Amos L. Chalif, COL. USAF (Ret. Reserve), of Frenchtown NJ, formerly of Brookside and Chatham, passed away on Friday, November 2, 2012 at the age of 94.
The son of Louis H. Chalif, “the dean of New York dance teachers” (Dance Magazine) and the first Russian ballet master to come to the United States, Amos was born and raised on the fourth floor of his father’s five story Chalif Normal School of Dance across from Carnegie Hall on West 57th St. in Manhattan, now a designated landmark by the NYC Landmark Commission.
Continuing the tradition of his family, Amos taught dancing in New York and at his own studios in Chatham and the Barn Studio in Bernardsville, NJ. At the time of his retirement, Amos had completed 100 years of teaching in the United States by the Chalif family.
At the time of his death, Amos was about to complete 50 years as a member of the Kiwanis Club of Chatham. He was also a member of the National Society of Arts & Letters, the New York Society of Teachers of Dance and Director of Chalif Publications, which distributed books and music that were written and published by his father.
Beginning with his enlistment in the Army Air Corps before Pearl Harbor, Amos proudly served on active and reserve duty in the United States Air Force for 34 years. He first trained to be a bombardier on B-17s and then as one of the first air-traffic controllers – a new concept in those days! Later Amos was stationed in India to “fly the hump” moving supplies over the Himalayas to China where he occasionally stepped in as co-pilot. His service tours during World War II included the American, European and Asiatic-Pacific theaters and after the war he held various staff positions culminating with his last tour of duty at the Pentagon, HQS, Washington D.C.
Amos graduated from several military schools, including Squadron Officer, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort McNair, Washington D.C., where he majored in Economics of National Security. In addition, Amos devised and formed the Air Force Junior ROTC in New Jersey.
Amos was presented with the Air Force Association Medal of Merit and the Thomas B. McGuire Memorial Award in 1975. He held the Meritorious Service Medal, the National Defense Medal, the China Defense Medal, the Reserve Forces Medal, the American, European and Asiatic-Pacific Ribbons, the Victory Medal, the Army Good Conduct medal, and the Expert Marksman Badge.
Beyond his identity as a dance teacher and as a Colonel in the Air Force, Amos had another more unique claim to fame. In 1988, he became the model for the character of Colonel Mustard in the Parker Bros. board game Clue: Master Detective. One of his dance students was the wife of illustrator Tim Hildebrandt who had recalled that, besides dancing, Amos’s family had made mustard commercially at one time and sold the recipe to International Foods. And Amos was, after all, a real Colonel. From then on, Amos took great delight in handing out his business card that had the Colonel Mustard playing card printed on the back.
Such giant leaps from the world of dance to the Army Air Corps that he joined, as he explained, “to see if I could do something besides dance” and because flying was, like dancing, “in the air” – to his stint as Colonel Mustard, all who knew him would agree that Amos lived a very full life, perhaps even larger than life.
A founding member of the Air Force Association of New Jersey, a life member and past state president of the Reserve Officers Association and life member of the Hump Pilots Association, the Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, Amos was a Charter life member of the Aerospace Education Foundation and an honorary member of the Arnold Air Society and The Charles Lamont Squadron, Stevens Institute of Technology. Amos was honored by the State Air Force Association in making him a “Jimmy Doolittle Fellow” of the Aerospace Foundation for outstanding contributions through many years to Aerospace Education in New Jersey and the Nation. As has been said repeatedly since his passing, “Amos was the last of the Greats.”
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 12 noon at the Wm. A. Bradley & Son Funeral Home, 345 Main Street in Chatham.
Amos is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, Margaret Hull Chalif, beloved daughters Wendy Chalif Eld, and Skye Hull Van Saun, dear grandchild Molly Hull Van Saun Sumner, brother-in-law Richard L. Hull and his wife Pamela, three nieces and three nephews. All five siblings predeceased him.
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