By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer
Six hats, all with American flag pins in them, sit in the house where retired Airman 3rd Class Charles “Bud” Klingensmith lived.
Family members said patriotism was important to Klingensmith, who died of cancer July 24, one day before his 67th birthday.
They said he once wrote in a letter to the editor defending Cannon Air Force Base that the sound of jets flying overhead was the sound of freedom.
Cannon was one of the stops the Greensburg, Pa., native made during his 13 years in the Air Force.
“He came here when we had the stockyards,” said his wife, Linda, a Clovis native who met her future husband on Main Street.
“We had a summer rain and it stank so bad, he was going to go AWOL.
“But he learned to love Clovis.”
Since Klingensmith did not have a car, he’d walk from the base to Foxy Drive-in, where he’d meet Linda. They’d go to her house and one of her brothers would drive him back to the base, she said.
“The most important thing in his life was family,” said his son Rick Klingensmith. “He was very caring. He was firm, but he was fair.”
The younger Klingensmith remembered when he was a child his father bringing him a stick of gum and taking him for a ride in his wagon.
“It didn’t matter what any of us were involved in, he was always supportive,” he said.
The family moved to Pittsburgh after Klingensmith left the military, but returned to Clovis after 10 years.
After his children grew up, the couple got a dog, Sandy, who lost a leg from jumping out of a car. Klingensmith’s three-legged companion would follow him everywhere.
“Before he got bad, he’d take her to Running Water Draw and let her run, and she’d catch rabbits,” his wife said. “Wherever he went, Sandy went with him, except for church. She’d wait for hours waiting for him to get out of a restaurant because he’d bring half his food.”
Klingensmith decided to spend his final days at home, where Linda said the family spent his last nine days making sure he was comfortable and giving him pain medicine.
“He loved his family, and he never wanted anybody to know how bad he hurt,” she said. “He was always doing good because he felt there was always somebody else worse than he was.”
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