Obituary of Archie D. Caldwell
Longtime Grass Valley resident Archie D. Caldwell died Nov. 1 at Golden Empire nursing center after a brief illness. He was 88. Born in Hollywood, he moved with his family to San Bernardino, where he graduated from San Bernardino High School in 1945. He started his lifelong love affair with flying as a youngster, earning a pilot’s license at 16. He left high school to enlist in the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II, serving on an aircraft carrier until his discharge. He returned home and attended San Bernardino Valley College. Still drawn to flying, Archie soon enlisted in the U.S. Air Force to train as a pilot at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. He also married Margaret Hays – Maggie – his beloved companion who would become the mother of their two children, Dean and Barbara. The Air Force sent him to Japan and then Korea, where he piloted an F-80 fighter. He “is one of the first, if not the first, in the U.S. Air Force to fly 100 missions in the F-80” in Korea, according to a newspaper article about his service in the war. When he wasn’t flying, Archie resupplied ammunition to Korean soldiers at the front lines. His courage and accomplishments in the war earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, along with many other medals and commendations. Archie’s fascination with aviation did not end when he left the Air Force in 1952. He became a
civilian aircraft accident investigator at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. The career took him all over the globe to investigate military aircraft mishaps and disasters. He was part of the team that looked into an Atlas missile explosion in 1964 that not only destroyed the missile but the silo where it had been standing. His years of military and other government service allowed Archie to retire in 1972, at age 45. For him it was the beginning of a new life pursuing his many passions. He was a drummer in the Gordon Grey Bagpipe Band in San Bernardino. He built and flew radio-controlled airplanes. After moving to Grass Valley in the late 1970s, he earned a ham radio operator’s license and, true to form, soon became a ham instructor and leader of a regional radio “net.” He was an avid and accurate shooter who often could be found tearing holes in a target or just shooting the breeze at The Range in Grass Valley. He also had been a member of the Nevada County Sportsmen’s Club, where he was top-notch trap and silhouette shooter. Through all of his life, Archie made friends and kept them. After he suffered a stroke in August, friends he had known since his school days, friends from the armed forces, friends from his RC airplane group, friends from his ham net and many others called and emailed for updates. Through is decline in the hospital, he never lost his kindness or his humor. There was much laughter at his bedside.In addition to his wife, Maggie, Archie is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Gary Gustavson of Grass Valley, and his son and daughter-in-law, Dean Caldwell and Cathy Armstrong of Redlands. Maggie and other family members were by his side when he passed on peacefully at 11:11 a.m. on Nov. 1. A celebration of his life is being planned for the spring. Fly on, Archie. Archie D. Caldwell
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