Ora "Oz" Oscar Caldwell, 1937-2021
Last updated 10/4/2021 at 7:12pm
Ora "Oz" Oscar Caldwell, age 83, of Lake Wales passed away on September 9th, 2021 at
2:20pm at Advent Health in Davenport, Florida from respiratory complications due to Covid 19.
Oz was born on October 19, 1937 in Lake Wales Florida. Oz spent his formative years on his
father's dairy farm. He would often speak of these times with great fondness of the cowboys and hard
lifestyles of the post-Great Depression period in Central Florida that he witnessed firsthand. During this
time Oz participated in a large cattle drive by horseback from what is now Kissimmee State Park to the
family farm North of Lake Wales, Fl.
His mother, Francis Louise Martin and father, Lapsley Roger Caldwell Sr. divorced when he and
his younger brother, Roger, were still young. Oz and his brother spent the latter half of their childhood
with their mother in Tampa, Florida. Understanding how hard his parents worked and sympathizing for
his mother as a single parent, Oz grew up with a keen understanding of responsibility and duty. His
father being a decorated WWII Tech Sgt (B24 radio operator/waist gunner) who had also attended West
Point (Class 1920), but was drafted into the war (WWI) before finishing, deeply impressed Oz's opinion of
duty and influenced his attitude towards serving one's country.
Oz graduated from Jefferson High School in the class of 1956. During High School he served
two years in the Army National Guard and then was one of two students from the Tampa Bay area to
receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy, West Point, where he completed a
Bachelor of Science in1960 and was commissioned a lieutenant in the US Army. After commissioning he
attended Ranger school and airborne school.
Afterwards he served two terms in Vietnam, served as a Company Commander in the 505
Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, and taught ROTC in Ft. Jackson, South
Carolina. Oz was awarded the Legion of Merit, 2 Bronze Star Medals, Purple Heart and Commendation
Upon retiring from the military Oz received his Juris of Law from the University of Florida in
1978, while presiding over his law school fraternity Phi Delta Kappa.
Oz lived quite an active and accomplished life. He was a retired Vietnam veteran, later working
as a prosecutor in West Palm Beach before moving back home to Lake Wales and retiring as a public
defender from the Bartow courthouse. Here, he cultivated friendships with colleagues and
acquaintances alike that would last throughout his life. He would regularly attend West Point Alumni
meetings in Tampa and host parties as well as host retirement and holiday parties for the public
defender's office well after he retired. In his private life, Oz took great pride in growing exotic fruit trees
on his father's old farm where he would give home-grown fruit baskets away to his friends and loved
ones. He was a very active member of the local community, active with the Lake Wales Moose Lodge
and even served as the commander of the Lake Wales VFW for several years. Oz often joked that being
a public defender stripped him of whatever humility he had left, but contrary to his remark, Oz was a very
kind and generous person that really tried to see the good side of people.
Oz had a special way of impacting those around him and took much of his own time to give
back to people that needed help. Of his many great accomplishments, one he was most proud of was
sponsoring and helping establish a new home in the US for a Vietnamese family of seven. Beyond that,
he was a mentor to many, a good neighbor, a good friend, a brother and a father. He had a very
charitable nature, helping many people with things like campaigning, getting their driver's license, and in
some cases to buy a car. One of his most impactful and long-standing generous acts was to sponsor
one of his promising landscapers through college. This show of faith and personal mentoring resulted in
the student earning their Master's degree in Architecture from an Ivy League school. One of the
countless lives, Oz's generosity has altered for the better. He really loved his dog Loophole, who got her
name from a joke he made for a lawyer's best friend. Oz was known for his quirky sayings, stories, and
old songs he would often recite. He will be missed very much.
Oz is survived by his daughter Wilella Nelson of Savanna, GA and brother Lapsley Roger
Caldwell Jr. of Okeechobee, Florida and his adopted son Kalob Morris (the young landscaper).
Any donations will be contributed towards sponsoring applicants for the West Point Military
Academy and condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.Marionnelsonfuneralhome.com.