I'm Stu Wesley - I met CHARLES FRANCIS WILDING 25 years ago in the Capitol Miniature Auto Collectors Club.
Charles - he was not a Charlie - was totally unique. His start was like a Hemmingway novel. His father, an American Ambulance Corps officer in France during World War I - his mother, an English nurse serving with the French Army. She nursed France's most popular air hero, Charles Nungasser, back to health. Charles lived in England a short period in his early childhood - this made him a genuine Anglophile. It nurtured his love of the sounds of the English language. He subscribed to a magazine devoted to the study of English. One never knew when Charles would burst into an appropriate quotation from Shakespeare.
Charles was a Renaissance man with many interests - he loved art and had an extensive art library. He loved the opera - he would get tears in his eyes over Madam Butterfly's plight. - and then sing the aria - he had the volume but he was not Pavrotti. He enjoyed military bands and their pomp and ceremony. He liked good music of all periods. He enjoyed history and artistry - this was the basis of his collections of toy soldiers, WWI military models, buses, trolleys, dirigibles, and toys from earlier times. Each piece represented a period of history to him and helped it come alive. (Betsy kept the collection within bounds - he was under orders not to buy anything he couldn't display.) He loved to write - he wrote a political column in the local papers for many years - he edited our newsletter (with Betsy's invaluable help) for years.
Charles was a leader and organizer. He was always his own man - one always knew where one stood with Charles. He enjoyed being in control. For example, he would brag about how smart his son Vince was and how he set up Charles' computer system. However, when he would have a problem with it, he would call me. I would say "Charles, call Vince, he is the expert." His answer, "I know, but I can't stand that he knows more about something than I do." Charles was very active in local politics for many years. He was a man of action - he liked results. He ruled our miniature auto club with an iron hand. He was actually a dictator and we all loved it! He made things go.
Charles was a people person. He was involved in local politics for years. Everywhere he went he met people. He loved to find out their background, what made them tick. He belonged to many organizations and lubs - as diverse as the London Underground Society, a bird society and a dirigible society. To his friends he was totally loyal. He would love to tell us "Betsy is the most wonderful wife."
Charles didn't always realize how unique he was - before the days of caller ID, he would call me at work and in his distinctive voice would say to the secretary, "May I speak to L. Stuart Wesley" (No one else called me L. Stuart Wesley). Soon, everyone in the office knew it was Charles. I'd pick up the phone and say "Hi Charles" - he couldn't understand how I knew who was the caller.
Charles' great gift to us was his unbounded enthusiasm and positive approach to life. In spite of constant pain from his wartime injury - he became the victor - he loved life and lived it with vigor, passion, optimism and enthusiasm.
I never had a better friend - we'll miss you Charles