I never met The Chuckster, but I wish I had. He died Nov. 6.
I was reading the News-Leader Thursday when I just happened to spot an obituary on an inside page with the name: “Charles (the Chuckster) Edward McGinnis.”
What manner of obituary was this?
Of course, I had to read it.
“He gave nearly everyone in his life a nickname. If you were lucky, you got two nicknames. And he didn’t just greet you with your nickname, he yelled it when you walked into the room.
“For some, he wrote a personalized song that he sang to you every time you walked in the door. He poked fun at everything in life noticing the little things that others often missed.”
His survivors were listed not by name, but by nickname.
This obituary was loving, quirky and bursting with life.
I wondered: Who wrote this final testament to The Chuckster?
More Pokin Around:
The author is son Chris McGinnis, 49, of St. Charles. Thursday afternoon I drove to his parent’s house and met him.
“First, I wrote one that was very serious,” he says. “I had the ‘preceded in death’ and the ‘survived by.’
“But I hated it.”
It just didn’t reflect the joy his father brought to family and friends.
So he tried again. Take Two took only 20 minutes.
“Something like that is not hard to write,” he tells me. “I did have to stop once or twice because of my tears.”
The Chuckster makes his third pass
He ran the rewrite by his mother, brother and sister. They loved it.
“That was Chuck,” says Carol, The Chuckster’s wife of 54 years.
“The first obit was lovely, but it was boring and boring was not my father,” says daughter Amy Musgrave, 43, of Springfield.
“He was fun,” she says. “My nickname was SoobySaby. You have no idea.”
The obit says: “He was an avid golfer and thoroughly enjoyed playing with The Boys, a seemingly ever-expanding group of guys at his club. There are literally too many nicknames to list here and we didn’t want to risk missing anyone, but if you have ever felt a strategically placed putter during your backswing that caused your drive to go wildly off-course, then you are part of this group.”
The Chuckster, who retired in 2008, did most of his golfing at Twin Oaks.
I sit with the three in Carol’s living room. The oldest child Greg was not at the house during my visit.
As we talk, Carol responds to continuous messages and calls from friends who read the obituary.
They all say the same thing: “That was Chuck.”
Carol tells me the mechanic who for decades worked on the family’s cars called the house.
“He had read the obituary and called to let me know how much he enjoyed knowing my husband,” she says.
I ask Carol what I often ask couples: How did you meet?
It was in Decatur, Illinois: 1966. She was 22 and The Chuckster — she found out later — was only 19. He lied that night and told her he was 21.
Carol and a girlfriend were at a Steak ‘n Shake, parked in the lot. Service was by car hop.
That’s when The Chuckster entered her life in a 1965 Ford Mustang convertible. It was February so the top was up.
The first time he drove by and took a good look at her he had a girl in his car, Carol says.
Same for the second time he passed by.
A little later, when The Chuckster came by for a third look at his future, he was alone.
He parked a couple of spots away and bided his time.
When Carol and her girlfriend left the Steak ‘n Shake he shouted these immortal words at Carol: “Hey you!”
And she responded, “If you want me you have to come get me.”
He did. He followed. They met that night in February.
They were engaged in March. They were husband and wife in April.
“It’s quite the love story,” Carol says.
“He was so outlandish”
The Chuckster spent a lifetime seizing the day. He had fun.
You just knew he was going to say something and you knew it was going to be good.
Sometimes it was downright embarrassing, Carol says.
“But people loved him for that,” she adds
“He was so outlandish,” Chris says.
His dad would joke and chat with every waitress and waiter he ever met.
With waitresses, he never failed to introduce his two boys by name and then remark on how handsome they were — as well as how single they were.
The Chuckster also had fun with words. He played with them. He never called his motor vehicle a “car” or an “automobile.” It was always his “conveyance.”
He was not afraid to proclaim himself debonair — which he pronounced “de-boner.”
The Chuckster served in the Army, never venturing overseas, but was proud to tell the story of how his “conveyance” at the time was a tank.
He served in the Honor Guard in Washington, D.C. He obtained his G.E.D., the equivalent to a high school diploma, in the service.
He was a private pilot and successful in business. He managed the Springfield branch of a trucking company. He was known as Chuckster the Truckster.
In his final two years, he showed signs of Parkinson’s disease and dementia. He spent his final eight weeks in a nursing home and because of COVID-19 only Carol could visit him before he died.
She was notified by hospice care workers when he was near death. She was let in. The Chuckster died in her arms.
His body has been cremated. The funeral home explained the details of a funeral service — should the family want one. It would include glass barriers and social distancing. They said no thank you.
“At some point, we’re going to have a celebration of life next year,” Carol tells me. “We’ll invite people and then we’ll sit around and drink beer and tell some stories.”
Just the way The Chuckster would have wanted it.
These are the views of News-Leader columnist Steve Pokin, who has been at the paper 8½ years, and over his career has covered everything from courts and cops to features and fitness. He can be reached at 836-1253, email@example.com, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail at 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.