From the Columbus Dispatch,
Published 12:01 ET, June 27, 2011; updated 3:57 am June 11, 2011: firstname.lastname@example.org
State’s longest-serving current employee to retire after 54 years
The Columbus Dispatch
He [MG Miles Durfey] once led a squadron of fighter jets in an Ohio Stadium flyover just 330 feet above the field at 500 mph, rattling the bones of Ohio State and Michigan fans. The Pentagon was not amused.
He flew Cold War missions, was poised to bomb Cuba and nearly crashed in Anchorage.
He obtained OSU engineering and law degrees even while amassing 10,000 hours in four different fighter aircraft and earning two stars, attaining the rank of major general in the Ohio Air National Guard.
At 80, he can’t wait to row again competitively and chase another gold medal.
Miles C. Durfey might be the most interesting man in the world. Well, maybe in Ohio.
His many distinctions include being Ohio’s longest-serving current state employee. When Durfey retires June 30 as clerk of the Court of Claims of Ohio, he will end 54 years of continuous service, starting in 1956 when he joined the Guard after serving in the Air Force.
Durfey’s tenure with the state has spanned 10 presidents, nine Ohio governors and seven state chief justices. The Rhodes and Riffe state office towers didn’t exist when he started. Neither did laptops, car stereos, or light beer. The biennial state budget, now $55.7 billion, was $955 million.
Look into Durfey’s piercing blue eyes – still 20/15 vision – ask him about all that he has seen and accomplished, and you’ll get a shrugging acceptance of one man’s place in mortality: “Twenty years from now it’s not going to make a hill of beans.”
To his friends, though, Durfey has led a swashbuckling life, mixing athleticism, brains and courage into one exciting endeavor after another.
James W. Lewis, a Columbus lawyer, constructs a dichotomous composite of his best friend, saying Durfey possesses the steely resolve of a Clint Eastwood character and the grace of a Cary Grant.
“You see that adventurous side, but he’s such a quiet and dignified gentleman,” Lewis said.
Raised in Springfield, Ohio, by a gentlemanly but strict father who rose to the presidency of the Ohio State Bar Association, Durfey has spent the last 40 years in government legal jobs, including as a Franklin County assistant prosecutor and senior attorney for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
He met Judge Thomas J. Moyer while serving as court administrator for the Franklin County Court of Appeals and tagged along with Moyer on his rise to the office of Ohio chief justice. Moyer appointed Durfey clerk of the Court of Claims in 1987.
“Probably the most upset I’ve ever seen Miles was over Tom’s passing last year,” Lewis said.
For 23 years, Durfey has administered the court in a quiet and efficient manner, a product of his hiring criteria – ability to do the work and collegiality – which he weights evenly.
“If you can get along, then you’re not going to be disruptive in what we do from day-to-day and we’ll have a successful court,” Durfey said.
Outside of work, Durfey has lived Walter Mitty’s dreams, donning a Top Gun suit and somehow staying just on the safe side of one chance too many while flying fighter jets and racing cars and rowing shells.
In 1962, he was assigned to bomb a Cuban air base to destroy Russian MiGs during the missile crisis, called off just hours before launch. Years later while serving as board vice president of the Rickenbacker Port Authority, Durfey received an Aeroflot delegation and met Mikhail Tereshchenko, who was sitting in a Russian MiG waiting to intercept him that day in Cuba.
With nonchalant humor, Durfey once wrote about a harrowing 1968 Guard mission he led from Ohio to Anchorage, employing luck and skill to avoid an in-air collision during a blizzard. “It was a tough flight,” Durfey shrugged during a recent interview.
“The Flyover” endures more than “The Game” in the memories of many who attended the 1984 OSU-Michigan football game. Leading three other A-7 jets in formation at 300 mph, Durfey got word from air-traffic control 8 miles out from Ohio Stadium that banner-dragging airplanes were over the stadium at 800 feet, the altitude Durfey had briefed for his flyover.
With little time to react, he instructed the squad to fly under the planes, to 330 feet, even lower than the twin 30-story dormitories nearby.
Durfey made the second planned pass over the stadium at the same altitude, instructing his squad, “We’re going to heat it up this time, boys.” False teeth almost certainly were shaken from mouths as the jets screamed over at 500 mph.
About a year later, Durfey said he was urged by the Pentagon to retire from the Guard, which he did as a major general with 28 years of service.
Asked if he’d do the same flyover again, Durfey didn’t hesitate: “Oh sure. Fighter pilots just think differently. There are no limits.”