What was your childhood like? My parents had 4 boys and 2 girls, and I was the oldest. I enjoyed most of my childhood playing sports from football to boxing and baseball. I was a pretty good baseball player (had a batting average of .510 at McBride High School). After graduating high school, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed me up to play professional baseball. But when WWII broke out, I volunteered to go from throwing baseballs for the Brooklyn Dodgers to throwing hand-grenades for our country.
When did you move to Warson Woods? I moved my family from Glendale to Warson Woods in 1963, as I had a beautiful home built on one of the largest lots in our community.
What are some differences, or similarities, in the neighborhood from when you moved in? When we first moved to Warson Woods, there were a lot of children in our neighborhood. In fact, our next door neighbors at the time had 5 girls and we had 3 boys ... and they're all still great friends to this day. We now have next door neighbors who have 3 wonderful boys, and they remind me so much of raising my own family.
Any fond memories you would like to share? Since we have one of the largest backyards in the neighborhood, we would often host indian-ball and kickball games during the daytime and flashlight-tag games and firefly hunting at night.
When and how did you meet your wife? My late wife, Juanita, and I met after I returned from WWII, and we were kind of set-up by her father. Crazy enough, Juanita was already engaged to be married to another man when we met. Juanita's father did not particularly want her to marry this other guy. Because her father and my father did business together, Juanita's father thought I may be a better suitor for his daughter, so he invited me to attend a sportswriters luncheon at the old Statler Hotel in downtown St. Louis (and he brought Juanita who just so happened to be seated next to me at that table). That's where we first met, and the rest is history.
How many children do you have? I have three sons, all who live in the St. Louis area. In fact my youngest son, Keith, bought his childhood home from me and moved back into our Warson Woods house after Juanita passed away ten years ago. Keith and I have been living together (once again) ever since, except instead of me caring for Keith as a young boy, Keith is looking after me as his 100-year-old father.
Can you tell us about any special people you met while serving in World War II? Anyone and everyone who had the courage to defend our country in WWII is special. I was lucky to be surrounded by such great heroes, especially those who never made it home as they were killed-in-action (including my younger brother, Eddie). To honor my brother Eddie who died beside me at Iwo Jima, I fly my brother's burial flag on special occasions at our Warson Woods home.
What did you miss most about home while you were fighting abroad? When I was on the battlefield, the one thing I really missed was dry socks. As combat Marines, our feet were constantly wet from trudging onto the beachheads during each invasion... and we could never really dry out our socks during the ensuing battle. It may seem like a little thing, but boy did I ever long for dry socks.
Are there any traditions you had while there, that you kept after returning home? There were 193 of us in our Marine Corps Company (the 23rd Regimental Weapons Company) ... before we left training at Camp Pendleton, we all swore to a covenant that the last two of us guys alive would somehow find each other later in life and share a bottle of wine in tribute to all of our fellow Marines who passed away before us. Sadly, the only other Marine alive besides me died earlier this year, leaving me as the sole survivor. So on my 100th birthday, my son (Keith) orchestrated a special toast conducted over Facebook Live with many of the families of my fellow Marines ... and the son of the Marine who saved my life on Iwo Jima actually came from Cleveland to be the one who cheered with me in-person. It was a very special moment.
We're curious to hear about the pride that comes along with your accomplishments. What have they meant to you and your family? I'm proud to say I tried hard and that resulted in being successful from my baseball career to commanding the top rated anti-tank gun crew in the Marine Corps to growing one of the most renowned printing companies in St. Louis and to raising a family who I am immensely proud of. What more can a father ask for when his sons say, "Papa, I'm proud of you."?
To learn more about Charlie's story and his experience in World War II, watch his PBS Living St. Louis special: Brothers in Arms.