After long life well lived, local political activist Charles Caughlan died April 25, 2013 at the age of 98 surrounded by his wife, Helen, and members of his family. Charles was a 73-year resident of Bozeman.
He was born in Pullman, Wash. Jan. 20, 1915 to Ada and John Caughlan. John was a progressive Methodist minister whose social activism kept them moving throughout Washington. Charles's early life took him to many northwest towns including Ellensburg, Aberdeen, finally spending his high school years in Seattle. His earliest memory was waking up with his entire family being stricken with the Spanish Flu during the flu epidemic of 1918-1919.
While attending Grey's Harbor Junior College in Aberdeen, Wash. during the early 1930s, he observed the struggles and violence against the workers attempting to unionize the timber industry which solidified his liberal political agenda and his work for peace and justice for the rest his life. He went on to earn his bachelor's degree and Ph.D. in chemistry specializing in X-Ray Crystallography from the University of Washington
. From 1944-1946 Charles worked at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y. which solidified his life long commitment to pacifism.
An avid skier and outdoorsman, he was instrumental in the beginning and early development of Bridger Bowl Ski Area where he enjoyed skiing into his 92nd year. He learned a love of mountain climbing in his teens when he climbed most of the higher peaks in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains in Washington. After arriving in Bozeman that love of the outdoors compelled him to climb many of the mountains in the south central Montana and Wyoming including several different routes up the Grand Teton. He fostered a love of backpacking in his children and continued to backpack with them and his grandchildren well into his late 80s hiking with a yearly family backpacking trek on trails in Montana and Washington. He was also passionate about tennis and could be seen frequently on the tennis courts at MSU where he played until he was 93.
Charles's professional life was marked by a long career as a chemistry professor at Montana State University where he also served as head of the Chemistry Department for several years. During his teaching years he was honored often for his excellence in teaching. After retiring from the university, he was able to devote his time to his other passions: civil liberties and human rights, Scottish dancing, baking, gardening, music and travel. He was a frequent and popular contributor to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's "letters to the editor" about his concerns for peace, civil liberties and all aspects of both domestic and foreign human rights. In 1997 he was awarded the Walt Brown Award by the Montana Human Rights Task Force; for his "recognition and dedication to human rights and civil rights in Montana." For many years, Charles hosted the Task Force's radio call-in program ending in 2007. In 2006 the Montana ACLU awarded him the Jeannette Rankin Award "for his tireless efforts to advance civil liberties and human rights and his steadfast commitment to peace and justice." He also finally received the Order of the Silver Marmot award in 2010 from Washington State's Boy Scout Camp Parsons after expressing regret that he hadn't received it in 1927 when originally earned at age 12.
Charles married Georgeanne Robertson in 1936 and they had four children. He later married Helen Cameron in 1974. He is survived by his wife, Helen; his four children, Cheryl Allen of Truckee, Calif., Kevin of Kensington, Md., Kerry Travers (Mike) of Chelan, Wash. and Deirdre of Butte; Helen's four children, Greg, Dan, and Richard Mecklenburg of Bozeman and Laurie Cameron of Sedona, Ariz.; 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his former wife, Georgeanne Caughlan and his brothers, James (Carl) and John Caughlan.
He was always interested in and curious about the world around him, he had a sparkle in his eye, a remarkable zest for life, and an endless energy for his passions, especially for issues involving peace and justice.
The family extends its heartfelt gratitude to Springmeadows Assisted Living, Hospice of Southwest Montana as well as dear friend, Ginger Lee of HeartBeat Senior Fitness for the excellent and compassionate care provided for him and his family during the last year. The family is also grateful to long term friends especially Ardie and Rose Jaffe for their attentiveness during his final days. A celebration of his extraordinary life will be held at the Emerson Cultural Center Ballroom on Thursday, July 25 at 5 p.m. The family requests that memorials be sent to the American Civil Liberties Union, www.aclu.org
; Hospice of Southwest Montana, 3810 Valley Commons Dr., Bozeman, MT 59718; or the MSU Foundation, P.O. Box 172750, Bozeman, MT 59717-2750 or www.montana.edu/foundation.
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.