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Updated: January 4, 2023 @ 2:35 am
Frank Buffum always had a 1000 watt smile and ADVENTURESOME is a word that describes the way he lived his life. Perhaps adventuresome genes were in his DNA. In the late 1840s, his Great-Grandfather took a steamer ship from Maine to Panama, crossed the Isthmus, took a second ship to San Francisco, then went into the gold fields. He found that having a store and selling items the miners needed earned more money than panning gold.
Frank was born on the Mississippi River in Louisiana, Missouri, January 27, 1935. He attended Chicago Latin School, Cranbrook School for Boys, and Woodstock Country School in Woodstock, Vermont, the love of his life. Girls wore blue jeans. They propped their feet up, smoked and said, “Hi”. This was the school for me!
He joined the Army with a 3-year tour being promoted to corporal. His officers told him that they did not want to promote him anymore because if they did he would never leave. They told him to use his GI Bill and go to college.
Frank earned: a BS degree in Engineering Physics: a MS Degree in Mechanical Engineering: and Master of Public Administration. He was a research physicist at the Naval Ordnance Test Station. He worked on rocket motors, and Saturn V motors. His laser interferometer picture was the cover photo on Astronautics and Aeronautics. Later as a warfare analyst, his studies were responsible for the procurement of the Osprey tilt rotor aircraft; the Marien’s Cobra helicopter; the Harrier jump-jet and the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile. A near-blind young Junior Professional under Frank’s guidance investigated a local plane crash which led to the Navy’s analysis work on stealth and counter-stealth systems. Frank was the project leader for the development and use of mathematical computer models to optimize US aircraft weapon loads under different conditions. Frank received the Navy Superior Achievement Award 6 times, the Director of Navy Commendation, the NWC Michelson Lab Award, and the Meritorious Civil Service Award. He received a patent for rocket motor test facility. While working for the Navy, Frank was told to be on a deserted beach in San Diego before sunrise.
Out of the dark mist a black raft with seals paddling approached him, told him to get in and paddled him off somewhere. In Vietnam, he went out on missions in the jungles with live ammunition being fired. In Korea, he flew in night flights over the Yellow Sea. Frank was a Mentor for the NOTS-NWC high school student’s work- experience program for 8 years.
The first year Frank and Debby were married they barely lived off Debby’s salary while saving Frank’s. They went to Europe for four months, buying a square back VW, driving all over the Continent. Frank ran 3 Marathons: the LA twice and the Big Sur once. He did several triathlons (swim 1/2 mile, bike 25, run 6). Frank was a member of the National Ski Patrol for 20 years. He was a member of the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group for 37 years.
Frank fells in love with hiking and mountain climbing when he attended a summer session at the University of Colorado. He is Highpointer #133 having climbed the highest point in all 50 states (Denali or Mt. McKinley, Alaska – 20, 310 feet). He climbed Kilimanjaro – 19, 342 feet, in Kenya, at age 72. He and his wife, Debby, hiked: across the Grand Canyon; the Routeburn and Tongariro trails in New Zealand; on the Kungsleden Trail in Sweden; the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii; the Tour de Mont Blanc, in France, Italy and Switzerland; the Tasmanian Overland Tract, Australia; and the Samaria Gorge on Crete. Frank has climbed the highest mountains in Europe, Africa, Japan (Mt. Fuji), Mexico (Orizaba, Popoctepl, and Ixtaccihautl), Greece (Mt. Olympus), Australia (Mt. Kosciusko). They have visited all 14 National Sea Shores and Lake Shores and all 63 US National Parks (You must experience the park in some way) – like what is the fastest way up a hillside in deep snow in Yellowstone – have hot bison breath on your backside)). They did hikes in all 14 States on the Appalachian Trail. Frank traveled to 109 countries. They hiked and kayaked in Antarctica with Frank doing a “polar plunge” in the Ocean. They ship motored through the Panama Canal. They did a Lewis and Clark car trip along the Missouri River in Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, South and North Dakota, Montana, then over to the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, canoeing 4 days on the Missouri River.
Frank was a Boy Scout leader for 15 years, supporting and guiding 22 boys who became Eagles in Don Winter’s troop 848. Frank and Bob Dinger brainstormed for adventures for the scouts – mountaineer’s route up Mt. Whitney; hiking and camping along the Lost Coast in California; being the crew on a twin masted square rigger in the Channel Islands; hiking across the Grand Canyon; canoeing on the Green River in Utah; hike and climb up Angels Landing (a 1488 rock formation n Zion NP, Utah) that is even challenging to expert climbers; rappelling and hiking the Zion’s Narrows; snow shoeing, building snow igloos then sleeping in them. Frank worked on homes with Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia and here in Ridgecrest. Frank and Debby worked 2 1/2 months with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity sisters in an orphanage in Chennai, India. They took handwritten letters from the sisters, a cake and a large jar of special pickles to Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Frank worked as a physician assistant on medical missions in Honduras and in Haiti after the earthquake. Frank and Debby were American Field Service host families for Zohra from Afghanistan and Minka from Germany.
Upon retirement, Frank said it took 20 minutes to prune and cut the roses. At age 62, he was accepted as a physician assistant student at Alderson Broaddus College in Philippi, West Virginia. He researched then applied being selected as a National Health Service Corp recipient, paying his tuition, books, etc. for 2 years. At Alderson-Broaddus, he received the Junior then Senior of the Year Awards, the Charles Arnett Award for Clinical Excellence, and the Most Studious Award. He graduated at age 65 with a BS Medical Science degree. He began working for 4 years in a clinic in Appalachia in West Virginia which served the underserved. Returning to Ridgecrest he worked in pediatrics with Dr. Schauff, in the Emergency Room at the Ridgecrest Hospital, the Rural Health and the Omni Health clinics, retiring at age 81. He was meticulous about sutures on faces – very small, no scar. Frank created a computer program with 9000+ medical information cards that are copy written at the Library of Congress. He always gave his patients a paper that told them their diagnosis, tests done, and treatment plan. Frank developed computer models for optimizing: 1. Community Health Care, 2. Emergency Room Flow, and 3. Search Plan Strategy for finding lost person and aircraft.
Frank is a cradle-born Episcopalian now transitioned to Anglican. At a young age he became a church acolyte. He was a Lay Reader and taught Sunday school. Frank died December 5th with his wife and daughter by his side. He is survived by his wife, Debby. They have 3 children: Eric Buffum, died in 1979; Lisa Buffum and Mark Buffum (Mia). They have 3 granddaughters: Amanda Diaz Akam (Darin), Hayden Buffum and Makayla Buffum (twins); 2 Great Grandchildren: Memphis Akam and Olivia Akam. Frank will be buried in Desert Memorial Park Cemetery in Ridgecrest, CA.
His Christ the King Anglican funeral service will be Saturday, Jan 14th, at Immanuel Baptist church at 11 AM (201 W Graaf Avenue). Burial will follow with a reception in the gym next to the church. Charitable donations may be made to Christ the King Anglican Church, Ridgecrest, CA.
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