Charles Rush passed away peacefully on April 11, 2014, from complications of Parkinson's disease.
He was born in Colman, South Dakota, in 1929 and grew up in an Irish Catholic family of adults, as he was the youngest by far of six children. He was blessed with a quick wit and good sense of humor. His entire family had uncanny math skills and were renowned card players.
He graduated from Trinity Catholic High School in Sioux City, Iowa. He started work at the age of seven sweeping out his brother's grocery store for $1.25 a week. He worked many high school and college summers at his sister, Dorothy and brother-in-law, Ted Hustead's, Wall Drug Store, now a famous landmark in South Dakota, due to World War II GIs putting up signs everywhere they were stationed giving the mileage to Wall Drug from France, Italy, and the South Pacific. The Husteads son Bill became Charles' best friend for life and his time at the drug store influenced him to become a pharmacist. He graduated in 1951 from South Dakota State with a bachelor of science in Pharmacy. Immediately upon graduation he drove the Alcan Highway to Alaska where he had a job waiting for him.
He often attended daily mass at the as yet unfinished cathedral and acted as server for Father Flanagan who later became the Bishop of Alaska. Charles knew he would shortly be called into the Korean War. He was called to serve at Fort Richardson and three months later was sent to Whittier, a post which most people abhorred. Housing was quonset huts with tunnels from building to building. Already an avid hunter and fisherman he loved the mountains, the ocean and the exorbitant amount of fish and game. He built a 14-foot plywood boat and borrowed a 25 horsepower motor from special services and explored every nook and cranny of Prince William Sound, a very dangerous but exhilarating experience, the impact of which stayed with him fondly his entire life. He built crab pots and shared his plentiful catches of king crab, which the cooks prepared for the entire mass hall.
Following his military discharge he returned to South Dakota and married Evelyn Clark in 1954. They drove the Alcan Highway in mid-winter. Upon returning to Anchorage he and Volney Grace went together to purchase Eastchester Drug on Gambell Street. They soon added Gambell St. Hardware, Savemore Drug and V.F. Grace Wholesale. They had three children, Catherine now married to Norman Ledbetter, John, who lives in Anchorage, and Clark, now married to Marianne Blahous and living in Anchorage. It was a golden time for children, schools were good, neighborhoods were safe and full of children. Mothers called their children in for dinner at dusk. Charles found business enjoyable, challenging and exciting, often humming and singing as he did paperwork or ordering. He was the consummate workaholic, putting in 12 hour days, coming home whistling.
He served on the State Board of Pharmacy for 12years and also served a term as president. He was active in the Elks, Knight's of Columbus, Knight's of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
He was awarded the Bowl of Hygeia in 1972, given to one pharmacist in each state for an outstanding record of civic leadership in their community. He was named Honorary National President of Boards of Pharmacy.
He had the same joy for many things; all sports, coaching John's baseball and Clark's basketball, Notre Dame football, music, the Seward Salmon Derby with V.F. Grace employees, skiing with the children at Arctic Valley, early Glacier Pilot's games with Volney and the kids, Homer and Land's End, swim meets, the children's school functions, backyard picnics with the Skurla's, as well as developing a passion for tennis and waterskiing. He was proud of the fact that he was "the last dad on the lake waterskiing on his 65th birthday!" The purchase of a rustic cabin on Rocky Lake afforded the family a sanctuary loved by all which became Charles' favorite spot. Both sons, both sets of in-laws and Marianne's sister have cabins on the lake. There were many festive gatherings from baptisms to square dances to pre-nuptial parties with lake residents who become dearest friends over the years.In the mid-1990s the pharmaceutical portion of V.F. Grace was sold to McKesson Drug and the business concentrated on sporting goods, gardening, sundries and a candy warehouse, a favorite spot of the grandchildren. V.F. Grace was honored by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce for having been a continuous member for 50 years, and for having been one of the top 49 businesses in Anchorage for many, many years as well.
He valued all his employees many of whom had been with him up to 40 years and the business will continue under the current able staff. Charles recognized the value of his suppliers who trusted him and considered him a "straight shooter." He was recognized as a good, humble, and decent man who was kind and fair to all.
He lived through tremendous changes since 1951; statehood, first voting for a U.S. president, electing senators and governors, the discovery of oil, the 1964 earthquake, the oil-lease sale, the pipeline years, the PFD, the native lands claim settlement, the Exxon spill as well as the birth of six world's greatest grandchildren.
On January 4, 2014, he and his wife, Evie, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary surrounded by all children and grandchildren, and several lifelong friends. Charles spent the last year and a half at the Pioneer Home due to his Parkinson's disease, where he became great friends with his tablemates, Ethel, Freddy and Lou, and continued to be surrounded by his loving family.
His family is grateful to his caregiver, Teresa Newton, and the excellent and loving staff at the Pioneer Home.
He is survived by his wife, Evelyn; his daughter, Cathy (Norman) Ledbetter; his sons, John, and Clark (Marianne); grandchildren, Peter and Emily Ledbetter, Chris, Annie, Rosie and Charlie Rush; as well as many nieces and nephews. We feel incredibly lucky to have had him in our lives for as long as we did!
In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, 400 Mercer SUITE 502, Seattle WA, 98109 or the Knights of Columbus, P.O. Box 91512, Anchorage, AK 99509.
A Rosary was held at at Janssen's Evergreen Memorial Chapel on Wednesday, April 23, and the funeral at Holy Family Cathedral.
Arrangements were with Jans-sen Funeral Homes.