After nearly six decades on the planet, I find that the friendships of our youth are the most enduring. The timeless quality that defines so many friendships that found their genesis in Bettendorf includes not just the persons, but often the whole family. This truth is best personified in Chuck High - "Big C" - who passed on April 6 at the age of 63, leaving the world a whole lot duller.
So let the memories flow, and make room because there a ton of them, all mostly wonderful and full of love, laughter, fierce loyalty, and that forever-ness that will keep Chuck alive and vibrant in our hearts and minds going forward.
First and foremost, Chuck loved his family and close friends; was devoted to his beautiful Labradors and English Setters, with which he participated in field trials; cared for his Tennessee Walking Horses; had an unquenchable joy for duck and pheasant hunting and fishing; and had a talent for wood-carving stunning likenesses of wildlife figurines for pleasure and sale.
While living in California for more than a decade, Chuck spent time as an equipment and sound technician in the music industry, working with the Doobie Brothers and most notably partnering with the wildly successful Santa Cruz band Snail. He also opened two successful restaurants - one with his brother-in-law Paul Starnick in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and the other with his best friend Dave "Halvey" Halverson in Bettendorf called the Wing Dam.
Chuck's whole family moved to Arizona in the 1970s. He gained a brother in his sister Pam's husband Paul, with whom he shared the deepest of bonds until his passing. Chuck eventually moved in with Pam and Paul and his youngest sister Susie, with whom he was also extremely close, after a skiing accident left him disabled from a broken neck. This did not prevent him from enjoying his cherished outdoors, catching trophy fish, or winning the Arizona State Duck Calling Championship. His two older sisters, Cheryl and Linda, also lived in Arizona prior to their passing - Linda in 2003 and Cheryl this past Christmas Day. For a family as close-knit as the Highs, these terrible losses continue to reverberate through them to so many of us who hold them dear.
Big C's popularity cannot be overstated, nor can his penchant for establishing everlasting friendships be exaggerated. He and Halvey have been magnets for humor and camaraderie their entire lives. Couple that with redefining "hardcore" with all-new meaning by the time their class came of age, and the result was that the bar was permanently raised. The rest of us had no choice but to step up if we wanted in on the ride. And was it ever worth it!
It is therefore accurate to describe our high-school group as the coolest. Chuck and company, better know as The Brewery Boys, made fun effortless, evidenced by their prevailing legacy of spectacular good times as they strove to out-party their supreme rival, The Studs (you know who you are).
Our group was especially awesome because the wide age range of players included so many siblings - many of whom could be classified as cling-ons to be sure, but all were welcome if you could keep up, and that was a big if. Thanks to Chuck letting his little sisters Pam and Susie and a pile of their friends tag along, we were included in all manner of antics that would later define us with humor at our very cores.
It is important to note that Chuck was the only boy in a house full of type-A girls: Linda, Cheryl, Pam, Susie, and his mother Kay. He and Big C Sr., were larger than life, regularly mixing affection with hilarity to survive among so many formidable females who doted on them and loved them dearly. Theirs was a robust family life, where the cling-ons were never turned away for any reason. We were all part of it, with Chuckie as the quintessential big brother. Such are the bonds that were formed all those years ago, made utterly unbreakable over time.
Growing up in this environment taught each of us about the importance of family and lifelong friendships to all things worthy. Many in our group are still best friends today, and most are in regular touch with one another. While this might sound like a common enough thing, it was most extraordinary since we were jam-packed full of originals, chief among us Chuck. And because you are never not an original, no greater gift exists than growing old with such characters still so close.
Anyone who knew Chuck can tell you the enormous impact he had on their lives. Chuck exported his talent for creating profound friendships everywhere he went. Just before he passed, the great friends he made while working in the music industry in California organized a massive benefit in his honor that speaks volumes for the love and enduring friendships Chuck engendered. Musicians old and new gathered to perform, encourage donations, and generally celebrate an exceptional fellow from Iowa, who had their love, respect, and devotion still. A film company documented the event for posterity, and it is chock-full of testimonials and interviews about Chuck, and includes all the performances in tribute to him.
For those of you who knew Big C and wish to celebrate his life, please join us Saturday, June 21, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Fumbles Sports Bar in downtown Bettendorf. It used to be the Wing Dam, where many of us enjoyed a misspent youth when Chuck and Halvey owned the place together. (Ross Burgers are on the menu because they were Chuck's all-time favorite.) Together we will let the memories flow, and create new ones in his honor.