CLIFFORD  ROYCE ADAMS

1935 – 2023

 

Written by RaeAnn Christensen

(Edited by The Précis)

 

A proud Air Force veteran

Clifford Royce Adams—a beloved father, grandpa, great-grandpa, brother, and honored Air Force veteran—passed away due to Pulmonary Fibrosis on December 2nd, 2023, at McKay Dee Hospital, in Ogden, Utah. He was 88 and surrounded by family at the end.

During his 21 years of active service, including in both the Vietnam and Korean wars, Cliff, as many called him, was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), the highest flight award in the US military for “heroism or extraordinary achievement”—not once but twice. He also received The Air Medal, given for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight in actual combat in support of operations.

Cliff, called Royce by his family, was born September 7, 1935, in Cuthbert, Georgia to Agnes (Aggie) and Leroy Adams, an employee of Atlantic Ice & Coal Company and later Howell Plywood. Aggie had begun sewing and doing alterations to help pay the bills and was at her sewing machine when she heard Cliff walking for the first time at the age of nine months.

He “had nine lives.”

After beating the odds from many accidents and health scares, Cliff would later boast he “had nine lives.” And he had done so from the start. At 6 months old, he got Diphtheria. The doctor told Aggie the Diphtheria would kill him, and the vaccine—his only key to survival—could too. Aggie chose the vaccine, and Cliff would later joke, “The shot must’ve worked.” That twinkle in his eye.

In May of 1945, while still living in Cuthbert, Cliff’s brother, Mickey Adams came into the world. While not close in age, the brothers were lifelong best friends. When Leroy’s company, Howell Plywood, moved to Dothan, Alabama, so did the Adams. In those days, Mickey said Cliff liked working on his motorcycles and catching and trapping animals.

“I remember him having two foxes in a cage that he had trapped and brought home to try to make them pets,” Mickey recalled. Cliff would also trap venomous snakes, cart them home, and milk the venom. Years later, he bragged to Mickey that he had caught over 50, extremely venomous Water Moccasins in a swamp close to where Leroy worked. He also used to fetch baby turtles from local ponds and sell them to the five-and-dime for resale.

So many memories…kept secret

Cliff spent several summers in his teens at Mama & Papa Bruner’s farm in Georgia. Charles and Birdie Brunner were Cliff’s grandparents on his mother’s side, and Frank was their son. Uncle Frank was just a year older than his nephew so the two were very close. Charlene Bruner Smith, Cliff’s aunt says, “I have so many memories and shall cherish them, although some the boys kept from Mama and Papa Bruner.

Fireworks often got the boys in trouble, especially when they put cherry bombs in neighboring mailboxes. “No matter what the punishment,” Charlene said, “it appeared worth it.” One of their other favorite pastimes was convincing Charlene they had done something to one of her many cats. “At one time, they caught a bobcat and kept him in a cage for a while, until Papa Bruner made them let it go.”

Charlotte Lynn and Kathy Ann.

Back in Alabama, Cliff attended Dothan High School, excelled at swimming, and earned several medals. But at 17, he was eager to join the military and had his mom sign papers to allow him to join the Alabama Army National Guard, where he served for three years. He then enlisted in the Air Force where he became a Flight Engineer and certified scuba diver.

The loss of his “Kathy Bug”

Billy

When Cliff was stationed at Hill Air Force Base (HAFB) in Utah, he met through mutual friends Patricia Tyree, a  beautiful, confident, quick-witted young woman, whom he married on May 30th, 1957.  The couple welcomed their first child, Charlotte Lynn in 1958, Kathy Anne in 1959, and Clifford Leroy (Billy) in 1961. Cliff was devastated by the loss of his “Kathy Bug.” His baby girl was just short of two years old when she was run over in the driveway of a neighbor’s home during a birthday party.

At 5 feet 10 and 165 lbs., with dark hair and twinkling brown eyes, Cliff cut a handsome figure—whether in uniform or his preferred casual Western attire. Later in life, he became reserved and independent and didn’t like big crowds.. He would attend holiday parties, but only if it was a small group of people. With family, he was warm, witty, and hilariously funny. His idiosyncrasies: hoarding papers—stacks of paystubs, taxes, and lottery tickets—and keeping rolls of quarters all over the house and in his truck to play with. He listened to country music and watched the Utah news from Idaho. He Loved Dr. Pepper and sweet tea, and his favorite curse word was “dag-namit.” But Billy and Charlotte were his treasures.

Billy, Cliff, and Charlotte.

As proud as he was of his military service, Cliff didn’t talk about the heroics that led to medals, such as winning the Distinguished Flying Cross twice. You had to resort to the Air Force description that “Staff Sergeant Clifford R. Adams distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a Flight Engineer over hostile territory on 30 November 1968.”

“Instrumental in the success of a mission”

“On that date, while flying a mission of unarmed night reconnaissance … Sergeant Adams spent more than five hours over some of the most heavily defended terrain in Southeast Asia. Though constantly subjected to heavy antiaircraft fire necessitating violent evasive maneuvers, Sergeant Adams was instrumental in the success of a mission that accounted for the destruction of four hostile trucks, two road cuts, one antiaircraft gun silenced, and four secondary fires.”

He did much the same on 3 March 1969, flying over hostile areas of Southeast Asia while on a mission of unarmed night reconnaissance. “Sergeant Adams was instrumental in the success of several aerial strikes against hostile vehicles.”

Assessing the damaged memorial stone.

In 1974, while stationed in New Mexico, he was honorably discharged from the Air Force. He loved New Mexico but decided it was time to move back home to Alabama, where he worked as a marine mechanic. He was thrilled when his son Billy came to live with him. But Billy missed Utah and moved back, and Cliff soon followed.

Cliff became a civil service aircraft mechanic at HAFB in Utah. After retirement in 1990, he moved to Cokeville, Wyoming, and then to Downey, Idaho. His idea of bliss was fishing, hunting, and riding his motorcycle.

In his 80s, Cliff traveled to the Hill Air Force Base Museum where he was adamant about visiting a monument for the fallen soldiers he called “his brothers.” As Cliff’s granddaughter, RaeAnn Christensen, who accompanied him, recalls: “These were his crew members in the Air Force and he was supposed to be on the plane that crashed, but he happened to be at school.” Although Cliff knew all of his buddies’ names, his granddaughter was unable to make them out on the memorial stone.

“He scrubbed for three hours”

Cliff and granddaughter Raeann Christensen at the Air Force Museum.

“He was so upset about the condition of the stone he went back months later and scrubbed for three hours with pumice and cleaner until his hands were swollen and red and his knees bruised,” said RaeAnn, remarking on how beautiful the stone looked after it was cleaned.

The cleaned stone honoring Cliff’s deceased Air Force buddies.

Cliff remained eternally grateful for the unexpected twists of fate that kept him safe and led him to honor his fallen brothers. RaeAnn as well. “May these men Rest In Peace,” she said. “May we thank all of them,  including my grandpa, for their service, and always pay them proper respect.”

Cliff loved his animals and adopted his mother’s dog Muffin after Aggie passed. He helped many feral cat populations while in Wyoming and Idaho. He eventually even let a few into his home. Cliff had an extraordinary bond with one named Tubby who he lost a few months before he passed and deeply missed.

From his Aunt Charlene “Who would think that Frank and Royce, who lived a large majority of their lives “aggravating” kitties, ended up taking care of them.” The kitties were Cliff’s babies, and one of his biggest concerns when leaving this world behind. Then there were the ducks.

A week before Cliff died, he packed up unwanted bags of wheat from a nearby Idaho factory and drove it to RaeAnn’s home on Thanksgiving to help feed domestic ducks at local ponds. He loved hearing about the ducks and how his granddaughter was helping them through her nonprofit https://www.forducksake.org/. He once transported some ducks for someone in Idaho and was elated he got to help.

Defied many medical odds

Cliff, as was his habit, defied many medical odds, including a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle crash; blood cancer (that just disappeared), and pulmonary fibrosis for years without needing oxygen (until the end). The family truly thought he was invincible. He had an impeccable memory and loved telling his stories, so long as they were funny. He was so witty, even up to his last days, winning over all the nurses with his humor and charm.

RaeAnn, Cliff, Amie, Dustin, Conner, and Landon.

Even with impending death, Cliff worried about being hospitable to his family at the hospital. We all wanted him to take a nap and he said, “That wouldn’t be very hospitable of me, would it?”

Clifford leaves behind his two children, Charlotte (Dennis) Ogg, and Billy (Stacey) Adams; brother Mickey (Pam) Adams; grandchildren, Chanda, RaeAnn, Baylee, Dustin, Morgan, Colton, and Brooke; great-grandchildren Brayden, Austin, Jasmine, Asher, Landon, Fynlee, Conner, Swade, Emree, Hudson, and Bodee, and his niece and nephew, Jennifer and Jason.

Clifford is being welcomed back by his parents Leroy and Aggie, his daughter Kathy Anne, and longtime friend Uncle Frank.

Missy, Callie, and Baby, the kitties Cliff was so worried about near the end, were taken in by RaeAnn, a cat lover like her beloved granddad.

A graveside Military Honors Service is planned for Cliff on Saturday, January 6th, 2024, from 1 to 2 pm, at West Warren Cemetery, in Warren, Utah. The quaint service is “the way he would want it,” RaeAnn said.

Instead of flowers, we know Cliff would love for you to support his granddaughter’s nonprofit duck rescue in his name at  https://www.forducksake.org/ 

1 Comment

  1. RaeAnn Christensen

    Kathy, thank you so much for allowing me to help participate in this beautiful tribute to my grandpa.

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