Clyde Vetter

Feb 4, 1921- Jan 16, 2010

My father


Craig Vetter

For my brother, Bruce

and my sister, Arlene

For his grandchildren, his great grandchildren and for his friends who knew him as "Sarge"
Clyde Vetter was born in a taxicab in Chicago.  His eyes were severely crossed at birth.  His older brother, Leroy, was killed as they played on a moving garbage truck in 1924.  In 1930, his mom Lillian, fell, broke her back and was paralyzed, lingering until 1932.   Clyde was sent to live with relatives in the country.  In short, our father did not have a happy childhood.  But it did build into him a powerful sense of self - sufficiency.

Back in Chicago, Clyde met his wife-to-be, our mom, Doris in 1935. Clyde would ride Doris on the handlebars of his bicycle. Clyde liked bicycles, motor scooters and dogs. He was a great athlete and loved to play baseball in the road with big 16” softballs. He was a noisy kid.

“You could always hear him yelling” our mom said.  She said they called him ”Potlicker” because he liked to lick out the cake pots. But our mom called him "Bud." Funny... I never asked why. Now it is too late.

As they got older, Clyde and Doris would drive to Lake Geneva and skate on the frozen lake.

Doris never made it to 5 feet. Clyde was over a foot taller. But were meant for each other.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 1939

In 1940 Clyde signed up for the Army Air Corps at Chanute, in downstate Rantoul.  When he was transferred to Craig Field in Selma, Alabama, Doris took the train down and they get married. In July of 1942, their first son, Craig was born.

After training, Clyde was assigned to the 492 Bomb Group as crew Chief of B-24 44-40066.  Arriving in England in April, 1944, he was notified that he now had a second son, Bruce.

Like many of the "Greatest Generation" Clyde did not talk much about the war.  He did tell us stories about painting big white stripes on wings the day before D-Day. We also know he helped deliver fuel to Patton and dropped propaganda leaflets over Germany.

Arriving home without a scratch in Sept, 1945, Clyde and Doris ordered a "Streamlite" trailer to be made for them at the Chicago plant.  They towed it to Rantoul where many, because of the post war housing shortages, were living in railroad cars and packing crates.   The trailer was small, but it was theirs.  It satisfied his need for self-sufficiency.  Eventually, they got military housing at Chapman Courts where, in 1949, Arlene was born.  As we children grew up, we each got Schwinn bicycles for our birthdays.

Over the next few years, the Air Force sent us to Biloxi, Greenville, Tampa and Riverside but always back to Rantoul.  Clyde had surgery to fix his eyes.  It seemed to fill him with confidence and industry that would change his family's destiny.  From then on, he was always busy with some project.
My father had a "nose for good deals."  In 1953, he heard about some 1880s one-room schoolhouses that were being auctioned off near Fisher, Illinois.   He bought one for $500 and for the next four years, the family converted the Gulick School into our home. 

Now in his mid 30s, Clyde was on a roll. 

In 1955, he bought and we completely dismantled an 1870's mansion for its wood and roofing shingles. There was so much wood left over that we had to build a storage barn to hold it all. It turned out that this was only the first of many piles of wood that Clyde would leave in his wake as he moved on through life. 

Clyde was a big man: 6-2 and 220 pounds.  He was very strong and did all the work himself.  There was no money. There were no contractors... just us and a lot of work.  That is my dad, trowling the concrete. Where did he learn that? Behind us (left picture) is the wood storage barn plus a mountainous pile of tarp-covered wood from that old house.  The pic on the right shows how we used that old wood to make our garage. Bruce revisited the place in 2009 and reported that the piles of unused wood were still there, 53 years later.

Our converted schoolhouse home in 1957

 In 1956, Clyde found a 1940 Taylorcraft airplane that needed recovering and bought it for $300.  We learned to fly in it, parking it a mile away at a grass field.  Over the winter of 1956-7, we rebuilt it.  

How did he know how to do all these things?

Alaskan homesite, 1960

In 1957, he was transferred to Elmendorf, AFB, Anchorage, Alaska where he heard about some 5 acre "Home-sites" that had not been proven up on.  All we had to do was dig a well, build a house and it would be ours.  So that is what we did.  Of course, it was surrounded by piles of unused wood covered under tarps. He sold it that way.

Clyde's bicycle shop in Rantoul, Illinois, 1965

In 1960, Clyde and Doris were back in Rantoul, retired from the Air Force.  Now in his early 40s and still vigorous, Clyde soon discovered that he could be the Schwinn dealer in Rantoul.  He bought the corner property at the intersection of 136 and Grove and turned it into Rantoul's Schwinn bicycle dealership.  Clyde enjoyed taking young boys under his wing, teaching them what he knew.

In 1971, Clyde and Doris moved to Naples, Florida, where he once again built another dream house in the country.   He also helped Arlene and her new family build a home on adjacent property.  Life slowed down just a little as Clyde and his dog, Scudder enjoyed Arlene’s children.

But in 1988, Doris was diagnosed with cancer.  She died in 1993.  Clyde was understandably lost for a while... moving here and there.   When we went to help him move, we discovered stacks of wood, some under 5 layers of tarps. Those piles just made him happy.  Eventually he found a home on a cul de sac in Sierra Vista, Arizona where he lived with his dog Scudder.  All his dogs were called Scudder.

Flea markets made Clyde happy too, and Sierra Vista had a good one.  But now in his 80s, his knees were giving out and he was having trouble walking.  He had trouble driving, too and lost his driver's license.  By the late 2000s, Clyde was spending most of his time in front of his TV. 

 Self sufficient to the end, Clyde passed away with no warning, in his own bed at his own home.

Way to go, Daddy.

I am sure it would please him to have his cremated remains placed under a pile of wood, under a tarp.

If you have stories about my dad that you would like to share, send them to me and I will add them to this web page. Craig

Contact me

Your responses have begun:

As Craig and Bruce's younger sister and the only daughter, my Dad held a special place in my heart. There are so many things I could say, he was a wonderful father while I was growing up and a wonderful grandpa to my children. I remember while growing up, every Sunday morning we would all jump in bed and wrestle with my dad. We played baseball and kick the can on weekends. We all loved it ! As an adult with 2 children, my family lived on adjacent acreage and he would pick up Lucas and Jessica from the school bus on his tractor and sometimes dropped them in the pool (which they loved by the way). When my kids didn't like what we were having for supper, they would wander over to Grandma and Grandpa's house and ask what they were having and of course getting an invite ! He also kept a freezer full of candy - he loved his sweets !! He was quite a character and for those who knew him, he was never concerned about political correctness (thank God). He touched many people's lives and made a difference in many young people's lives, helping them grow into productive adults.
I loved my Daddy very much and I will truly miss him.

Arlene Vetter Hallman

Craig, I am sorry to hear about your Dad. I remember him all the way back to the old Schwinn days and he always treated me very well. You have written a very nice story and it is obvious he lived a good life.

You and your family have my sympathy.

Tim Mayer, Rantoul, Illinois

Dear Craig, My very sincere condolences for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing your father's history with me. It was very special. I'm sorry now that I didn't know your dad, but reading about him helped me to understand how you came to be who you are.

Bill Robinson, Riding into History, Florida

Craig: Sorry to hear about Clyde. Very nice tribute, I bought two bikes from your dad.

Take care. Larry Coolidge - ex Vetter employee

I would like to add a few memories of Sarge... Jim Harding's letter
My heartfelt sentiments go with you upon the loss of your father. I will always remember the cheerfulness as Bud went about with his day-to-day work and helping others. Thank you for sharing this brief but meaningful glimpse of the long enduring worth to self-sustain and provide for his family all along the way. Farewell, dear Bud. May his memory live on and continue to
bring you courage, strength, and faith. Rene
Dear Craig,
I want to thank you for the beautiful pictures and a walk through memory lane seeing your parents through the years. The Holy Spirit must have helped you to write this as it was truth and love. I for one liked your Dad very much. There was something about him that made you know there was a story behind what you could see and hear. He was very smart and no matter the subject had an opinion I enjoyed listening to. I’m sorry for his passing. The thought came to me of all the prayers, the hours you spent and others witnessing to him, and then the words, “My word won’t return void but accomplishes what its sent to do.”
Blessings on all of you in Jesus name. You have blessed both your fathers, and all who see and read this. Well done..
In Christ’s love,
Mindy Haile
Your Dad certainly had a full life filled with so many experiences. The article that you prepared about your Dad is great. I remember you mother too.

Don Korkowski - Rantoul friend

Craig and Carol, We're sorry to hear about Clyde. Clyde and I had a lot of fun together, He was OK. Henry Tate
The followng letter is from Dick Harding. His father was killed in 1950 when his F-82 Twin Mustang iced up in Korea. The Harding boys, Dick and Jim, became a part of the Vetter family.

It seems like we always spent a lot of time with you all out at the old school house. We played kick the can, spent nights up in the tree house and watched you all work on your projects out in the book shed. We inspected the fall out shelter and watched you all pack for your trip to Alaska. I remember the old house that you all tore down. Mom would never have let any of us fly, but I remember going out and seeing the plane.

After you all moved to Alaska, I remember telling my mom that I could help her drive so that we could go up and visit you all. Of course I was probably only 12 at the time! I wonder why she turned down that idea!! But I never forgot the idea of going to Alaska. In fact my wife and I flew up there and got married in Anchorage in 1993. Ultimately in 1995 we moved there when I took a job at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I owe that adventure to your dad for supporting the adventuresome spirit you all enjoy. Some of that spirit rubbed off on me. The end of May we will be heading back to Alaska in our Motor home.

I will miss "Bud". I can truthfully say that he was one of the significant influences on my life. He was like a second Dad. I will miss him.
Dick Harding
Battleboro, NC and formerly, Rantoul.

Thank you for letting me know. My entire childhood is filled with memories of your grandpa and grandma. I am glad you got a chance to know him later in his life. And, of course, your grandma was one of my favorite people in the world. Read Charlene's letter

Much love,


Craig: Thanks for sharing the story of your father. It touched me. For what it’s worth your father made a wonderful contribution to this world that you overlooked – his two sons! Perhaps his daughter too, but I have not met her so I can’t say.
Be well and enjoy life when you can. Best wishes,

Buzz Kanter
Dear Craig and Carol,
Craig, I now have a greater appreciation of why you are the person you are........creative, hard working, self sufficient, and filled with a sense of adventure. My Dad is from the same era and I almost feel as though I know Clyde because they share many of the same traits. Thank you so much for sharing Clyde and Doris's story with us all.

God Bless you as you grieve and I'm sorry for your loss,

Norm Nelson
Many condolences on the loss of your father, Craig. I wish I could have met him. He must have been a very talented and inspiring individual. I see now where you get your "jump in and do it" spirit.
Again, our prayers and thoughts are with you and your fanily in ths time of loss.

Warmest regards,

Terri and Alan Singer Jacksonville, FL.
You know, it struck me that your work on your website is a piece of history. It's important
for your posterity to have this.

Good work. Ken Cooley
Craig: You did a marvelous job of telling of your father's life with all the pictures to add meaning to your father's life. It is obvious that your father lived a full and adventurous life.

May God comfort you and Carol and Zak and Morgan at this time.

God's Blessings Joe Glass

Craig: What a sweet obituary, it made me cry. I would like to try and get a picture from my mom to add that represents Grandpa as I knew him and I assume the other grandchildren would remember him the same way. I remember Grandpa naming almost all of his dogs Scudder except for the one that he had for the majority of the time that I was a child. That dog was Arkie. Grandpa used to fix my bike, take me for tractor rides, have me scratch his head, taught me how to "shoot quarters to the crack" and so much more. He will be missed. He was the best Grandpa. Jessica - Grand daughter
So sorry to hear about the passing of your Father. Your tribute is fascinating. Looks like he provided a good, fun environment for the Family and the kids got to see the World. You should be very proud. Great Man, great story. How many kids could ever say their Dad was a Schwinn dealer. We now have a better understanding of where all your talent comes from.
Larry Meeker
2010 Riding Into History Chairman
Jacksonville, FL
Dear Craig, I think your dad and mine would have been great pals. What a wonderful story, it really took me back home for a while, thanks! Now I understand you better. Your father was a blessing to his family just as you and Carol have been a blessing to ours.

In His love,

Jackie and Billy Aldrich, Founder
Riding Into History
Well, he had a good run at 89 years, same as my dad. I worked with Sarge on the Building #1 upstairs the summer of 1973 I think...we worked pretty good together and when he was satisfied with the progress he'd say to me "Come on Charly --I'll buy you a pop". the time we got down to the Pepsi machine it became "I'll flip ya for it" I am smiling as I write this....
Charly Perethian
Donna Bohner Pearson writes: This is an awesome tribute to your father that deeply touched my heart. Donna's letter
On Apr 20, 2012, Patrick Moretti wrote:


I grew up across the street from your Dad’s bike shop. Lived in Chapman Courts, (Rantoul, IL) also remember a Laundromat and Ernie’s Grocery. My brother was slightly injured crossing Grove to go to Ernie’s. Got hit my a VW bug of all things. Any bigger I am sure he would have been gone. Great tribute to your dad. Thanks for sharing!

Thank you, Pat. Before it was Ernies, it was called Court Grocery store. My dad would bet that his Coke bottle's date of manufacture would be farther away than yours. Farthest away won. Closest bought.

My Dad was a character, wasn't he?


This page posted Jan 17, 2010

Updatd Aug 13, 2012