Artis Breau Clotfelter was born December 16, 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio. She left Cleveland at age 14 to live for a year in Monterey, Mexico and then on to Washington D.C. She graduated from Western High School in Georgetown. She had modeled for years and was trained in Russian Ballet, Flamenco and Mexican Folk Dance. She was working in the Pentagon as a secretary to the Director of Personnel in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army General Mathew Ridgway, when she was introduced by a friend to her husband to be, Leonard, on a blind date.
General Ridgway was the 19th Chief of Staff of the United States Army. He served with distinction during World War II, where he was the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, leading it in action in Sicily, Italy, and Normandy before taking command of the XVIII Airborne. During the Korean War he commanded United Nations troops.
Leonard Clotfelter was born October 2, 1928 in Mazie, Oklahoma. At sixteen years of age he joined the Merchant Marines. He convinced his mother that the Merchant Marines were a safer bet than the Army and she signed the papers to allow him to enlist. On his third voyage, his tanker ship sailed into a Typhoon with 75-foot waves. The empty tanker broke in half in the North Pacific. The half of the ship with the ‘radio room’ was able to contact the Navy. Leonard and his shipmates were rescued by a Navy ship. Interestingly, when discharged from the Merchant Marines during World War II, Seamen, received U.S. Coast Guard Honorable Discharges.
The war with Japan was not over when Leonard decided to join the Army. After basic training he became a member of the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and then was transferred to Italy. He was an expert rifleman since the time he was a teenager and after airborne training was assigned to a German POW Camp in Buongiorno, Italy as a member of the Quartermaster Corps. With the war in Europe over he was returned home and received another honorable discharge from the Army.
After his discharge from the Army, Leonard found it difficult to find a solid civilian job. Hundreds of thousands of returning Veterans were seeking jobs and good jobs were hard to find. After a couple of years pursuing a long search for a good job, he decided to join the Air Force. He was sent to Warren Air Force in Cheyenne, Wyoming to be trained as a Communication Lineman – a “high-rigger”, building and installing communication systems 90-foot towers. He was then stationed in Guam for two years and was assigned as a Drill Instructor on the base. He was then transferred to Andrews Air Force base in Maryland and was soon introduced to Artis who was working at the Pentagon. Leonard last assignment in the Air Force was to install communications systems for a Bermuda “Summit” for President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Churchill, and Prime Minister Khrushchev. The meeting however was cancelled because Winston Churchill suffered a stroke.
Leonard was honorably discharged from the Air Force in February 7, 1954 and seven days later on Valentine’s Day married Artis. Their marriage lasted just days short of sixty-two years. He is one the few in the history of the military that can claim receiving three honorable discharges from three different military services.
Artis and Leonard moved to California to look for employment. Leonard began working at McClellan Air Force Base, as a civilian lineman but soon decided to seek a different type of job after twice being assigned to work far from home and family, on Kwajalein Atoll, which is part of the Marshall Islands group in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
In 1962, as a father of three, Leonard was hired as a Deputy Sheriff/Coroner for the Placer County Sheriff’s Department in Auburn, California. In 1965 he was promoted to Sergeant, second in command, of the Tahoe City Substation. While in Tahoe, Artis worked as a fashion coordinator at Gray Reid’s in Reno and Carson City. She was also a reporter and photographer for the Sierra Sun newspaper and trained Miss Nevada/America beauty contestants. She also worked on radio and TV as an interviewer. Leonard was promoted to Detective Lieutenant and moved his family to Sunset Whitney Ranch in South Placer County. He also worked as Investigator for the Placer County District Attorney and received many awards for his work.
Artis and Leonard were admitted to the Yountville Veterans Home in April 2009. Artis began serving as part of the Chaplaincy and hosted the KVET Program “Profiles/Spotlight”. Leonard died February 10, 2016, (four days before their 62nd Anniversary). Their son Bruce lives in Southern California. Daughter Twyla lives with her family in Louisville, Kentucky. Their granddaughter Brittany and her husband Brian have moved to Louisville, Kentucky where Brian will study for his PHD and Brittany for a masters’ degree in Biblical Counseling