Charles T. Fleenor|
Nov. 22, 1921 - June 5, 2013
Resident of Lake Wildwood, Calif.
Charles Fleenor was born in Los Angeles November 22, 1921. His parents moved to San Leandro, Calif. in 1923. When Charles was a boy he was fascinated by airplanes. He often bicycled to the old Oakland Airport to watch the planes take off and land. He dreamed of being a pilot and learned all he could about aircraft.
When WWII broke out, Charles' oldest brother, George, was the first brother to enlist in the armed services. George was told that if he enlisted, his brothers would not be drafted. George was sent to San Diego directly from the recruitment center. It all happened so quickly that he had to call his mom to tell her he wouldn't be home for dinner. As it turned out, he didn't get home for dinner for two years.
When Charles enlisted in the Air Force shortly thereafter he was told that, because of his size, he was better suited to be a bombardier. He served in the 384 Bomb Group, 547th Bomb Squadron in England during WWII. His plane was shot down over France in 1944 on what was to be his last bombing mission. When his parachute became stuck in the trees, French farmers tried to free him, but German soldiers arrived and took him prisoner.
He spent 16 months in Stalag Luft 1, a prison camp in Barth, Germany, until he and his fellow prisoners were liberated by Russian soldiers in 1945. The Russians offered to take Charles and his group to Russia, but they declined and eventually were united with U.S. Forces and taken to England as the war ended.
After the war he was stationed in Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas as part of SAC, the Strategic Air Command. He flew many missions as part of the defensive efforts of the Air Force during the Cold War until about 1952. This was before the U.S. had a missile system to protect its northern border from attack.
It was during the late 1940s that Charles met his first wife, Dorothy Kubetin, and helped raise her daughter Cynthia. They had a son, Mike, on February 8, 1948. When Charles and Dorothy were divorced in 1952, Mike moved in with Charles' brother George and his wife Donna and made his home with their family until he was 12.
Charles met Margaret (Peggy) Greenland in 1953. They were neighbors in an apartment in LA. When Peggy moved back to Princeton, New Jersey, Charles called her and proposed. Peggy accepted and they were married in 1959. They built a house in Woodland Hills, Calif. and Mike elected to live with them until he joined the Marine Corps at 18 and served in Vietnam. On his return from Vietnam, he told his Aunt Donna that he "saw things there that no one should see." Mike never really recovered from his experiences in Vietnam. He died in his late forties after dealing with many difficult personal issues. This was years before there was awareness about PTSD.
When Charles retired from Litton, he and Peggy moved to Lake Wildwood, Calif., a retirement community in the Sierra Foothills. There Charles, an ardent golfer, spent many hours on the golf course as he and Peggy enjoyed their retirement. He devotedly cared for Peggy through a long illness until she died in 2000. Charles continued to live at Lake Wildwood until he suffered a stroke on June 4, 2013.
Donna Fleenor, Charles' sister-in-law, reflecting on the character of Charles Fleenor, said, "Charles was a gentleman with a humorous side. Most of all, he was a wonderful person who would help anyone who needed it." Then she added with great respect, "He was a GOOD PERSON! I am really going to miss him." This sentiment was echoed by his entire extended family of nieces and nephews.
Published in Inside Bay Area on July 14, 2013