Chucky, Charlie, Chaz, my older brother, turned 69 this year. It’s so hard for me to believe. I’m four years behind him, and while four years was a huge gap when we were younger, thankfully, as we’ve aged, four years’ or even 10 years’ difference has faded away to nothing and age has equaled out.
Being the oldest of 11 kids had to have its challenges, but since that’s all he knew, he probably didn’t question it. There were no brothers close in age (my brother Pat was five years younger than he with two girls in between them), so whenever possible, Chucky would hang out with his cousins Greg and John, both older by a year and three years, respectively.
While I have memories of him as a younger child, most of my earliest memories of Chuck begin in our teens. His horses (Buck and Red), teasing me about boyfriends, riding me on his motorcycle. Though he went away to the seminary in 9th grade (my parents held out great hope that at least one of their eight boys would get ‘the calling’), he finished his high school career at a small Catholic school where he was senior class president and graduating valedictorian. He was obviously popular, had a darling girlfriend, and seemed headed for greatness.
College, heartbreak, jobs, and moves filled his next several years. Chuck ended up marrying my best friend from high school while in their late 20’s. After settling in northern Michigan and and then starting a family, he finally found his niche as marketing director for the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City where his engaging personality was put to the best possible use. Chuck finally achieved his own level of greatness when his 25-year career culminated in his induction into the IFEA’s (International Festival and Events Association) Hall of Fame; quite an honor and much-deserved.
So now my big brother is retired. This wonderful father of two exceptional young men is now the grampa to two (and a half at this writing) darling little girls. With some extra time on his hands between seasons (he loves winter in northern Michigan), he came for a visit a short while ago. We had such a great time together, his second morning spent sitting on the lanai where we drank coffee and talked, still in our jammies, until 1:00 in the afternoon.
Chuck is one of those honorable men who gives pause before speaking, who questions without judgement, and who listens and makes note of what’s said. He encourages and delights in others’ accomplishments. He is sincerely interested in you. With a lively sense of optimism and fun, he is his proud father’s eldest son. Often asked to speak at a celebration or a memorial, he is eloquent, humorous, and thoughtful. I admire him greatly and want only his happiness. I count myself lucky to be not only his sister, but also his friend.