The Life and Times of
Charles F. McCafferty, Sr.
August 19, 1915 - March 27, 2008

Charles F. McCafferty, fresh out of the U.S. Maritime Training Base at Sheepshead Bay, NY

WWII, 1943, in Aruba, with the U.S. Merchant Marine


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

            William Ernest Henley
His favorite poem, speaks volumes about the man.
Best read as he would, with gritted teeth and a deep bass voice,
standing in defiance, and total conviction that he is "The Man".
It is buried with him at his right hand.

On The Boat, Chesapeake Bay

The call to be "on the water" was strong.

Come aboard the "Granada",
a 47' Pacemaker Motor Yacht with twin Detroit 671 Diesel engines,
family boat during the Seventies,
and generally considered by all to be
the "prettiest boat on the Chesapeake Bay".

Before the "Granada" he owned the 38' Viking "Galaxy".
Most recently, the 30' "Escort".

Other notable boats include the "Mar-J"
a 30' cabin cruiser operating out of the Neshaminy Creek,
and the "Restless", a 21' sloop rigged sailboat with a centerboard
and a tiny single cylinder gas engine.
Often, the "Restless" was referred to, with a smile, as the "Helpless" or the "Hopeless".

Other boats included the "Florida" and the "DamnIfIKnow".
During his service in the US Merchant Marine, he sailed aboard
the "Chief Osceola", the "Florida", and the "Ticonderoga".

War Stories

The Liberty Ship "Chief Osceola", photo by shipmate Navy Signalman George Crosby, on the voyage to Odessa, Ukraine

Typical Liberty ship.

Last known photo of the Liberty Ship "Chief Osceola", shown here in post-war trim, and renamed.
Built in Florida, named after the Seminole Indian war chief.
Hull #2322 was laid down on 28 August 1944, launched 4 October 1944.
Sold to Greek shipping company Gratsos in 1947, run aground, wrecked in Chile in 1965, scrapped 1967.

(notes from a phone conversation with son Mike, 12/21/2007)

During WWII, Dad served in the U.S. Merchant Marine.

After preliminary training at the
US Maritime Service Training Station at Sheepshead Bay, NY,

Dad served on ships hauling fuel oil
from Houston to Maine and from Brazil to Aruba.
The "Florida" was one notable ship.
The wartime history of this ship, owned by Texaco, shows that it was
sunk in Brazil by a German U-boat (all survived!) in May 1943,
then repaired in Chester, PA.

Dad was probably on the first cruise of the Florida after it was rebuilt.
Among family records is Dad's "Seaman's Allotment Note" sending $85 a month back home
to Mom, and the Allotment Note clearly shows that he was aboard the Florida on June 25, 1944.
Allied Ships hit by U-boats.

In one very ironic twist to this story,
the commander (Oskar Kusch)of the German U-boat that sunk the Florida
was later found to have "anti-Hitler" views, and was executed on 12 May 1944
which is right about the time that Dad would have been signing up
for his cruise on board the rebuilt Florida.
See this link for info on the U-154.

On August 4, 1944, he "crossed the line" (the Equator) probably for the first time
aboard the Florida, and in a document was named a "trusty Shellback" and initiated into the
"solemn mysteries of the Ancient order of the Deep"
Click here for the document.

At the end of the war, he was aboard the Liberty Ship "Chief Osceola",
under the command of Captain John Andrews, Greenwich, CT
delivering high explosives on a trip to Odessa, Ukraine...

In the Mediterranean, they stopped in Gibraltar, as planned, then given orders to make an unscheduled stop at Oran, Algeria. When the Vichy French surrendered to the Germans, French ships were ordered to Oran, and scuttled in the harbor so the Allies couldn't get them. It was very dark when he arrived in the harbor, and all he could see were the masts of the sunken ships sticking out of the water.

He left the ship to find a drink in town, and barely found a place when he was arrested and put in jail, for being the wrong religion.

Later, on that same voyage, in Odessa, Ukraine, at the Hotel Londonskya, it was VE day, he was drinking with 6 Russian generals, 3 on each side, doing vodka and caviar. Hitler committed suicide on Sunday morning. It was madness, everyone drinking, having a party. He lost track of time, missed his shift on board. When the party was over, he had to get back to the ship. Curfew was at sunset. It was dark out, walking back to the ship, through the park, the Russian guards spotted him. "Stoy" (hold).... "Amerikanski" and took him to NKVD headquarters, wanted to know why he was out after dark, told them he was partying. They finally believed him, sent him on his way...

Back at the ship, the chief engineer wanted to kill him. He had lost his steam, lost his water... Down in the engine room there was a tiny, tiny pump. Need to get water in the boilers, then pump oil, put rags into the fire pit, soaked with oil, start fire, to get the steam, takes about an hour and a half to get it going.

They were the last ship out of the harbor, had 1500 tons of explosives on board, didn't want explosion during unloading.

Then, home again, through the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, then across the Atlantic, about a 3 week trip, to Philly, where he went direct to the union hall to get another ship.

(for some additional perspective,
click here for another story from aboard the "Chief Osceola" on that very same trip to Odessa,
written by Dad's shipmate, Navy signalman George Crosby)

On board ship he was advised that when they were under attack, he should put on his life preserver. But since he was working between two 500psi boilers, and on the other side of a wall from tons of high explosives, he said he would need a parachute before he ever needed a life preserver!

He was assigned to the ship "Ticonderoga" when Japan surrendered and the war ended, August 15, 1945. As it happened, the ship was in port in Philadelphia. He was told the next voyage would be 3 months in the South Pacific (Ulithi?), so he went to the captain and said
"I quit... I told my wife I would quit the day the war was over."
It was only 4 more days until his birthday (#30), and the day after Mom's birthday, so there was good reason for much celebrating...

The US Merchant Marine suffered the highest casualty rate of all the services:

Comparison of Casualties:

1 in 26 Mariners killed
1 in 34 Marine Corps killed
1 in 48 Army killed
1 in 114 Navy killed
1 in 421 Coast Guard killed

(info - .pdf)

As of 2008, there are only two Liberty ships operational:

S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA, and
S.S. John W. Brown, Baltimore, MD

A third vessel, the S.S. Red Oak Victory is being restored in Richmond, CA

The Song of The U.S. Maritime Service
The Song of the Merchant Marine

Heave Ho! My Lads! Heave Ho!

Give us the oil, give us the gas
Give us the shells, give us the guns.
We'll be the ones to see them thru.

Give us the tanks, give us the planes.
Give us the parts, give us a ship.
Give us a hip hoo-ray!
And we'll be on our way.

Heave Ho! My Lads, Heave Ho!
It's a long, long way to go.
It's a long, long pull with our hatches full,
Braving the wind, braving the sea,
Fighting the treacherous foe;
Heave Ho! My lads, Heave Ho!

Let the sea roll high or low,
We can cross any ocean, sail any river.
Give us the goods and we'll deliver,
Damn the submarine!
We're the men of the Merchant Marine!

© Leeds Music Corporation

Words and Music by Lt.(jg) Jack Lawrence, USMS, 1943

McCafferty Ford Company

A story was printed in the Bucks County Courier Times on 4/7/2008 which gives some of the details about the early days leading up to the start of McCafferty Ford. Info provided by son Jim. Click here for the story.

McCafferty Ford has a couple of dozen billboards around Philly. Each one carries a changeable letter sign for specials etc. They are on all the busiest highways, I-95, Street Road, and US 1 among other major routes. On the day of Dad's funeral and for 3 days thereafter, all the signs carried the message:
"In Memory of Charles McCafferty. You will be missed."
This photo taken by his grandson Jamie McCafferty on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Over the years, Dad drove some interesting cars:

1927 Packard roadster

1928 Nash sedan
(but he couldn't drive it because he didn't have the $10 for tags)

37 Ford, 60hp
(eloped in this car, married in Warrenton, VA)

Jaguar XK-140 MC

1957 Ford Thunderbird, bronze color

1959 Jaguar XK-150/S, black, red leather interior
("borrowed" by son Mike, returned unscratched. Later "borrowed" by son Bud, wrecked.)

Austin Healey 3000 roadster



1967 Ford Fairlane Talladega drop nose with blackout hood

1970 Pantera

1926 Alpha Romeo boat tail racer (replica, on a VW chassis with Model A wheels)

Mustang 429 convertible, 4-on-the-floor, triple black
(driven by Bobby P. at 110mph, top down, up highway 309 with Jim McCafferty, a personal best at that point)

2002 Ford Taurus

His dealer license plate was always a "full house" (eg: A55333A)

Dad had a canary yellow Jaguar XKE traded in at McCafferty Ford. He had it detailed for him. Jesse Turner was driving it out of the detail bay to bring it around to the front of the showroom. Oscar was backing a red F-350 utility body out of the adjacent undercoat rack, Jesse turned right, Oscar backed out to the right, and drove the red utility body over the nose of the yellow XKE. It was the closest I ever saw him come to tears, till Mom's funeral. (Jim McC)

Mom and Dad, August 2000, Huntingdon Valley

Video clip of
Mom & Dad, August 19, 2003
(birthday kiss)

Do you have a photo or story to share?

Dad story #MM-1

I was still a minor,
and therefore an idiot,
unable to think like an adult,
and having absolutely no sense of Right or Wrong,
therefore having no responsibility for my actions,

I stole one of Dad's greatest cars, his Jaguar XK-150/S,
and escaped from the cops in a high speed chase,
at night,
while kidnapping a member of the US armed forces.

It's complicated. Read the whole story.
He never knew about it,
for almost 40 years,
until I finally told him just a few years ago
when I figured the time was right.

Here's the story:
Wild Ride in a Hot Jag

Dad story #JM-1

One night in 1958 Dad was at work, having just closed the dealership. He received a call from Sergeant George Haller of the Penndel police. There had been an accident, one of his salesmen, Eddie Foley died and his demo was destroyed. Scrappy’s was called to remove the wreck, the ambulance was taking Mr Foley to the morgue. Dad went to the scene, and as was appropriate, took the personal effects and registration, insurance card, etc. Dad took the driver license and changed the address on it to the dealership. This was way long before picture ID, and Dad and Mr. Foley had similar physical descriptions. From that point on for the next 20 years, Dad never got a ticket. Anytime Dad was pulled over for doing 105 in his black Jag convertible on the Turnpike, he would simply whip out Eddie Foley’s driver license and Eddie got the ticket, Dad's driving record was always spotless. Today we welcome you to Mr Foley’s funeral. Dad is on his boat on the Chesapeake, having a great laugh.

Dad story #MM-1a

I was no longer a minor,
but just barely (freshman in college)
and maybe my brain was slow to develop
so I was still an idiot
unable to think like an adult,
and having absolutely no sense of Right or Wrong,
therefore having no responsibility for my actions,

I stole my father's boat,
and went joy-riding on the Chesapeake Bay for the weekend
with friends from school, and cases of beer...
it's a story as old as the sea, I'm sure.

All the fun turned into a living nightmare
when we became lost in a seriously bad storm
and almost sank several times.

I never felt such fear before, or since.
I radioed a "MayDay"
and we were finally rescued by the Coast Guard
towed back to Annapolis, MD
and released!

The next morning, in good weather,
I cruised it back to home port
and Dad never found out, luckily.

I told him this story
a couple of years after
I told him about stealing his Jag.
(see Dad story #MM-1, above)

He took it all in with an amazing sense of humor.

Dad story #MM-2

Another time, I was only sixteen,
with the agony and ecstasy of a first car
I called home late one freezing night,
asking what should I do about my car's refusal to start.
Dad: "You got a match?"
Me: "Yeah?"
Dad: "Burn it!"

He was probably right
and it would have been fun to burn it,
but I needed the transportation
so I figured out what to do on my own
which is, of course, what he was saying in Dad-lingo.

Dad story #MM-3

Our lives turn on events out of our control.
I remember when my father changed, likely saved, my life
with just a few words.

Click for the story,
scroll down to 'College Capers'.

Dad story #MM-4

Remembering Dad (written by son Mike)

this, from an email to a friend:

the passing of my father, the patriarch of the clan,
a bull of a man,
smart, strong, hard worker,
family man (six kids, married 64 years),
business man, good provider,
protector, leader by example,
firm, yet fair.
never give up, find a way,

one of his more memorable bits:
He was talking about the mind of a used car salesman
and how they have developed selective hearing, for example:
"When the customer says 'No', you translate that to
''I don't know enough yet to say 'Yes', so please tell me more...'"
this assures that you will never give up,
and the likelihood of a sale increases.
this evolutionary trait has been perfected over thousands of years
in the car business,
starting with the sale of the first Wheel.

he also said stuff like: "You handle shit, you get shit on your hands."
(this was his lesson on Integrity)
and "Don't build a house with a flat roof."
which he dispensed as gratuitous wisdom when asked for advice.

I remember the time I asked him
why he was advertising cars for $29
(yes, twenty nine dollars! probably 1955 dollars,
but still pretty darn cheap)
who would buy a car for $29, i asked him.
and he looked me right in the eye and said:
"Son, there's an ass for every seat.".

he always surprised me with how much stuff he knew,
a quick thinker, good with numbers.

great sense of humor, and liked to laugh.

this now leaves me a boy without parents.
mom died about 3 years back.
ok, maybe my chrono-age exceeds that of a boy,
but nevertheless...
inside, we are all children, because we want to be... need to be.

so here i am, next generation to die,
stepping up to the chopping block, off with their heads...
thank you for visiting this life, now it's on to the next.
no refunds or do-overs.
did you do everything you wanted to do?
did you do everything you needed to do?
will you be remembered in a thousand years?
did you save the world, as we dream is our Destiny?

did you have fun?
maybe that's all that matters.
maybe nothing matters.
we're all just dust, blowin' in the wind...

it was a typical Irish hard-drinkin' celebration which commenced
immediately after ol' Charlie was planted in the ground.

aye, the pints o' Guinness were flowing,
and the tall tales grew taller.
he was a Legend, a man among men.
aye, indeed.

it was a perfect day for the event:
cold, with a light rain.

he would have liked it.
it was a day like you might encounter at sea...

Do you have a photo or story to share?

Charles F. McCafferty, Sr.
August 19, 1915 - March 27, 2008


McCafferty, Charles F. Sr. "Bud", March 27, 2008, age 92 years, Patriarch of the McCafferty Clan of Philadelphia, with ancestors from Doon Well, County Donegal Ireland. Born in West Philly in Sacred Heart Parish on August 19, 1915. Graduate of North Catholic High School, class of 1932. Married Verna Marie Meier of Philadelphia on April Fools Day, 1940. After training at Sheepshead Bay, NY, served during WWII in the United States Merchant Marine, enduring the rigors of the high seas, delivering war materiel in support of the Allies, sailing the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean, from Brazil to Russia, and points in between, in the engine rooms of defenseless cargo ships, hunted by wolf packs of Nazi U-boats, while his bride and two young sons prayed at home for his safe return. The prayers worked. Many were not as fortunate, paying the ultimate price for our freedom. (Can we ever say "Thank You" enough?)

After the war he worked for John B. White Ford and subsequently founded McCafferty Ford in Langhorne in 1954. Attended University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. Recently of Blue Bell, PA and formerly of Glenside, PA.. Beloved Husband of the late Verna M. (nee Meier). Loving father of Charles F.Jr. "Bud" (Linda), F. Michael, Verna Walters, Kathleen Bean (Zenas), James (Barbara) and Eileen Koolpe (the late Harvey) also survived by 15 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. Additionally survived by his late model, low mileage Ford Taurus, currently available for purchase (call 856-628-1065 for info). Funeral Mass Monday 11:00 AM Our Lady of Grace Church 225 Bellevue Ave., Penndel. Relatives and friends are invited to his viewing at the church Monday after 10:00 AM. Interment: Our Lady of Grace Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Charles F. and Verna M. McCafferty Memorial Scholarship Fund at the La Salle College High School,. 8605 Cheltenham Ave. Wyndmoor, PA 19038.


Written by his son Jim, and Jim's daughter Kylene,
and delivered by her at the funeral mass, on March 31, 2008.

Good morning. Thank you all for coming. It is my pleasure to share this with you. I would like to think that early Thursday morning, about ten of one, Grandpop walked into some celestial lounge reminiscent of Jim Flannery's constellation room or Reedman's Glen Lake Inn and was greeted by Mom and all the spirits of his past. The thought plays out in my mind like an old black and white movie from the 40's with Jimmy Dorsey's band playing the background music.

Surely Uncle Penny would greet you, his big voice booming "Hey Charlie's finally here, we've been holding a Manhattan for you!" Grandpop would grab the drink, light up an El Producto corona cigar and look around the room at his welcoming party. John Ewan and Bud Merwin arguing religion and politics, Jack Dougherty and Mitch Bennett talking interest rates and cheap money, and Joe Foster and Eddie Gersch remembering the deal that got away. Chappy isn't in a wheel chair in the tap room of the heavens, and he reminds you that the "pony" investment wasn't such a crazy idea after all. At the next table are the members of the IS--WAS club and your favorite guys from your 20 group.*

They are all there, all the best parts of the best years. And just like in ancient Irish mythology, this bar room of dreams, is like the land of Tir Na Nog where everyone, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their transit into the afterlife, are again as they once were: young and beautiful....healthy and happy. In this mystical place, there are no floor plan checks, no elephants sitting on Crown Victorias, just an endless supply of junk cars for you to flip and roll down the hill, out back by the speedway.

Everyday dawns clear and cool. Perfect conditions to cruise the Chesapeake at the controls of the Granada on the way to St. Michael's for some crabs, corn on the cob and garden tomatoes. Mom is at your side and you are reminded once again of what it is like to have it all. You worked so very hard to succeed and earn the respect of your peers. You challenged us to find our own path to success and happiness and everyone of your grandchildren has their own special G-pop story from the family vacation in the Cayman Islands or summer vacations in Ocean City.

Your journey is complete. You made it just before last call and the tab is running forever. It's a long way from Ma Bishops. The good times roll on.

Grandpop we will miss you so. Good Night and God bless, give Grandma a kiss for us!

*IS-WAS club: is a (car) dealer, was a dealer.
group of 20: dealers who get together quarterly to combine and compare statements, share ideas, have a drink, or two...

One of the songs played at the funeral was
"On Eagles' Wings"

Here's a link to the music and lyrics

My favorite part:
And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

From the back page of the mass booklet
this old Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

The McCafferty Family Coat of Arms
"Justice and Fortitude are Invincible"

Michael McCafferty Home Page