I want to thank you for the caring and concern you have expressed to me over the loss of my brother Charlie. I am so grateful for your friendship. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last two weeks is that I am blessed with incredible friendships. You have made my sadness easier by filling my heart with your love and support.
I have a heavy heart that my brother is gone, but this is the reality when we lose someone we love. I am grateful that my brother’s suffering is over and I relish the time we had together and the legacy of his 69 years of life. He went into nursing after being a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War. He practiced nursing and eventually worked in a psychiatric hospital in Tucson for adolescents and he thrived there as he helped kids with his unique ideas and programs. He allowed the teens to find their voice through games, movement and art. He fought the system so they could paint and decorate the walls in their rooms. He understood how valuable it was to provide the patients with an outlet to express themselves and make their own sacred space. He taught them how to find alternatives to their addictions through playing games. His passion was to teach these adolescents to play in a non-competitive fashion and learn how to have fun. He invented games and ways to move, laugh and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. He and another nurse, Spencer, left the hospital and founded Creative Play and took their ideas and philosophies for healthy play across the United States to schools and communities. He taught games and activities to teach sharing, caring and compromise. Soccer games would have more balls so lots of kids were able to kick the ball not just the best athletes, tag included having to share a learning fact or spelling word before you could touch the person or there was a version where everyone was it and students had to use strategies and higher level thinking. Each game in their book, Learning to Play, Playing to Learn, had the rules for how to play the game but also shared the gift of the game that taught empathy, compassion, peace building, cooperation and so much more.
Charlie was my big brother and was eight years older than me. I am sure I was a pain because I looked up to him and idolized him and he just wanted to hang out with his friends. I know he was important in my early days as my first word wasn’t mamma or dadda but Chuckie (actually Kuckie as I hadn’t mastered the CH sound). When we lived in Buffalo, New York I would follow him to the neighbors and bug him to let me up in the tree fort. Even if I was a pest, he always looked out for me in the end did his best to protect his little sis. Our relationship grew stronger when we were older because the age difference wasn’t as much of an issue. Charlie and the love of his life, Linda, were married for 48 years. They have a son, Forrest, who now lives in Portland with his fiancé Jessica. In the last few weeks we have spent a lot of hours laughing and playing games in honor of Charlie.
My favorite memory of Charlie has to do with my graduation from NAU. I had earned a bachelors and masters degree from the University of Arizona and had never attended a graduation ceremony. But, I wanted to attend my December graduation for my doctoral degree from NAU because President Gene Hughes was going to hood me. I had been fortunate enough to be appointed as the Student Member of the Arizona Board of Regents and had become friends with all of the senior staff at NAU. Gene had become a good friend, so this graduation meant a lot to me. On the day I was to drive up, I got a call from one of the Vice Presidents, Norm, who told me that the snow storm in Northern Arizona was severe and Gene had told the press to put out an advisory for anyone who wasn’t already in Flagstaff to stay home as it was just too dangerous to drive. He told me that Gene offered to hood me at one of our favorite Mexican Restaurants on his next visit to Tucson. It was a nice offer but I was devastated not to attend the actual ceremony. I moped at work. My brother learned of the situation and called me. He asked if I really wanted to go and I said YES. He said he would be willing to drive my all-wheel drive Honda Accord. He used to drive his old VW bug everywhere in the back roads when he lived in Flagstaff and knew he could get me there. It was a LONG and VERY slow journey in thick snow and ice. We passed lots of cars that had slid off the side of the Interstate, but we made it there and I attended my graduation. This was the type of brother he was. He stopped his life for his little sister.
Charlie wouldn’t want us to be sad; he would want us to celebrate life. So, if you want to honor him then get a group of people together and play a game, laugh and enjoy being in each other’s company.
Life is a Gift, Make Each Day Precious! Love Peggy