COOPERSTOWN – Carl Frank Bliss passed away peacefully in his home in Encinada, Calif., with loved ones by his side, on Dec. 10, 2018. He left the world a better place than he found it 98 years earlier, dedicating his long life to service to his family, community and country.
Carl will be remembered for his deep love for the people in his life, his practicality, his entrepreneurial spirit, his mechanical inclinations and for his steadfast personal authenticity more beautiful than any sunset he ever witnessed from the cockpit of his plane. His legacy will forever inspire everyone who knew him best to emulate and hold dear the myriad of virtues he practiced every day.
Born on the family farm outside Cooperstown on Nov. 3, 1920, (or as his favorite hat said, “Born in the USA a long, long time ago”), to Claude and Anastasia (Cramer) Bliss, Carl was a brother to Claud E. Bliss Jr., Clyde G. Bliss, and Ann C. “Sis” Grover.
In his early years, he learned the values of hard work and good humor, delighting his beloved younger sister with motorcycle rides around their property to speed up (and add amusement to) their long list of farm chores.
He was a graduate of Cooperstown High School, class of 1937. Growing up with more work than wealth, Carl developed a set of do-it-yourself skills that would last him a lifetime.
He took those skills with him to the Army Air Corps, where he received formal training as an aviation mechanic in Tonopah, Nev. From there, Carl served his country as a crew chief, seeing combat in the Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace and Rhineland campaigns of the World War II European Theater.
During his tenure as a soldier, Carl earned many decorations and citations, including three Bronze Stars and the Air Medal, both of which recognize heroic and meritorious achievements. He was discharged in October 1945 with the rank of sergeant.
Shortly after returning home from war, Carl traveled the country by motorcycle and suffered a serious accident that left him bedridden for months and without proper movement of his right leg for the rest of his life.
However, having never learned to complain, Carl faced his fate by starting a small-appliance repair business that he operated from his bed; after all, his hands still worked. The bill-heads on which he invoiced his customers read, “Please let me know if my work doesn’t satisfy. Let others know if it does.”
Carl modified his own vehicle to accommodate his injured leg so that he could begin work as a rural mail carrier for the Postal Service in Otsego County in 1948.
His love of the American West, which he had first visited on two wheels, led to a job in Ontario, Calif., and his permanent relocation from Upstate New York in 1956.
After 25 years of federal civil service, his life as an entrepreneur was born.
Carl owned and operated the small airport in Sedona, Ariz., until he retired in the early 1980s. Still standing at the facility is an historic monument recognizing Carl as a local pioneer of flight.
In addition to providing ground services, he piloted many tours of the scenic desert landscapes throughout Arizona and Nevada, including proudly flying for a National Geographic aerial photographer. To this day, Carl’s home is full of evidence of transactions between bartering would-be tourists looking for a deal, and a man with a plane looking for an excuse to fly.
During his retirement, Carl rented and maintained airplane hangars in small airports in the southwest. He and his life partner, Dolores, traveled the world together. He maintained a special and close relationship with his only child, his son, Kim, until his untimely death in 2013. He humbly shared his values of frugality, clean living, self-reliance and adventure with everyone who he loved.
Although he never spoke of his regrets, he framed some lessons as “if I could do it all again…” If Carl could have done it again, he said he would have lived for six months in each of the 50 states; his love of his country was unwavering and extended well beyond his military and civil service.
Always more of a doer than a talker, Carl’s tinkering evolved with the times, from prohibition-era home appliances to the silicon chips of the new millennium. At the age of 80, in his driveway, Carl crawled under his visiting great-nephew’s car and patiently taught him how to change oil. The following day, he asked that same nephew for a lesson in how to upgrade his computer’s memory. Carl was a man of balance who continually sought knowledge while modestly and openly sharing that which he already had with those who, like him, wished to be life-long learners.
Carl was predeceased by his parents; his siblings; his wife, Mary Lee (Miller); his son, Kim F.; his niece, Sandra; his nephews Michael and James Grover; and his loving partner and companion of 30 years, Dolores Reed.
He is survived by his sister-in-law, Josephine Bliss of Cooperstown; nieces and nephews Constance of Cooperstown, Timothy (Janet) of Fredericksburg, Va., Patricia of Cooperstown, Joanne (Richard) Reynolds of Rising Fawn, Ga., Amy of Cooperstown, David (Kim) of Cooperstown, and Laura (William) Bliss-Lamb of Cooperstown,Terrance (Theresa) of Cooperstown, Daniel (Nancy) of Oneonta, and Susan of Burlington; and, Stacy Grover-Simonds of the Town of Maryland, and Carla of Fly Creek. Also mourning his death are many great-nieces and great-nephews, neighbors and close friends Katrina and Jim Tankersley, Kathy Davis of Lake Arrowhead, Calif., whom Carl fondly considered his step-daughter, and countless others.
Carl had a fine sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye, even to the end. His final days on Earth were filled not with fear of death nor of the unknown, but rather with the confident anticipation of what the life thereafter would hold for a man who had lived such a wholesome, unassuming life of service to others. Carl was a proud New Yorker and a proud Westerner. He will be missed.
Carl’s remains will be cremated and interred at the Miramar National Cemetery, located on the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, near his son, Kim, who was also a veteran. As per Carl’s wishes, a portion of his remains will also be returned to New York for burial on the family farm outside Cooperstown. No formal services or calling hours will be held.