When Dear Friends Die


Now I know what a person looks like when they have learned they’ve just lost a best friend.

I just learned that one of my dearest friends went home to be with his Lord and Savior yesterday.  I have been very fortunate to have had Doug Chaffee as a friend for over half my life.  I don’t know what I will do without his friendship.

It is rather ironic that I learned of his death while I was plotting my email telling him that I told you so about Obama’s birth certificate.  I knew it would bug him to no end, which is why I was planning to do it.  We shared the same politics, and some of the same crazy interests such as science fiction, Star Trek, and other weird stuff.

Doug was one of the top illustrators during the early years of the Apollo program.  His exquisite Morning Launch, was one of the renderings used to go to the House and Senate finance committees to get the needed funds to start serious work on the Apollo launch vehicle.  At the time, Doug was the head of IBM’s art department.

When he went freelance he worked for all the big aerospace and military industrial complex, doing their renderings for project funding.  His illustration of Marine One was used to get the funding for Obama’s new chopper. (It was planned a few years previous to Obama landing in office).

Doug had an extensive knowledge of aerospace.  He had some fascinating friends.  He know “stuff”.  During the late 1960s, when one of the first UFO outbreaks occurred in upstate New York, Doug went along with a buddy, so that he could illustrate eyewitness accounts.  It resulted in one of the first professionally illustrations of a UFO incident.

From then on, Doug was hooked on investing UFOs.  He wanted logical, scientific explanations and took an almost Fortean, and professional approach to them.  Several months ago he emailed that he was planning to do a book on the subject.  He never did get around to it.

In the late 80s, Doug was chosen as the cover artist for one of the top science fiction conventions.  The special guest was Tom Clancy.  Doug created an American submarine being attacked by a biologically engineered Soviet dragon.  Tom Clancy purchased it, on sight.  I took the painting to Clancy’s estate in Maryland a few weeks later.  Along with the painting, I took a print of one of Doug’s military renderings, Sub Busters as a gift for Clancy.  Over the years, Clancy would get hold of Doug and order copies of the print to give as gifts.

His military illustrations hang in the hallowed halls of the Pentagon.  They have been given as gifts to high ranking Pentagon officials, including a SecDef or two.  His illustrations of the space program are part of the permanent collection of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, and on my living room wall.

In the late 1970s, when Jimmy Carter decimated the space program, Doug quite IBM and went freelance.  It was then that he began illustrating science fiction covers.  He did his covers, military illustrations, and every week produced Sunday School covers for one of the Baptist literature companies.  He did those free of charge.

Yesterday afternoon, during a routine dental appointment, he died between 3-3:30PM just sitting in the dentist chair.  They think he had a massive heart attack.

He lives his wife, Melba, son Scott, and two little grand-daughters.