My Friend Charles Edward Shultz Jr.

October 3, 2018 § 11 Comments

My friend Chuck passed away the other day. I don’t have any real details about it, but Chuck was the same age as me, and though he wasn’t a physically active person, he got plenty of exercise raising and training Labradors. He ran a breeding business on the side called Gullwing Labradors, and has produced and trained many award winning dogs. He was excited about his dogs, and he brought that excitement into other peoples lives.

Chuck and I met at Penn State University main campus in our Junior years. We were both declared and accepted into the Engineering honors program known as Engineering Science, and other than any electives, were in the all the same classes together. Chuck had come from two years at the New Kensington campus, and I from the Altoona campus. I am pretty sure that Chuck approached me about studying together, and I gladly accepted. We teamed up with another Junior from the Philadelphia area Thomas Dudek, who happened to live in the same apartment complex on the outskirts of town, as I did. Chuck lived in town on Garner St. in Garner Court. His roommate’s name I forget, but they both came to State College together from the New Kensington campus.

By this time in our university careers, we took school pretty seriously, but we also had time for fun. Chuck and I used to play chess, and backgammon together, though we played a special version of backgammon. It usually involved ingesting bong hits when you rolled doubles. It changed the dynamics of the game. I don’t play by those rules any more, but in those days, we did, and we lived through all that without issues. Most of the time it was during free time, however more than a few times we ended up in class, and at least once had to take a Thermodynamics quiz. Don’t be alarmed, I got 100, and Chuck in the high 90’s. Again, choices may not have been the best, but we got through it.

When we both turned 21, we added the Rath Skeller as our goto bar. You could buy a case of Rolling Rock Ponies for 5 or 6 bucks, and then use those as payments on the pool tables where Chuck, Thomas and I were decent players. We could get a table and be king of the tables for an hour almost every time we tried.

Upon graduation, Chuck gained employment at the world famous Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, NJ. They enrolled him immediately in their OYOC (One Year On Campus) program where they footed the bill for a graduate program. Chuck was accepted at Stanford in Palo Alto, where he both met Scott Berry, and achieved a graduate degree in Operations Engineering and returned to NJ where he took up residence eventually with Paul Kolesar. I needed an extra Trimester to finish my degree, and then I stayed on at Penn State, within the Engineering Science department, and taught under graduates for two trimesters before I took on a research assistance-ship funded by the Office of Naval Research. With residence still in State College, Chuck came up for many of the home football games where I introduced him to the new friends I had made. This is where he met my future brother-in-law Walt, which eventually led to Chuck’s interest in Labradors and training.

We maintained our friendship throughout my graduate career, and when I graduated, I accepted an offer from Bell Labs and moved to NJ where we used the re-location services AT&T provided to secure a house in Middletown where Chuck, Scott Berry and I lived for one year, after which first Scott, and then myself moved into our own homes, and Chuck took on new roommates. Chuck remained at the Tindall Road address for another year which I think is when my brother-in-law, Walt got a job at RCA Satellite in Hightstown, NJ and was looking for a roommate to keep his expenses low. He and Chuck already knew each other, and it seemed like a good fit. They found a soon-to-be-torn-down place on 520 in Marlborough across from the A&P near the intersection with Rt 79. It was a single story with a basement, and some kind of funky solar hot water system. Included in the rent was some acreage next to the house which Walt turned into an ATV track. Considering how much alcohol was consumed in that house, at times, strong motorized machines were problem an exercise in folly, but both Walt and Chuck survived. Not sure how long they had this place, a year at least, but the landlords sale went through, and Walt and Chuck soon found a home in Manalapan on Union Hill Road in yet-another-place-with-acreage. Kind of a small stable with a caretakers home. Not exactly the kind of place that you had to worry about damages. Anyway, Walt and Chuck occupied this place together until Walt married Maria, and bought his own place in Englishtown.

Eventually Chuck bought his own home in North Long Branch. A single floor plan with a basement, a semi-attached garage, and a pool in the backyard. His second project was a giant deck, to which I lent my chop saw, and some hole digging labor. I remember that part, but I can’t recall working any other part of the deck, but I do remember Chuck’s parties. I know what you are thinking. “His second project. What was his first project?” It was about this time that Chuck’s Audi Quattro achieved its long sought after status as “Chuck’s First Project”, a project that got a lot of investment, but nothing that ever got the car back on the road. At least not as long as I was tracking it. Needing something to drive, I think Chuck had a truck for a short while, and then when the PT Cruisers were first issued by Chrysler, that model struck a major chord with Chuck. He loved that design, and PT Cruisers and Chuck became synonymous.

Chuck was a die-hard Pittsburgh sports fans. He loved his Penguins the most, then the Steelers, and the Pirates simply were along for the ride. I just don’t ever recall hearing Chuck get all that excited about baseball season. Softball season? Different story. He brought me onto the team he played for in the B-League at the Labs, that was managed by Bob Santarpia. I can’t remember the name of the team, I eventually moved over to a team in my department, The Killer Tomatoes, when they moved up into the C-League, and later we improved enough to join the B-League and played my old team. Chuck umpired a lot of games in the league, and perhaps outside. He was a stickler for detail, and he was a fair and determined umpire. Back to pro sports. When an opportunity arose for me to gain access to Giants tickets, Chucks first words were “Until they play the Steelers, consider me a Giants fan!”. In the early days my Mom’s boss, Jim Parsons, threw some tickets our way, and that included at least one playoff game. Later, when Jim retired/moved to South Carolina, I took over the tickets and we had quite an entourage on football Sundays going to the games. I had 6 tickets total, 2 and 4 looking right down the West end zone in the old Giants Stadium. Chuck, Walt, Scott, myself, and then 2 invites would join us for an early tailgate, and the game. It didn’t matter what time the game was, a holdover from our Penn State tailgating daze with Geno and Pat, we were there early, secured our space, and then relaxed all day in the parking lot. When the Giants made another run in 1990, we were right there in the thick of it, even hosting two playoff games. Fun fun fun.

Chuck didn’t forsake his college alma-maters when it came to sports either. He was both a Penn State, and a Stanford fan, and when the two schools met in a bowl game one year, Chuck brought two sweatshirts, one representing each school, to a seamstress and had them cut down the middle and the opposing school’s halves resewn together to show his support for both teams. For Chuck that game was win-win.

You could say, the Giants tickets kept our activities linked for a number of years. By the time the new stadium rolled around, I was past the end of wanting to repeat those weekends. I eventually surrendered the tickets to Parson’s son, and my opportunities to see Chuck became more and more rare. Friends we still were. Whenever we did get together, we could resume any conversation, and laugh. He moved from Long Branch out into the greater Freehold area and continued to work for AT&T. By this time he was well into breeding Labs, and I think as packages were offered by AT&T, he may have secretly had his feelers out looking for something else, but he never jumped on it.

Chuck wanted all the same things that most of his friends had. He wanted to find someone, settle down, and have a family. He was a kind, and generous person, and I can’t really put a finger on why he never found a long term companion. Sure Chuck was quirky, maybe a little more quirky than most, but aren’t we all to some degree? Maybe the fruit he was reaching for was always on a branch too high. I don’t really know. He did have one relationship that seemed to be going well. She was an engineer, like him, worked at AT&T, and had her own home in Red Bank. They dated for awhile, but Chuck told me he hadn’t socialized his recreational marijuana use with her yet. I told him he could just quit that stuff and then the issue solves itself. He had quit alcohol cold turkey, and stayed away from it, why not say goodbye to the wacky weed as well. I know that he eventually did tell her, and then I never heard about her again. Perhaps today, it would be different, but 15 years ago? That just wasn’t going to be accepted. So, Chuck had his dogs. Those dogs will love you back till the end of their days, and Chuck threw himself all in with them.

He started with the Red Bank kennel club, which as it so happened, my neighbor, Jack, was president of. Chuck’s first lab was a female which he took through training and achieved his first companion dog titles. After a few years, he bred her, and that began his side career as a dog breeder. He got into other aspects of training, like tracking. In tracking you lay out a “track” or scent, in a large open field that usually has many other “distraction” scents, and dogs a judged on how well they follow the track. Nowadays, GPS is used to track the exact movements, within the error margins, of the dogs. Chuck even wrote some software tools for managing these exercises. He was a very decent Excel, and Basic programmer, and put those skills to use for the kennel society he loved so much.

The economic crisis of 2008 saw more layoffs/packages at AT&T and eventually Chuck was forced out. He remained in Jersey looking for work for a few years, but nothing permanent, or even close to his old salary came up. Eventually he sold his house in Freehold, packed up what he wanted to take, and moved back to New Kensington where he was from. There, he bought a church that was no longer in operation, a one story structure with a pretty wide open floor plan. It had a fairly large property, and he set about renovating the structure to his needs, and raising his dogs. He secured some local employment with Family Services, and was continuing his life when he suddenly passed away this week. His sister, Bill, wrote me that when he didn’t show up at work, and didn’t and didn’t answer his phone or call back, they contacted her. She went over and found Chuck still in bed. He had some event while sleeping and never awoke.

Many people knew Chuck, and it has been both sad, and enjoyable to read all the tributes that people wrote on Chucks Facebook timeline. I am guessing his laptop must have been on, and he was logged in already, so Bill used that to socialize her family’s loss with Chucks friends. Seemed like the best way to reach out. Walt called me Monday night and asked me if I had seen it, which I had not, and was shocked when I was told it was about Chuck.

Chuck was a great person and a great friend to many. It is hard to write this and not both smile and cry while doing it. You will be missed my friend. May labs forever be licking your face.

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