From left to right: Vincent Châtel and Chuck Ferree (July 1998)
Chuck has left us. He quietly passed away on July 7th, 1999 in his sleep. The week before, I phoned him on his birthday. He told me how very happy he was to feel good (earlier this year he had serious health problems but eventually recovered) and to be able to enjoy working in his yard with Dickie, his wife. I told him my wife and I were planning to visit them next year (I live in Belgium) and we also discussed our new plans for this web site.
But early in the morning of July 8th, I received a phone call. It was Dickie. Chuck had passed away.
There so many things I would like to tell you about Chuck. I would like to tell you about his honesty, his sense of humor, about how good and generous a man he was. I would like to tell you all the things I learned from him. I would like to tell you how much he helped me in the making of this web site as well as on many other occasions. I owe him so much.
I was honored to be his friend. Despite of the difference in age (he was 75 and I'm 38), he was my best and truest friend, and we shared so many things.
I had been in contact with Chuck since 1996. At that time, I was trying to find information about the concentration camp where my father was incarcerated during the war. Chuck answered to my questions and we started exchanging e-mail's. We became friends. In November 1996 we decided to create this web site. During all the intervening years, he helped me so much by sending information and documents, answering hundreds of requests from English-speaking viewers, giving me advice and, last but not least, doing spelling corrections on my texts (my mother language is French).
In 1998, my wife and I decided to visit him and his wife in the USA. Despite all the e-mail's we had exchanged before and all the things we already shared, it was a big challenge: I had never met him before.
There is only one word to define what happened during our visit with Chuck and Dickie: magical. We only stayed 8 days with them, but we enjoyed each day, each hour, each minute with them and Sandy, their daughter. It seemed we had known each other for years. It was often unnecessary to talk: we had the same way of thinking. It is nearly impossible to me to describe this visit. -- so many good things, so many laughs, so many good moments.
After we came back to Belgium, we continued exchanging e-mail's, and we had several phone conversations. My wife and I consider Chuck, Dickie and Sandy as family members. I was already planning a new trip to the USA to visit them when...
This web site will continue, even though it will be hard for me to work without Chuck's help and advice. He was so deeply involved in the development of this web site. But I know he would want me to continue his work. I owe him that.
Good bye, my best Pal, we love you and we miss you so much.
Vincent and Annick, July 8th, 1999.
Charles "Chuck" Ferree was born June 30, 1924, in Prescott, Ariz. He was served in the Army infantry from 1940-41. He trained as a paratrooper and made 16 jumps. During World War II, he served in Europe, where he was a combat reconnaissance crew member and pilot who took part in 67 missions and had three victories. Chuck flew on a P47 fighter. The decorations Chuck had included the European Theater of Operation, Air Medals with five oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
In April 1945, Chuck was assigned to the 7th Army headquarter. With 11 other pilots, he started flying officers from General Eisenhower's headquarter into concentration camps as they were liberated. Chuck went to Buchenwald, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Mauthausen, as well as other sub-camps, in the hours following the liberation of these camps.
Chuck married Dickie in Florence, Ariz., on July 21st, 1942.
Chuck graduated from the Western Institute for Organizational Management at the University of Santa Clara in Santa Clara, Calif., and completed three years of postgraduate studies.
From 1947 to 1959, Chuck worked at F.W. Woolworth Co., the last seven years as store manager. In 1959, he started working at the El Cajon, Calif., Chamber of Commerce as general manager. He was promoted to executive vice president of the organization in 1975. He retired in 1979.
While living in El Cajon, Chuck served on various governmental advisory boards and commissions and was active in many community groups. He was a founding member and first chairman of People for People, El Cajon's first racial relations organization, and president of the San Diego-Imperial County Chapter of the Chamber of Commerce Executives Association. Locally, Chuck belonged to the Eagles.
He belonged to the National Association of Combat Pilots and was named 1978 Citizen of the Year by the city of El Cajon. His interests included writing, and he was active in the civil rights movement in the 1970s. Chuck wrote a book about the Holocaust and was working on a new book about Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Survivors include his wife Dickie; his daughter Sandy; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.