LAND O'LAKES — Over one career with the Navy and another with the U.S. Merchant Marine, Clifford Liferidge sailed into danger and long stretches of isolation from his family. His Navy ship had floated through unsettling ambiguity at the start of the first Persian Gulf War. Fifteen years later, one of his Merchant Marine ships, the USS Mount Whitney, supplied intelligence during the second Gulf War in Iraq.
Mr. Liferidge was an award-winning chef and food service supervisor in both the Navy and Military Sealift Command, which deploys and sustains U.S. forces. The seagoing life had provided a good living for his family, and he grew accustomed to its uncertainties.
On leave, he walked in short wide steps around his Land O'Lakes home, as if expecting the room to sway. He planned to retire and take his wife, Kimberly, to some of his favorite ports around the world.
Mr. Liferidge, who served in the Navy from 1984 to 2004, died May 8 of cardiac amyloidosis, a rare blood disease, his family said. He was 47.
In February 1991, days of jittery anticipation in the Persian Gulf, he was aboard the USS Richmond K. Turner, a destroyer protecting four carriers in mine-infested waters.
"Feels like peace, normal times," Mr. Liferidge, then a petty officer third class, told the Associated Press then. When crewmen took a break from anxiously scanning the horizon, he whetted their palates with barbecued chicken from a recipe he had learned from his mother in South Carolina.
He frequently wrote Kimberly, telling her not to worry.
Clifford Dywaine Liferidge Sr. was born in Moncks Corner, S.C., in 1965, the fourth of five sons of a corrections officer and a teacher. He grew up in Brooklyn, and joined the Navy at 18 after graduating from high school.
He maintained a neat appearance even in casual attire, favoring dress shorts and sandals, fedoras with brims or kangol hats.
He met his future wife in 1988, at a fraternity party neither had wanted to attend, said Kimberly Liferidge, 45. They married two years later.
Though he said the military was "just a job," it was a job he never stopped thinking about. He made mental notes when they ate out, determining to replicate any ingredients he liked. Before going to sea again, he cooked dozens of meals for his wife, and left them in the freezer with instructions.
Deployments moved Mr. Liferidge and his family from New York to South Carolina, then Cuba. He worked the brig at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and became a Boy Scout leader.
By his retirement in 2004, the Navy had honored Mr. Liferidge with several decorations, including the Kuwait Liberation Medal, the Combat Action Medal and as a sailor of the year.
Though he had planned to stay close to home, work as a security guard proved unsatisfying. "He said, 'I don't do this, I'm not using my brain,'" his wife said.
Mr. Liferidge joined the Military Sealift Command, and kept his ships with a rich and ever-changing menu that included plenty of steak and lobster.
As chief steward aboard the USNS Sacagawea in 2010, Mr. Liferidge and a supply officer accepted the Captain David M. Cook Food Service Award for the ship, representing all large ships based on the East coast.
While at sea, he got a tattoo that read, "Always In My Heart Kimberly."
For a while, his growing fatigue in recent months puzzled doctors. Then a physician at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital zeroed in on cardiac amyloidosis, in which abnormal protein deposits hinder the heart's ability to function. He was taken in April to Methodist Hospital in Houston for treatment. Even after his heart stopped several times, Mr. Liferidge assured his wife that he would recover.
"He said he was strong and that he was going to live for me and the kids," his wife said.
One day when she is ready, she will find some of the foreign ports they had planned to visit together.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.