Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Charles "Chic" Williams passed away last Sunday of a heart attack. Chic was a retired controller/supervisor at Minneapolis Center and although our careers overlapped by many years I never really knew Chic while we worked together. Our workplace could be like that. He friended me on Facebook a while back and I've enjoyed getting to know him in the years since. Chic was only 70.

Recently Chic had been posting videos on Facebook of a tame little squirrel he'd befriended when his dogs took off after it in his yard one morning when he let them out. I had been asking him about the settings he was using on his video uploads because I was trying to share them with another friend who had also recently rescued a baby squirrel. Chic preferred to talk so he surprised me with a call instead and we chatted for a half hour.

Chic said the squirrel ran for cover in a fern plant in his backyard after the altercation with his dogs and he went to see if it was okay. As he got up next to the fern, the squirrel jumped from where it was hiding and onto Chic's sleeve before quickly crawling up to his shoulder, a place where it would eventually feel more and more at home. He went on to tell me how he and his wife would enjoy their coffees in the mornings on their patio and how Buddy (Chic's name for his new friend) would always come around and playfully keep them company while taking whatever scraps they had to offer. Chic built a cage for it to sleep in at night inside their home and although it had freedom to run off at any time, it chose to stay. He even talked about taking Buddy on a cross-country trip with them. It was the sweetest thing to watch the videos Chic posted of the two of them playing.

But then about a week ago he posted a comment to say that Buddy was gone. "The call of the wild" as one of his friends commented. It was a sad time for Chic I'm sure but he knew the risk all along of someday losing him -- we'd talked about it. He said he was fine with whatever time they'd have together.

I hung up the phone after our conversation and I was struck by what a genuinely nice man he was -- just so easy going and friendly -- a sentiment that would fit right in with what many were saying about him on his Facebook wall today. He will be missed.

And it appears that Buddy is missing him, too. A friend posted on a thread about Buddy being gone: "Buddy came back yesterday, Charles Chic Williams, he misses you and so do I. Rest in peace, my friend."

Yes, Chic -- rest in peace.


John Hill said...

A very nice tribute, Kevin.
Blessing to all who missing their friend. <><

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thanks, John. I did not see this one coming. Chic and his peaceful presence will be missed by many.

Larry Nuorala said...

Chic was my training supervisor when I came to the center. He was just a great guy and really knew how to control planes in the manual lab. After he retired he would give me a call to see if I was going to Sturgis. I would tell him I was and every year I would come by his campsite but he was always gone riding. At some point during the week we would run into each other somewhere in the black hills. One day I ran into him in Keystone, once in Hill City, another time I stopped for a buffalo burger on the side of the road and he was sitting at the picnic table. The last time we stopped in Savoy in the spearfish canyon and there he was by the bar. We laughed about how we could never meet up but always crossed paths every year. I am sure this year I will still be on the lookout for Chic in the sea of people during Sturgis.

Tony M. said...

I've known Charles for close to a million years. I grew up across the street from him in the early eighties. His stepson, Todd and I were great buddies in high school and we bought matching mopeds. Mine never worked quite right from the start. I would bring it over to Charles' garage on a weekly basis and he would work on the carburetor. He'd always make time to fuss with it.

He taught me how to water ski behind one of his many ski boats. In fact it was the purchase of what seemed to be a new ski boat and a new mustang every year that lead me to wonder, "What does this guy do for a living?" I asked my mom this question and she gave me the best advice ever: "Go over and ask him yourself."

I walked my skinny, 16 year old body across the street with my prized mullet in tow. He saw me coming and asked me if I forgot to bring my moped. Very funny. I asked him what he did for a living and his face lit right up. He tried to explain it to me at first, and then asked me if I'd like to come to work with him on one of his overnight shifts. I did. I sat with him through the night and he even let me talk to a couple planes! He never was much of a rule follower (Haha). I had no idea what exactly he was doing, but he made it look fun and interesting. I was convinced this is what I wanted to do with my life!

Two years later as a senior in high school I was tasked with giving a speech on someone I admired. I chose Charles. I went over to "interview" him for my paper. One of the questions I asked him was, "What would you want to be if you weren't an Air Traffic Controller?" Without a second thought he replied, "A pimp." I put it in my speech and it raised a few eyebrows in class. Hahaha!

When I was getting close to graduating I asked Charles for his advice on how I should get my training on becoming an air traffic controller. He said, "Well, I'm not telling you what to do, but what I'd do is join the Air Force. You'll get all the training you need and when you get out in four years, you'll have some money in savings rather than owing some college thousands of dollars. And that's what I did.

After serving in the military for four years I was hired by the FAA and went to the ATC Academy in Oklahoma. Three months later, after completing the school I was given the choice to go to work at either Miami Center or Memphis Center. I didn't really love either of those choices since my whole family lived in MN. I decided to make a quick phone call to Charles for more advice. Perhaps he could pull some strings and help me get to Minneapolis Center? He told me to call him back the next morning and he'd see what he could do for me.

The next morning, I called him back and he said He worked it all out. I would be coming to Minneapolis Center! Later, he would tell me how much trouble he got into for getting me here. Not much of a rule follower.

Over the years we've stayed in touch. Two weeks ago I received a call on my cell phone. I looked down and the caller I.D. said it was Charles. It was a Saturday morning and I had a million things to do. I figured I'd call him back when I had more time. I let it ring a couple of times and then I answered it. We talked for about 45 minutes. We shared stories about the past: my moped, the invaluable advice he had given me and fun times we shared at work and outside of work. So many times great people do great things for you in life, and you never get a chance to just say, "Thank you." I got the chance...and I said it. I thanked him for all he had done for me in my life. I thanked him for the job he had gotten me. I told him that everything I have in life is because of the great job I have. It's given me all of the things my family and I have in life. I will always appreciate him.

Thanks Chic. I hope I made you proud! RIP.

Shawn Madera

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thanks for this, Shawn. We should all be so fortunate to impact someone's life the way Charles impacted yours.