Chuck was, in a word, eclectic. He studied chemistry and education. He read Heinlein and Asimov and Tolkien and J.K. Rowling. His music tastes ranged from Jethro Tull to Celine Dion to flamenco guitar. He loved ice cream and liverwurst and Brussels sprouts. He had a favorite dwarf (Grumpy) and dreamed of being reincarnated as a three-toed sloth. The first time he deep-fried a turkey, he wore coveralls and a welding shield. He completed his bachelor’s degree in his 40s, but he could converse easily about philosophy, history, astronomy, and religion. He taught physics and hydraulics and EMS to firefighters and fly-tying to college students.
Chuck was a professional firefighter in Fort Collins, Colorado, for nearly 42 years. He retired as the longest-serving line officer in his department’s history. Firefighting was part of his soul. En route to an emergency scene he would sing, “Here we come to save the day!” and play the Mighty Mouse theme on a tape player. But he approached leadership and command with absolute dedication and professional conscience. Chuck used to say, “At the fire station, it’s a democracy. On the emergency scene, it’s a benevolent dictatorship.” Chuck was prepared, every day, to make the decisions necessary to ensure that everyone went home at night. It endeared him to those who had the privilege to work for him.
Most of all, he loved his family. When he wasn’t at work, he was at home with his wife, Peggy, who in their 46 years of marriage endured the ups and downs of a spouse of the fire service, from the silly to the scary. He was always there to help with homework, and he carried a clipboard around the house in case he needed to fiddle with math or physics problems. Many a night he hosted a homework help session at the fire station’s kitchen table. In his daughters’ seven years of high school tennis, he missed two matches. He was always the first to show up with the full-sized conversion van loaded to the gills with food, blankets, umbrellas, chairs, and water, wearing one of his dozens of silly safari hats to protect his ears, burned in an elementary school fire when he was a rookie. Between matches, he treated blood blisters, dehydration, heat stroke, and twisted ankles.
Those who knew him and love him could write a book about Chuck’s quirks and eccentricities, his decency, and his values. And that is not a bad way to leave one’s mark on the world.