June 8, 2018 at 9:51 a.m.

Bud Herron: Remembering Chuck Grimes

Chuck Grimes, 71, HSJOnline contributing writer, died May 31 after a short, unexpected battle with pancreatic cancer.

Six weeks earlier, Chuck had been working full-time on all the projects and commitments he had passionately pursued his entire life to make his corner of the world a better place.

He had retired in 2011 after a 43-year career as a teacher — mostly Sixth Grade at Southside Elementary School in Columbus — but that was just his “paid job.” Although he was a celebrated teacher and the recipient of a long list of awards as an educator and a coach, Chuck’s community contributions and service to the world went on 7-days-a-week, year round.

It took a two-hour “Celebration of Life” service June 5 in a nearly filled gymnasium at Southside Elementary School — with 11 speakers — to even begin to cover the diversity of his “work for the good.”

His main focus was children — as a teacher, as a volunteer coach in nearly every imaginable sport, as an advocate for abused and neglected children in the courts and as a quiet, behind-the-scenes pillar of support for every child he saw in need.

Then, in his “spare time,” he worked for decades as a sports correspondent and an education columnist for The Republic newspaper. And he wrote book after book — seven in all — most of them about personal acquaintances who had selflessly served others. And, in recent months, he volunteered as a writer for this online newspaper, writing on various subjects — most notably Hauser athletics.

I first met Chuck when I worked at The Republic and he was a sports correspondent, but I didn’t get to know him well until about two years ago when he joined me and another “old guy” (retired Columbus Spanish teacher Gene Foldenauer) on the staff of Advocates for Children (CASA).

The three of us shared a tiny office as a base of operations — coming and going constantly as we worked with children in the court system that were placed in foster homes around the county and around the state.

We were often in the office together early in the work day — before the younger staff members arrived — making calls, planning visits and writing our reports to juvenile court. During those times, I got a deep look into the heart of Chuck Grimes.

I listened as he spoke with teenagers, on the phone from their placements —sometimes in locked facilities and sometimes in warm foster care. I heard the love in his voice as he encouraged them, soothed their pain and let them know they had someone on their team. I also heard the aggressive and demanding tone in his voice when he spoke with anyone — child care workers, foster parents, guidance counselors, teachers, social workers, psychologist and others — whom he felt were not giving the child the help or the support the child needed.

And, during conversations in that tiny office — Gene and I were treated now and then to one of Chuck’s tirades of frustration over one of his greatest “pet peeves” — the way so many many people retire from their vocations and simultaneously “retire from working to improve the world.”

Chuck was an avid golfer and was a member of the Indiana High School Coaches Hall of Fame for his years as a golf coach, but he used to wonder aloud why a person would retire ONLY to play golf. (He even expressed that disdain once at a meeting of the Bartholomew County Retired Teachers Association to mixed applause.)

Two months ago, I retired (again) after nearly three years on the Advocates for Children staff. When I left, Chuck was still putting in those long days visiting children all over the state and fighting for their safety. He told me I looked tired and that he was glad I made my decision to pull back a bit from the stress of the work.

On the other hand, Chuck kept working at the same pace as always, although he confided that he, too, was feeling some fatigue and sometimes had trouble keeping all the details of the work organized in his head.

Then, two weeks after I left, Gene called to let me know Chuck was in the hospital with an unknown ailment, suspected to have been a mild stroke. When I visited him in the hospital, he said he was undergoing tests but had received no diagnosis. Then he was released.

Two weeks later, Chuck was back in the hospital for more tests — confirming inoperable cancer. From there he went home under the care of hospice and there he died a scant few days later with his wife of 51 years, Linda, and his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren at his side.

I miss Chuck Grimes. I miss his laugh and his stories. I miss his friendship and his attitude on life. Every glass was always “half full” rather than “half empty.” He believed in hard work, second effort, compassion and love. He lived his belief.

Chuck was a patriot and hero — not because of some brief time in the military or some single act of heroism. He was a patriot and a hero because he devoted himself to a non-stop, life-long crusade to improve his corner of the world.

Love you, Chuck. Wherever you are are, I know you have not taken the day off.