Monday, June 27, 2011

Charles Scheffel, 1919-2011

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Barry Basden, editor of the Camroc Press Review, writes "I received a call this morning from Charlie's son who said he died peacefully, sitting in his chair after supper on Friday, June 24, 2011, one week after his 92nd birthday.

"Charlie attended Oklahoma A and M on a basketball scholarship and played under the legendary Hall of Fame coach, Hank Iba, before graduating in 1942 with an ROTC commission in the U.S. Army and going off to war.

"I met Charlie while doing oral histories of WWII vets and helped him tell the story of his wartime service, something he did honestly and without flinching. The resulting book, CRACK! AND THUMP: WITH A COMBAT INFANTRY OFFICER IN WORLD WAR II, is one of the most gratifying accomplishments of my life.

"Charlie was one of millions of citizen soldiers who gave the prime of their youth to save the world from tyranny. We owe them a great deal for the blessings we've enjoyed since."
From the Epilogue:

After extended stays for specialized treatment at various military and veterans hospitals, Charlie Scheffel retired in January 1946 from disabilities caused by combat wounds at Lammersdorf, Germany.

During his military service, he earned the Combat Infantry Badge, two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, and for his actions at Cherence le Roussel, the Silver Star and the French Croix de Guerre.

Like millions of others after the war, Charlie and Ruth began a family and got on with their lives. They asked for little. They knew life itself was a gift and they sought to be happy. They worked hard and prospered.

Their daughters, Susan and Elaine, and their son, Lee, grew up to become productive members of society and raise families of their own. While building a successful insurance business in Oklahoma City, Charlie and Ruth found time to travel extensively throughout America and the world.

On a dare from his son, Charlie became an instrument-rated pilot in his fifties, which added to his urge to see the world. After retirement, he and Ruth continued to travel as long as her health permitted.

Charlie has been a widower for several years now, but his enthusiasm for travel endures. Hanging on his bedroom wall is a map of the world with a pin sticking in each of about a dozen countries he has yet to visit. He pulled another pin out of his map recently after he sailed to Antarctica on an ex-Soviet icebreaker with one of his granddaughters.

His goal is to visit every country in the world and remove every pin from his map. Besides visiting the more exotic corners of the globe, Charlie has also walked the ground where he fought during World War II, trying to come to some understanding of what happened during those uncertain times when tyranny stalked the earth.

At the la Gallerie farm, near the village of Cherence le Roussel, he told his story of the four-day battle to the current owner, a woman whose family owned the farm during the war when she was a little girl.

She presented Charlie with a bottle of la Gallerie’s Calvados, which he shared with other members of his unit at a 9th Infantry Division reunion.

Later, outside Lammersdorf, Charlie knelt in a ditch at the site of his final battle and prayed for the men who died around him there. They are never far from his mind.
Barry continued, "Some things I noticed about Charlie: 
  • He didn't sweat the small stuff. After combat, not a lot bothered him, but he stuck to his principles when something did. 
  • He enjoyed every day. Grateful to be alive. Reminded me of the Delany sisters. Took whatever life handed out and went on. A great kidder. Could strike up a conversation with anyone. 
  • Extremely generous. Had a ball with the book, signing it, giving it away, speaking about it before all kinds of audiences, being on TV and in the 'WWII in HD' documentary. A couple of re-enactor groups, one in PA and one in Belgium, made him honorary commander and recreate many of his experiences each year. It was great fun to see all that happen for him. 
  • He loved young soldiers, hated war. Thought it was the most stupid way to settle disagreements. Believed strongly that the US should not be the world's policeman. Invited himself to a 3-week U.N. workshop in NYC. The guy said it's for insiders only, what's your background? Charlie sent him a copy of the book and got accepted. Paid his own expenses. 
  • If he gave you his word or said he was going to do something, you could count on it. 
"I needed to say these things. He had a good life. Now the world will be a lesser place and I will miss him."
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