Richard E. ‘Chic’ LaFave
In 1941, his family moved to Maple Street in Gwinn where he met and fell in love with Gloria Jean Koski, whom he later married on July 26, 1952. As a teenager, he worked in the woods with his dad and brothers to earn money to attend college.
After graduating from Gwinn High School, he attended Northern Michigan University from 1947-1949. On June 15, 1949 he joined the United States Air Force and was then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on October 12, 1950. He received orders to relocate to Nellis AFB, Nevada where he flew B-29’s through nuclear bomb test clouds and tracked the clouds across the country. From 1951-1954, he was stationed at Hickam AFB in Hawaii where he flew “petrol” fights which lasted 16-20 hours long to track Russian nuclear blasts. In September 1952, Chic was on temporary duty in Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands for further testing on nuclear bombs. He flew in the first thermonuclear test called “Operation Ivy” in Eniwetok. He returned to the states in 1954 and received training at Mather AFB where he was a radar instructor until 1958. He was a Personnel Officer at Randolph AFB, TX until 1961, when he was assigned to Laramie, Wyoming and attended the University of Wyoming. He graduated with a BS Degree in Engineering in February 1964 and was reassigned to Hanscom Field, Massachusetts (MITRE Corporation). He earned his Masters Degree in Engineering Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. From 1968 – 1969, he served a tour of duty in Vietnam; then was assigned to the Pentagon until 1971; and his last assignment was to Brussells, Belgium where he was attached to the US Embassy. He was a liaison between DCA and NICSMA (NATO Integrated Communication System Management Agency) and also served as the Design/Engineer for the communication system.
In 1974, he retired from the Air Force as a Colonel. He returned to NMU to earn his Teaching Certificate. He taught math at KI Sawyer in 1976 and from 1978 to 1990 he taught math and computers at Gwinn High School.
In 1990, he retired from teaching and became involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. He was elected as Commander for the VFW Department of Michigan in 1993, being the first person from the Upper Peninsula to hold this position. He served on the Board of Managers for the Veterans Homes in Michigan for 19 years and as an advisor for 4 years.
Chic was a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Gwinn and VFW Post 5670 in Gwinn. He was involved with the RSVP program for 24 years, served on the Gwinn Council on Aging, and the Gwinn Merry Mixers.
Survivors are his wife of nearly 65 years, Gloria; daughter Louise (Mark) Ingalls, Gwinn; Son Richard (Melinda) LaFave, Henderson, NV; 6 Grandchildren- Laura Ingalls, Becky Ingalls, Katie Doyen, Janet Towles, Richard T. LaFave, and Steven P. LaFave; and 7 great-grandchildren; Brothers Ernest LaFave , Escanaba and L. James LaFave, Kanata, Canada; Sisters Phylis (Edward) Fairbanks, Minnesota and Arlene (Brent) Turner, Vermont; Brothers and Sisters-in-Law: Mary Lou and John Hamm, Kentucky; William and Judy Koski, Robert Koski, Paul and Betsy Koski, all of Gwinn; several nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Preceding him in death were his parents Ernest and Gladys LaFave, a sister and brother-in-law Beverly and Edwin Smith, and two sisters-in-law Lucille LaFave and Carole LaFave, and a great-granddaughter Lilliana LaFave.
A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 4 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church in Gwinn with Rev. Andrew Plocher officiating.
Visitation will be held in the church from 2 p.m. until the time of the service. VFW Post 5670 will provide military honors. Interment will take place in the Gwinn Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Grace Lutheran Church Memorial Fund.
The Canale-Gwinn Funeral Home is assisting the family where memories may be shared at canalefuneral.com