“He was a friendly country lad,” described Allen Ardell, who was one of the close to 200 guests that arrived for a 90th birthday celebration for Cliff Newman last Saturday at Owego’s Moose Lodge. Ardell and Newman grew up and went to school together, both graduating with the class of 1947.
And although the two didn’t hang around too much in their younger years, with Newman growing up on a farm and Ardell in the suburbs, they are good friends today.
Ray Jackson of Campville, who was also at last Saturday’s celebration, referred to Newman as “an auctioneer at heart.” The two have been friends since the 1940s.
And at 90 years of age, with his actual birthday on April 3, 1928, Newman has slowed down a bit, but still brings great energy with him when he enters a room. His smile is infectious, and his desire to help people is commendable.
Cliff Newman originally grew up in Candor on Newman Road, a road named after his family. According to Newman, his ancestors cleared the 330-acre farm that was once occupied by Indians.
The son of Glenn and Maude Newman, his family was large, with four brothers and four sisters, along with Cliff, in the family’s household.
Today, Newman has one sister remaining and two brothers, including one that lives in California.
His surviving sister, Eleanor, who will turn 94 in August, attended last Saturday’s celebration along with Cliff’s younger brother Karl, who is 83. His other brother, Gerald, was unable to attend.
Newman reminisced last week a bit, telling the story of his younger sister, Glenna Lea, and of how she died of a burst appendix when she was seven years old. Medical treatment was different back then.
“Our regular doctor was out of town,” Newman explained, “and another doctor recommended a laxative. It did her in.”
But life was different in those days, with Cliff’s attendance at a one-room schoolhouse indicative of that. According to Cliff, there were eight grades in the schoolhouse located on Fairfield Road.
The schoolhouse, however, burned down in 1941, leaving nothing but ashes behind.
“If you were in the first grade, you were getting an eighth grade education too,” added Newman.
But then, in 1946, Newman enlisted in the Army. He was 18 years old. He spent ten months in training, and an additional eight months in Italy where he was a baker for an Army hospital.
Reminiscing some more, Newman said he spent Christmas on a ship. “It took us two weeks to get there,” said Newman.
In 1945, Newman’s family moved off the farm. His father, at that time, worked in Owego at Checkerboard Feed Store, which was located, at one time, on McMaster Street.
In 1969, Newman began an auction business in Nichols, N.Y. All of the auctions, he noted, were done on location at the estate or sale.
In 1977, Newman booked an auction with Boswell, a company that sold tools throughout 28 states. In 1979, they sold Newman a truck and told him he was on his own. He traveled and sold tools out of the truck for about eight years.
“I got around,” said Newman.
After moving to Florida for three years in 1984, Newman returned and picked up his business again, and then he soon settled in Newark Valley with his lifelong friend, Doris.
As a personal experience, in early 2008, and following the death of my brother from cancer, I met Cliff Newman for the first time and he told me what he did for a living.
When I told Newman about my brother’s death, and of his home, business and construction company, he wasted no time.
Newman offered to help dissolve the estate, and did so until every last screw, nail, tool, and piece of equipment was sold.
Newman provided these services from his heart, and drove back and forth to Rochester, where my brother’s company was located, and never even asked for gas money.
My mother, who was grief stricken over my brother’s death, believed that Newman was an angel that came to help us along.
And although my mother passed away in 2015, she continued to speak of Newman, and even wrote him a letter. Today, Newman still talks about the letter. His kindness touched our hearts.
And each time we thanked Newman for the assistance he gave to my family following my brother’s death, he stated, “That’s an auctioneer’s job.”
Five years ago, and at the age of 85, Newman ended his auction business.
As for reaching the age of 90, Newman stressed remaining active as being key to longevity.
Newman began milking cows at the age of eight, and even worked in the construction trade for ten years; this, combined with his military service and his active participation in the local VFW in Owego, where Newman served on the Honor Guard and on the Ritual Team for 54 years.
Newman, however, retired from his active participation with the VFW two years ago, stating, “I let the younger ones take over.”
And things are different today from when Newman was growing up.
“When I was 22, a gallon of milk was $.23, gas was $.16 a gallon, and bread was $.29 a loaf,” exclaimed Newman.
But now, and as a surviving World War II veteran, Newman is taking things easy.
Lawrence Osorio, commander of the VFW in Owego, described Newman as amazing.
“I haven’t known him very long,” said Osorio, who is relatively new to the area.
He added, “I have had opportunities to serve at funerals with Newman and on the Ritual Team. It is a great milestone that we still have him around.”
According to Jim Raftis, Sr., there are 4,623 veterans in Tioga County, but the number that are World War II veterans that are surviving is unknown because of records that were lost in the flood. However, we know there are fewer numbers each year – with Cliff Newman, at 90 years young, being one of the surviving few.
On behalf of the community, Cliff Newman, we salute you.