I'll never forget the Sunday afternoon three-wheeler rides with our little gang of misfits. I was the youngest, I think, in my teens. Every Sunday we would meet up at my grandfather's store, each other's houses, or at some point in between. We all rode Honda three-wheelers. Our destination might be a sandpit, logging trails, river beds, or just a nearby mud hole. Most afternoons, at some point along the way, we would gather in a lazy circle, eat Nabs (that's peanut butter crackers made by Nabisco, for you non-southerners) and drink a Pepsi. It was during those times Uncle Charles told his stories. His deadpan delivery never failed to make us all laugh. Even when he told horrific tales of being trapped in foxholes in Vietnam, we laughed. You couldn't help but laugh.
Charles made laid back people look hyper.
During one particular ride the weather turned cool. Our ride home was several miles and we grumbled our dread. It had been warm when we left home. Uncle Charles unfastened the storage compartment on the back of his three-wheeler and pulled out a jacket (it might have been a flannel shirt) and said with a grin, "This here's an old Indian trick, boys." I remembered that old Indian trick, and to this day will not leave home on my motorcycle without my leather jacket in the saddlebag.
I never called him Uncle. I don't remember any of us calling him that. He was just Charles. I've often wondered if he had any idea how much I admired him. I never told him.
Charles taught me you can tell a sad story without being sad. He taught me that delivery is every bit as important as content. I doubt he considered it teaching. I certainly didn't consider it learning. It was just a bunch of people sitting around making memories none of us realized we were making.
Rest in peace, Charles. You will be sorely missed.
Following is his obituary as published in the newspaper.