St. George’s commitment ‘larger than life’
Gramps would have been proud. As Dr. Joshua Bald began the eulogy on Monday morning during a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Anthony’s Church in Fredonia for Charles St. George, he recalled some advice from that respected man when it came to addressing a crowd and giving speeches.
“Go from the heart, don’t read it and keep it short,” he said in his opening remarks about the Fredonia icon.
To his credit, Bald spoke for about eight minutes about his grandfather. That was no easy task in summing up the 94-year life of St. George that was filled with dedication to his community, family, church and country.
A World War II veteran, St. George was proud of his love for the United States of America and was grateful to serve on the U.S.S. Alaska. It was that connection he kept for almost 65 years through reunions and communications, specifically through his newsletter entitled the Northstar. When he ran out of funds to continue the correspondence that was filled with memories, photos and obituaries of heroes who participated during the war, he was still mailing out about 250 copies.
Those who were on the receiving end were part of his large extended family, which also included his neighbors.
He ran his own business, St. George Realty, for 61 years. It was a job he cherished before reluctantly closing the agency in 2015 at the age of 90. “He wanted to help people … make their home here because he was so happy here,” Bald said. “I can’t think of a better pursuit than to make people happy.”
That business kept him active and engaged in his later years. It also thrived because of his pride for the community and commitment to his customers. St. George estimated he wrote more than $19 million in sales contracts from 1997 to 2015. Further evidence that when it came to service, he never slowed down.
A parishioner at St. Anthony’s, he volunteered his services in the beautification of the church grounds and bookkeeper for the church and former Fredonia Catholic School. He also was a lifetime trustee of the church. “There’s not anything in this building or on these grounds that he hasn’t touched … to make this a beautiful and inviting place,” Bald said. “He helped make this place what it is.”
Family, of course, always came first. On Sept. 2, St. George and his wife, Norma, celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary in the Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation Center where both were residing. “Bless her patience,” Bald said lightheartedly, bringing laughter from those in attendance.
The couple had four children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Some of his grandfather’s favorite moments, Bald said, came when all the families were able to get together. “He took joy in his family,” he said. “And we took joy in him as well.”
As for involvement in local organizations, the list is quite long — and probably not complete. For many years, he was president of the United Senior Citizens and a founding member and former treasurer of Share & Care Seniors. He was a life member of Fredonia Exempts Firemen, a former member of the Fredonia Fire Department where he served as president of the Barker Hose Co. and the Fredonia Firemen’s Drum Corp.
He served on the board of directors for CIAO, was life member of the Fredonia Beaver Club, Northern Chautauqua Club Associates, Elderly Men’s Cock-eyed Association, a member of the Cassadaga Job Corps community relations, AARP, the Knights of Columbus and assisted each year in the Priests’ Appreciation annual dinner. In addition, he served as village mayor from 1971 to 1979.
“He had this charisma, this aura of this larger than life person,” Bald said. “He had that … and that’s why I was so drawn to him as a little boy and even in my adulthood.”
We all loved Charlie for his smile, laugh and quick wit. How lucky this region was to be blessed by his presence for all these years.
John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to email@example.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.