A Walk to Remember
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Saturday, 17 October 2009 06:22

Charles PicklesA Walk to Remember, Part I

"Charles, you left the car running in the driveway."

According to Diane, her son Charles was known for his playful pranks and antics. They could be annoying if you weren't in the mood for them. Now Charles was ambling around the house with a dreamy look on his face.

"Charles, what did you leave the car running in the driveway for?"

"It's okay, Mum."

"What do you mean it's okay? You left the car running in the driveway."

"I saved a life today," Charles replied.  He had rescued a girl from drowning.

Diane's jaw dropped. Charles was universally loved by his friends and admired by the children he taught in the sailing program. Still, this signature moment took her by surprise. Diane had come to expect the unexpected, but Charles had surprised her again.

pair sailing

For many of his fans, Charles had come into his own in the summer sailing program at his local yacht club, first as a student, then as an instructor. His enthusiasm encouraged students to test their limits, learn from their mistakes, and gain confidence in themselves. He dared others to rethink their traditions without tearing them down.

By means of pranks and jokes he taught children to channel their adolescent exuberance productively. Whether it meant repainting a picnic table at the least expected time, or orchestrating a conspiracy to have himself pushed off the end of a dock, he made a memorable impression.

Mr. Pickles goes for a swim

A close friend commented, "His personality [was] one to be admired. I mean I forgot who said it, but 'When he would walk down the dock all the kids would follow 'Mr. Pickles' like ducklings follow their mother.'"

The nickname "Mr. Pickles" might seem misplaced for a 19-year-old, but that's what the kids liked to call him, and the parents couldn't help but smile at the respect the name implied.

One boy had lost his father the previous year and was still grieving for his father. Outwardly, the boy behaved stubbornly and presented himself as a brat, but Charles instinctively knew what to do. He made tiny accomplishments into great triumphs, and regularly called the boy's mother with progress reports. The mother received Charles' telephone calls as "an unexpected gift" during a difficult time.

Charles exemplified a saying by Lewis Carroll, "One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others."

Diane, Charles, Ray

One day Charles spent the day with Diane painting a room. On a trip back from the hardware store, he tried to carry too many things up a flight of stairs. From the top step, he accidentally spilled two gallons of paint. Aghast, they watched the paint cover every step. Charles quickly ran for a dustpan and towels, then they frantically began cleaning. In the middle of it all, he turned to Diane with an infectious smile, saying, "This is not going to ruin our day, is it Mum?" They had such a good laugh that they finished painting the room in time to put on a big family dinner.

As Charles took on more adult responsibility, he turned to his childhood fascination with magic potions. After working in restaurants he decided to become a chef. He enrolled at the International Institute of Culinary Arts, working in his free time to pay tuition. He applied himself to his studies with characteristic zeal, and won the Chef's Award, given to the student most likely to succeed as a chef.

Nothing gave Charles more pleasure than to put on a feast for family and friends, or to invite them to the Olive restaurant where, as chef, he could wine and dine them at "his" house. Proud as he was to do something for his guests, he also made a great impression on the staff. Co-workers joined with Charles to make his friends feel special. "You're a guest of Charles? That's on the house."

sailing solo

On July 13, 2003 the impossible happened.

Charles Pickles, at the age of 21, went skateboarding on a beautiful summer's day, fell off, and suddenly died.



~ Charlie Duane

Link to: A Walk to Remember, Part II
The story continues with Diane's walk of Spain's "El Camino" in memory of Charles.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 December 2009 13:44
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