Published: February 1, 2011
Clifford E. Schaefer, co-founder of Flying Cranes Antiques, Ltd, known for rare Meiji art, died Thursday, January 20, 2011 at Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. Always optimistic and courageous, Cliff had survived nine surgeries through the years. This last one was impossible for survival, but one he underwent with his usual display of courage and hope.
After graduating from Ohio State University in the 1950s, Cliff joined the Marines like his father before him. Initially a lieutenant, he became an intelligence officer soon after, serving in Alexandria, and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. After a few years, following his stint in the Marines, he opened a busy office-machine business in Manhattan, his clients among the largest corporations in the city. During this time, he studied law during the evenings at Brooklyn Law and exhausted, often missed his stop on the train during his late ride home.
In the 1970s, when he and his wife, Jean, decided that country air would be a desired reprieve from the pace of city life, they rented a small cottage near Litchfield, Conn. To furnish their new retreat, the country auction became a Saturday night ritual. Soon, all things Japanese became a specific lure and the country auction expanded to venues nationally and finally abroad.
Collecting became a passion, the first interests being Japanese Hiradoware and cloisonné. Cliff’s passion became an obsession and led eventually to the establishment of Flying Cranes Antiques. He and his wife opened their first gallery at The Manhattan Art & Antiques Center in New York City in 1985, followed by additional galleries in the same venue. It did not take long for discriminating collectors, museums and royalty to become regular guests at the galleries.
The obsession became total joy and encouraged the couple to travel and eventually to spend weekends at their new compound on a pristine lake in the mountains. Soon, Japanese landscaping, replete with koi pond, waterfall, rare shrubs, trees and rocks became the weekend focus, providing much pleasure from living among this Japanese-like extension of their life’s work.
A highly regarded London-based Meiji art colleague described Cliff as, “An immense character in the Japanese world and a wonderful promoter of the subject we both hold dear. His enthusiasm was entirely natural, as was his eye for the finest pieces in our field.”
Cliff will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind and generous man †a devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and the warmest friend. He had a lust for living, which he relished and lived to the fullest. So great was his zeal for collecting that during his last stay in hospital, an agent brought an item for him to see (before going to surgery) and his daughter photographed him handling the piece, which, with excitement, he purchased right then and there.
He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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