Richard Chaffee, 82, La Crosse, Wis.

Published 10:16 am Thursday, October 25, 2012

Richard “Dick” Chaffee, 82, of La Crosse, Wis., died unexpectedly on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.

Richard Chaffee

Dick was born Dec. 17, 1929, in Austin, Minn., the son of Ellen (Lien) and John Chaffee. Dick graduated from Austin High School in 1948. He attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, for two years and then joined the U.S. Navy where he eventually became a member of the West Coast Navy Dance Band. After his discharge, he continued his musical endeavors, playing with such bands as the Bill May Band, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Ralph Marterie and the Dorsey Brothers’ Band. He returned to Austin, and married Elaine Zimmerman in 1957. They had two daughters, Suzanne and Nancy, while living there. In 1964, they moved to Decorah and purchased Nob Hill Supper Club, where Dick was able to continue his love of entertaining whether on the stage with his bands or serving his customers. After they sold Nob Hill in 1976, Dick and Elaine eventually moved to La Crosse in 1979, where they returned to the restaurant business, running the Pettibone Boat Club for several seasons. Dick continued his involvement with various bands. Following Elaine’s death in 1991, he continued playing trumpet in various bands including his Stardust Big Band, Al Townsend’s Wonderful World of Jazz and the Grumpy Old Men, as well as several reunion concerts of the Navy Band. In 1995, he married Jane Lee Rohrer.

Dick is survived by his wife, Jane; two daughters, Suzanne (Jack) Swanson of Menasha, Wis., and Nancy Chaffee of Durham, N.C.; three grandchildren, Katie Swanson of Minneapolis, Kurt Swanson of Iowa City, Iowa, and Kari Swanson of Northfield, Minn.; a brother, Robert (Julie) Chaffee of Missoula, Mont.; sisters-in law Sally (Bill) White, Susan (Larry) Gant, Mary (Dennis) Sink; and brother-in-law Scott (Judy) Lee.

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He was preceded in death by his parents and his first wife, Elaine.

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 29 at North Presbyterian Church, 1327 N Salem Road in La Crosse. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to the time of service. Burial will take place in Austin at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to North Presbyterian Church or the charity of your choice. Information and online condolences may be given to the family at