In Memory

Chuck Jenkins

Chuck Jenkins

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11/17/11 03:29 PM #1    

Charlie Homeyer

"Freaks and Geeks" was a popular television show in the relatively recent past.  At Country Day in the very late 50's and early 60's we claimed to seek and value conformity, though of course we did not conform to one another really.  Chuck Jenkins was among those in our class near the top of the list for not conforming.  In his senior photo he reminds me a little of pictures of Alfred E. Newman of "What, me worry?" fame, except that Chuck was breathing, living flesh and blood.  We made fun of Chuck, for we saw him as kind of a freak or geek.

Chuck Jenkins had type 1 diabetes from early childhood.  His mother sought any cure, and when none was forthcoming from the medical profession of 60 years ago or so she turned to Christian Science.  Chuck joined our class at Country Day in Class 4 and in 1962 graduated cum laude.  Needless to say, he was not athletic in a sports dominated culture and at a school where nearly everyone played sports.  Chuck never did.  He spent those afternoons, that I spent on the football, soccer, and baseball fields, with the WHIPS, and playing touch football, he spent in private tutorials and then in building his own guitar, his masterpiece.

Chuck lived in the same part of St. Louis County that I did.  So, in our senior year he drove me to school every day in his VW bug.  Because the vehicle had no gas gauge and a small gas tank he was forever sticking notes on his rearview mirror to remind him to buy gas.

During my first year at Brown I grew tired of weekends there, so I told Chuck I was coming up to Amherst to visit him for a weekend.  At the grimy Providence bus station I boarded a Peter Pan bus to Springfield, MA.  Along the way in Connecticut it made some scheduled stops at places like a rural hair dresser's shop.  Then there was the layover in the even grimier Springfield bus station of 1963.  When I finally arrived Friday evening in Amherst, I was relieved to see even Chuck Jenkins.  He and his lovely girl friend, Diane Baldwin, fixed me up with a date, and that led to many more such weekend trips to Amherst and Mt. Holyoke.  Shades of Liza Minelli in The Sterile Cuckoo.  Among other things on those weekend journeys I defended Chuck one night from an attack by townies along the street; I helped to sober up his seriously inebriated roommate with Coca Cola; I heard Martin Luther King speak in person at Mt. Holyoke.  Chuck was doing well.  

At the beginning of the New Year of 1964 the former blind date and I broke off seeing each other, and consequently, my bus trips ended, I no longer saw Chuck.  Without the benefit of e-mail, face book, or twitter we totally lost contact with one another.  Chuck graduated from Amherst in 1966.  I don't know what happened to this talented, bright, and peculiar man in the next six years.  All I know is that he died on March 21, 1972, succumbing at last, I assume, to the terrible ravages of childhood diabetes at the age of 28.  May he rest in peace.  50 years later he rests in my memory, ever young, odd, bright, and my friend. 

Submitted by Charlie Homeyer







11/19/11 05:39 PM #2    

Mike Witte


Thank you for this wonderful memorial. I have long lost track ot the specific time and place that I last saw Chuck Jenkins but it was several years after his college graduation and we had a long conversation about his research on language, specifically linguistics and how language shaped the content of thought. I'm uncertain whether he was then in graduate school or teaching but I do recall the passion that he expressed for his topic and the brilliance with which he articulated it. I remember feeling gratified at the time that Chuck had found his calling and the world at large might some day profit from his research. I was then deeply saddened not long after to learn of his passing but recall consoling myself with the thought that he had seemingly found a secure intellectual home providing refuge against the somewhat outcast state that you describe so well.


11/20/11 07:27 PM #3    

Lanny Jones

Charlie, I can only echo Mike's comment here. You have very eloquently described the personal attributes that made Chuck so unique and interesting. It is painful to realize how little I knew about about him at Country Day -- his difficulties with diabetes, his off-beat humor, the degree that he must have felt like an outlier in a very cozy world. I am grateful that you have reminded us both of his strengths and our own limitations in high school. --Lanny


10/27/12 04:37 AM #4    

Steve Lord

Lanny you took the words out of my mouth, I knew almost nothing about Chuck Jenkins other than that he was bright and yes, odd. But who isnt, ha ha, even after sharing so many classes with him. He seemed to shun human contact. His expression seemed to be one of constant irritation. Maybe just around me. Smile. Diabetes 1 eh. Bad disease. Autoimmune. THey now think by cows milk. The enemy of autoimmunity. Hi Charlie and Mike.


Steve Lord

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