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Columbia Missourian

Clifford 'Buck' H. Caldwell, wildlife devotee and veteran, put family first

By Ciera Velarde
March 21, 2013 | 8:46 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Clifford H. Caldwell never felt comfortable stuck indoors.

Even when Mr. Caldwell and his wife built their dream retirement home, he spent the majority of his time working on and tending to the 40-acres the home sat on.

"He was always building something," his son Norm Caldwell said. "He loved to plant trees."

In fact, Mr. Caldwell planted more than 1,000 trees over the course of his lifetime. 

"Even towards the end of his life, he would still plant trees all the time even though he knew he'd never see them grow all the way," Norm Caldwell said. "It was part of who he was."

Mr. Caldwell died on Saturday, March 16, 2013. He was 86.

Mr. Caldwell was born on Sept. 13, 1926, in Maryville to Clark and Marjorie (Hinton) Caldwell. 

He was married to Leone "Le" Caldwell for 48 years. Every day, Mr. Caldwell would remind Mrs. Caldwell that he loved her, either with notes he would leave around the house or fresh-picked wildflowers, Norm Caldwell said.

"I'm the luckiest girl in the world to have been married to such an incredible man," Le Caldwell said.

Le Caldwell said family was the most important thing in Mr. Caldwell's life.

"Our three children were the the greatest gifts he ever gave me," Le Caldwell said.

Mr. Caldwell experienced hardships early in his life. Before the age of 10, Mr. Caldwell had lost both his mother and his sister, Eva Marguerite Caldwell.

"As opposed to that destroying him, he always looked at the good things," Norm Caldwell said. "He was always so appreciative of everything."

Faith played an important role in Mr. Caldwell's life. When his mother died, Mr. Caldwell would spend time with his grandmother, who would read the Bible to him.

"He said he would see God's fingerprints all over nature," Norm Caldwell said. "There was always a deep connection between nature and God for him."

After graduating from Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, Mich., Mr. Caldwell enlisted in the United States Navy. 

"He actually lied about his age to be able to enlist," Norm Caldwell said. "He had seen all the awful things Hitler was doing, and he felt like he had to do something about it."

Mr. Caldwell took his love for nature and his country and turned it into a lifelong career. He started his career with the Missouri Department of Conservation and was later promoted to manager of the Charles W. Green State Wildlife Management Area near Ashland.

"Even in the freezing cold, he would take the time to tend for the animals and make sure they had water and feed," Norm Caldwell said. "He had a heart for that sort of stuff." 

He received the E. Sydney Stephens Professional Wildlife Award at the end of his 36 year career. It is the highest award the Missouri chapter of The Wildlife Society gives, honoring outstanding contribution to wildlife resource management.

"He didn't have an advanced degree like other guys, but his level of commitment is why he won the award," Norm Caldwell said.

Mr. Caldwell's dedication to his work was only ever rivaled by his dedication to his marriage. Norm Caldwell said all his friends would use his parents' relationship as the standard for what a great marriage should look like.

"It was more than a marriage," Le Caldwell said. "It was a friendship."

Mr. Caldwell is survived by his wife, adopted brother James Caldwell, three children, Gail Wally, Norm Caldwell, and Bruce Caldwell and Bruce's wife Sharon Caldwell; five grandchildren Heather Hanson, Hollie Still, Karissa Lee, Robbie Williamson and Scottie Williamson; and 12 great-grandchildren. 

His parents, his sister, Eva Marguerite Caldwell, stepmother Ella (Cross) Caldwell and grandson Scott Caldwell died earlier.

Visitation will be held at 1 p.m. on March 26 at Liberty Baptist Church, 7461 N Brown Station Road. A memorial will be held at 2:30 p.m., also at the church.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to Liberty Baptist Church.