Charles Francis Wilding

Charles Francis Milford Aloysius Gonzaga Wilding

7/9/20 --- 7/31/98

by Eileen Finnegan

Charles was born In Washington, DC, on July 9, 1920, to Dorothy and William Wilding. Dorothy, the daughter of a British Army officer, had lived in India, Hong Kong and South Africa as a child. Following her nursing training in London and the outbreak of war in 1914, she joined the British Army as a nurse and served in the evacuation of Belgium and later with the French Army. In the spring of 1919, Dorothy met let Lieutenant William Wilding of the US Army Ambulance Corps at a garden party at a chateau near Paris. Following a whirl- wind courtship, the couple married and returned to William's hometown of Washington, DC, in July, 1919.

   While growing up in NE Washington, Charles twice traveled to England with his mother to visit his grandfather, Captain Charles Francis Gully. The many stories of his mother's exotic childhood and war experiences made an impression on Charles. Charles' father worked for the DC government.

   In 1936 the family (now with little sister Margaret) moved out to the country -- to Hillandale, Maryland. To the 16-year-old Charles, Hillandale was "about fifty miles from anywhere" and was "the end of his social life." As it turned out, this family house and Hillandale became his long-time home.

   Following his graduation from McKinley High School, and a flirtation with the Spanish Civil War, Charles joined the United States Army, where he reached the rank of Sergeant. Unfortunately, he was very seriously injured in a Jeep accident, and was given a medical discharge in 1943. The accident permanently impaired Charles' mobility, demanding recurrent medical care. But this handicap did not deter him from participating in a full life.

   Charles went on to Catholic University and obtained a Bachelor of Architectural Engineering in 1948. He joined an iron and steel fabricating company in Bladensburg, Cries Brothers. He worked for Criss Brothers until his retirement in 1986. His job of estimating and selling metal work in the Washington area provided many notable installations including the Air and Space Museum, Union Station, and the East Building of the National Gallery.

   Charles had a long standing interest in public policy and politics. He was an active Democrat working at the county and precinct levels and as Campaign Chairman for Congressional candidates - Storm ('58) and Byron ('78). He wrote the political column "A Democratic View" for the Suburban Record from 1961 to 1980. His 'sharp pen' was appreciated by his readers, and was recognized by the Maryland-Delaware Press Association in 1962 when he won the Annual Feature Writing Award. Additionally, Charles was a member of the Montgomery County Civil Defense Board in 1963, the Maryland Commission for the New York World's Fair, the Maryland Bicentennial Commission, the Montgomery County Arts Council, and Trial Court Judicial Selection Commission from 1979 to 1995.

   Charles was a loving father and husband. During the 1960's, following the untimely death of his wife, he became a single Dad with four children. He worked hard at keeping the family together, even maintaining household order with menu, chore, and merit/demerit charts in the kitchen. Weekly accounting of "points" would result in hot fudge sundae awards at Gifford's or a trip to the gift shop in Woodmoor. His success with his children is readily apparent. Charles married Elizabeth Fletcher in 1982. Their mutual devotion, support and love for each other was evident.

   Collecting trains, street cars, miniature & toy buses, toy soldiers, blimp & zeppelin models, early airplane models, and even Cracker Jack prizes was a long-time passion. As a serious collector, Charles was active in the Capital Miniature Auto Collectors Club and the National Capital Model Soldier Society. Charles also cleverly devised a way to safeguard his toy collection from his young grandchildren. He presented visiting grandchildren with coin sets which entertained the children and also began their own first collections.

   With all the achievements and successes of Charles' life, there is much more to chronicle. He had a phenomenal memory for facts, trivia, and delighted in quoting Shakespeare. He was extraordinarily outspoken, especially about nonsensical public policy decisions. And Charles loved a joke, often delighting in creating "tricky situations" and making good-natured "trouble" for friends, as only Charles could do.

   Charles died on July 31, 1998. He Is terribly missed by his wife, family and many friends.