” after surviving both emergencies.But, Caffery was a humble man who didn’t spend much time talking about himself, Smith said.”I knew him a long time before I heard those stories and I’m not sure I heard them all,” Smith said.Caffery also served in Vietnam, Germany, Spain and England during his tenure in the military. He retired from duty with a long list of medals including the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 20 oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Galantry Cross with palm.
While he was stationed in California, Caffery met his wife Sharil. Caffery had many interests in life from burro racing to metal detecting. H enjoyed skiing, biking, playing golf, handball and racquetball. He was also a wrestler and boxer who participated in the Golden Glove’s competition in Davenport, Iowa.Caffery was born on Sept. 19, 1930 in Keokuk, Iowa. His family moved from to Davenport, Iowa, in the mid 1930s. He attended Catholic school in Davenport then enrolled in St. Ambrose College between 1948 and 1951, when he enlisted in the Air Force. He received his degree in communications from the University of Omaha in 1966. He is survived by his loving wife Sharil and their three children Kimberly, Thomas and Michael; his siblings Jack and Dick; and six lovely grandchildren Keegan, Lukas, Ali, Will, Claire and Madison.Funeral services for Bill CafferyFrom 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday a public viewing will be held at St. Marys Catholic Church, 109 S. French St. in Breckenridge, followed by a Rosary from 7-8 p.m.Mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, also at St. Marys Church, followed by burial at 1:30 p.m. at the Frisco Cemetery. A reception will follow at 53 Highwood Terrace in Frisco.In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Bristlecone Home and Hospice Care, P.O. Box 1327 Frisco, CO 80443 or to the MS Society, 700 Broadway Suite 808 Denver, CO 80203.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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