American Veteran 04

Charles Allan Rhoads

March 11, 1925 ~ January 31, 2024 (age 98) 98 Years Old
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Charles Rhoads Obituary

Charles “Chuck” Allan Rhoads, a long-time resident and retired optometrist of Ft. Walton Beach, FL passed away in the comfort of his home on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. He was 98.  

Chuck is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Verna “Vee” Rhoads. He also leaves two children: his #1 son Lt. Col Allan Leslie Rhoads, OD Ret USAF (wife Barbara) of Spokane, WA and his darling daughter Lesli Rhoads Baines (husband Peter) of Cumming, GA; four grandchildren: Caroline Rhoads, David Rhoads, Joseph “Joey” Baines Jr. and namesake, Charles “Charlie” Baines; and two great-grandchildren Michael and Adelaide. He was preceded in death by his parents: Albert Leslie Rhoads (1891-1962) and Esther Finn Rhoads Reynolds (1900-1985); his dear older sister, Evar Gloria Finn who passed away in 1926 at 2 years of age; and Esther’s first husband, Julius Rathke Finn of Norway. Chuck spoke fondly of his grandparents, many aunts, uncles, and cousins too.

Chuck, who went by “Bud” as a child, was born in Superior Wisconsin on March 11, 1925, and grew up in Washington Court House, Ohio. His mother was an accomplished artist, world traveler, one of the first women in radio, and owner of champion trotting racehorses. His father was a prominent Ohio architect for residential neighborhoods, schools, and manufacturing buildings and in 1911 had been a seat-setter for the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. They were a family with a passion for learning, hard work, strong faith, compassion for others and living life to its fullest.

Growing up during The Depression, Bud learned the importance of family, resourcefulness, humor, and self-sufficiency. Those traits influenced his lifelong love for fishing, a passion he shared and taught others for nearly a century. Affectionately known as “Doc”, he delighted in fishing off the Okaloosa Island Pier and would frequently hand his fishing pole, with a fish already hooked, over to young tourists walking by, just to see their excitement at being able to reel in a fresh catch! He never came home empty handed or without a refreshed spirit gained from soaking up the salt air, golden sun, and marveling at God’s creation. When visiting the pier a year ago, he was thrilled to still hear “What’s up Doc? Is that you?” coming from his smiling angler friends along the rails.

God blessed Chuck with many talents, including a gift for music and language. He played the sousaphone in his high school marching band, sang in barbershop quartets, played the violin in symphony orchestras, and composed beautiful piano pieces with lyrics. He was a poet and wrote short stories and philosophical essays. In 1942, he graduated from Washington Court House High School, where he lettered in both Music and Debate and received rave reviews for his starring role as Henry Aldrich in his junior class play, “What a Life!”

After graduation, he enrolled at Ohio University in Athens and joined the ROTC and the Beta Kappa Chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, where he made lifelong friends that he faithfully maintained.  

Chuck’s college education was interrupted from 1944-1946 while he served in the US Navy during World War II. He attended the Hospital Corps School in San Diego, spent time in Gulfport, Jacksonville and finished Naval Training School in Chicago, before he was assigned to provide aid to returning wounded troops as a Pharmacist’s Mate PO3 aboard the U.S.S. West Point (AP23) Troop Carrier, formerly S.S. America, the biggest and finest passenger ship ever built in the USA. The USS West Point was known for her 22 knot speed and room to carry 8,000 troops. Being much faster than the protective escort ships meant they traveled alone through enemy waters. Chuck’s personal USN ship’s 1st logbook entry shows he reported for duty at 18:30 on the 18th of June 1945 in Norfolk, VA, Pier 2. He made numerous transatlantic crossings during Operation “Magic Carpet”, anchoring at Baie De La Seine and LeHavre, France, Naples, Italy, and Southampton England and also transpacific voyages, anchoring in Manila, Pearl Harbor, and passing through the Cristobal and Balboa Canal Zones. Chuck logged a total of over 73,000 miles in his one year onboard. Their peak hospital load was 2,061 patients in July 1945, meaning he had to remain on duty with only brief rest periods the entirety of that westbound trip. Chuck dutifully attended to patients, despite the high surf of North Atlantic seas and strenuous conditions. Although she was the biggest and fastest US transport, USS West Point with a crew of only 800, also had the distinction of never losing a passenger during her wartime service, carrying more than 450,000 troops in 4 years safely to their destination.

In more recent years, Dr. Rhoads was humbled to be able to participate in an Honor Flight, dedicated to flying WWII veterans to DC to visit the WWII Memorial and attend a special ceremony during a same day round trip experience. It was very moving for him to be recognized in that manner and he enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow servicemembers of his “Greatest Generation” again. He also enjoyed speaking to his grandson’s elementary school class to share his memories and answer their questions about his service during WWII.

After his Navy Service, Chuck returned to Ohio, and the Beta house, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948. He then graduated from Ohio State’s School of Optometry in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1952. He was a big Buckeye fan and member of Epsilon Psi Epsilon, Beta Sigma Kappa honorary optometry fraternity and the Student Optometric Association.

Dr. Rhoads embarked on a successful 40-year optometry career, beginning with a clinic in Sabina, OH. He became a leader in the community, organizing a celebration of Ohio’s 150th year. Under his direction, the small town had more attendance and entries in their impressive Sesquicentennial Parade than those in nearby cities. He also began the town’s annual Easter Egg Hunt that continues to this day, 60 years later.

After marrying Vee, the love of his life, in 1963, they decided they wanted more for Allan than what the small town offered, so Chuck again chose to serve his country by joining the US Air Force with hopes of eventual deployments to Europe. His first assignment was McDill AFB in FL, and following the birth of their daughter, the family enjoyed extended tours at Torrejón Air Base in Madrid, Eglin AFB/Hurlburt Field, and Wiesbaden USAF Regional Hospital in Germany. He absorbed the culture and language wherever he traveled and took pleasure in meeting new people from around the globe. One notable experience he had in 1981 was being the first to examine the eyes of the 66 US Hostages following their release after 444 days in Iranian captivity. Their first stop for debriefing and physical wellness checks brought them immediately to the Wiesbaden AF Hospital.

Ft. Walton Beach became his favorite home base, so he established roots by designing a beautiful home with exact dimensions to accommodate a suite for his mother and a tennis court. Grandma resided with the family for the remainder of her life, 11 years. Chuck played countless tennis matches with Vee, Allan, and their friends each weekend, and coached the Choctawhatchee HS tennis team in the 1970’s. Playing tennis kept him fit and he progressed in his competitive game, winning the 1981 Senior Doubles Division during a 5-day long AFSC Command Tournament at Edwards AFB, helping bring home the crown for Eglin’s Varsity Team that year.

During his military service Lt. Col Rhoads received numerous commendations, campaign and outstanding unit medals and ribbons, including the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding achievements and leadership. He retired in 1983 from the USAF but continued to practice optometry from his office on Mary Esther Cut-off, with Vee by his side as his optician and receptionist. Together, they continued to serve both military and civilian patients in the community. Allan, incidentally, followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Air Force as an optometrist too, taking over the eye lane at the Hurlburt Field Clinic. The name plate still read Dr. Rhoads and the tennis ball still hung from the far corner ceiling as a visual cue used during eye exams, but the doc in the white coat was a few years younger than most returning patients expected at their follow-up appointments. Chuck was a Life Member of the American Optometric Association and the Armed Forces Optometric Society.  

Dr. Charles Rhoads finally wrapped up his long and successful optometry career after his daughter’s graduation from UF, and he began enjoying the free time in retirement to pursue his many hobbies, like treasure hunting. Chuck found the famous Billy Bowlegs Festival buried treasure in 1982 with one of the fastest finds in documented history! He also metal detected for hours to help tourists recover sentimental and valuable jewelry, keys and watches lost in the fine sugar-white beach sand and underwater in the Emerald Coast surf.

His other hobbies over the years included bow hunting, bowling, playing chess, Volksmarching, jitterbug dancing, traveling, grilling, and reading all the Louis L’Amour books more than once. Chuck was an expert HAM Radio Operator (WB4CMC), marksman, carpenter, dog trainer, and polyglot. He was a leader in his community, serving as an American Legion Post Commander, Special Deputy for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department and on the Ohio Highway Patrol Auxiliary. He loved keeping up with the latest computer and cell phone technology too, calling and texting friends and family until his final days and was looking forward to updating his smart phone on his 99th birthday.

Chuck enjoyed staying physically and mentally active, serving others and lending a helping hand wherever he saw the opportunity to do a good deed. He was a man of God who prayed for and looked for the good in others and shared his love for Jesus and expressed gratitude for all he had experienced in his lifetime. Well into his late 90’s, Chuck continued to be a devoted husband, watching out for, and completing honey-dos for Vee, helping neighbors, and enjoying time spent in the company of family and friends. His love for tennis and fishing never diminished as he started passing along his skills to his energetic and appreciative grandchildren. He also had an affinity for his pets and wildlife. For over 10 years he would walk the block daily with his adorable grand-dogs, Scotch and Soda, waving hello and tossing newspapers from driveways a bit closer to his neighbor’s front steps, while humming favorite Beta songs as he marched along. He made sure the birds had fresh sunflower seeds and blue birds repeatedly nested in boxes he hung along the tennis court fence.

The family would like to thank the doctors, nurses and individual caregivers that participated in Chuck’s care, including Vitas Hospice. With their tireless help, attention, and support, his mind was alert and he held onto every ounce of strength his body could muster. He proved his resilience, amazed his doctors, shared his humor, and graced us with his charm despite physical challenges. He remained able to walk, eat, communicate, and continued to show compassion, gratitude and love for his family and friends by offering a warm smile, gentle hand squeeze and a twinkle in his handsome blue eyes, until the morning Jesus called him home.

We will always fondly remember the loving, faithful, brilliant, creative, generous, child-at-heart servant that God blessed us with for 98+ years. He was a wonderful example of a life well lived to the fullest. We have faith that his eternal soul is overjoyed in the presence of Jesus and his many loved ones that passed before him and we take comfort knowing that we will be reunited one day. His legacy of kindness endures, and his memory will be cherished by all who knew him.

Chuck wrote in his Perspectives of Love in Life and Death sympathy essay, “We are just passing through in line with the divine purpose of God…We can compensate grief by traveling the trail of love to the soul where love is eternal and omnipotent.”

Funeral Services will be held Monday February 26th, with visitation beginning at 10:30 a.m. prior to the 11:00 service and reception at the Ft. Walton Beach First United Methodist Church, where the Rhoads family have been members since 1975, located at 103 First St SE, Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548. Interment with military honors to follow at 2:15 p.m. at Barrancas National Cemetery, Committal Shelter Pavilion B at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.

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Services

A Time of Visitation
Monday
February 26, 2024

10:30 AM to 11:00 AM
First United Methodist Church (Fort Walton Beach)
103 First St SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Memorial Service
Monday
February 26, 2024

11:00 AM
First United Methodist Church (Fort Walton Beach)
103 First St SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Interment with Military Honors
Monday
February 26, 2024

2:30 PM
Barrancas National Cemetery
1 Cemetery Road
Pensacola, FL 32508

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