AFRH-W Highlight – Lawrence Cleaver
By Christine Baldwin | Librarian
Lawrence Cleaver was born in California, “on the shores of the Salton Sea.” He had one older sister. The town was so small, it only had one gas station and one doctor’s office. His dad worked for the state, so the family moved around. They first went to Baker (near Las Vegas, Nevada). This was during the 1940s and they didn’t have any electricity. So his father built a wooden frame and hung wet gunny sacks to keep milk and other things cool. The family later moved to San Bernardino, where his mother drove the base bus. Since Norton Air Force Base is located there, Lawrence had no problem in picking a career and service.
Lawrence did his basic training at Amarillo AFB, Texas and stayed for Air Force Mechanics Technical School. He loves telling everyone that “for 21 years in the Air Force, all I ever did was pass gas! That is I helped with the air refueling of four-engine jets.” Lawrence’s job was as the crew chief, ensuring the maintenance of the aircraft during missions away from the home base.
During the Vietnam War, Lawrence was on three flights with General William Westmoreland to take him from Vietnam to Andrews AFB, Maryland. The general made a deal with Lawrence that if he gave up his bunk on the journey, Lawrence could drive the staff car. In each case Lawrence did indeed get to do this!
Lawrence retired in 1980 and moved to Oregon. His father had built a cabin in the woods and Lawrence enjoyed living there for several years. He then moved back to California and worked as a contract employee at an aircraft factory. His sister lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia and told Lawrence about the Home. He originally came here in 1990 and enjoys playing bingo, going on trips to concerts and telling everyone his stories.