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Charles J. "Joe" Dando

Charles J. "Joe" Dando

Charles J "Joe" Dando began his earthly journey on March 15, 1928 and, at the age of 85, passed away peacefully on February 14, 2014 in Wilmington, NC. Born in Springfield, MO to Charles and Stella Dando, he attended Springfield High School, the University of Missouri, and Drury College, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration and was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.

In 1951 he was married to Dorothy Lee Williams and together they raised two sons, Charles Joseph III (Springfield) and Webster Alan (Fort Worth, Texas). Joe and Dorothy split in 1979 and in 1981 he was married to Mary Lynn Gorham of Burlington, NC.

Joe had a rich and varied professional life and it all got started in the insurance industry. In the early '50s, he joined his new father-in-law at the Charles F. Williams Insurance Agency, Missouri's largest one-man agency at the time. By 1960, he'd teamed with Bill Evans to establish a firm called Lanseair, a sub-standard risk agency which became the second largest producer of long-haul trucking insurance in the United States. The success of this agency spawned satellite offices around the country, giving Joe the opportunity to indulge his passion for flying his own planes, because, you know, he had to visit them once in a while. (If the name Lanseair sounds familiar even though you've never owned a long-haul truck, you may have attended one of the many indoor pool parties held at the Lanseair Home Offices on East Sunshine Street.) He also became co-owner of Casualty Insurance of California, a major underwriter of workman's compensation insurance.

While Joe's professional life was closely associated with the insurance industry, he was deeply imbued with the American entrepreneurial spirit, having started or invested in several businesses during his lifetime. He loved being on the water and saw an opportunity to mix business and pleasure by purchasing Table Rock's Kimberling Cove Marina, which he owned during the 1970s. He also started a houseboat rental company in Florida known as Rent-A-Cruise, opening five locations in that state. In the '80s, the boom in the oil and gas industry called, so he relocated to San Antonio to act as a principal of Stebar Oil & Gas Exploration. During his insurance heyday, he parked much of his earnings in real estate and for a few years was the largest private land owner in Stone County.

While most of us are known to others by what we do professionally, Joe was much more than an insurance man and entrepreneur. He liked adventure and was a bit of a risk-taker - and he started early. He had to sneak out of the house at age 15 in order to take flying lessons (because his mother said "no" to that idea). At age 16 he joined the Forestry Service as a fire jumper at Glacier National Park in Montana. At age 17 he joined the Navy as a pilot, but the war ended before he could complete his training, so he transitioned to the post-war Army, where he served as a guard at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo. There he was part of the contingent assigned to guard Hideki Tojo, Tokyo Rose, and other high-profile Japanese war criminals.

After the war, his sense of adventure meant that the annual family camping trips were often taken away from the beaten path. From the top of Pike's Peak to the floor of Death Valley, Joe loved traveling the west and the RV life in general. In fact, between 1981 and 2009, he and wife Mary Lynn traveled to 46 of the lower 48 states in their motor home.

But RVs can only show one so much. How about a look at America from our river and gulf system? Let's sail a houseboat from Chicago to Florida. And let's do it in January. No problem for Joe, ice-covered rivers be damned! Of course flying somewhere was always on the menu and he had at least one airplane ready to go at all times. As a private pilot, Joe logged over 9,000 hours behind the stick of a variety of aircraft.

He was an avid golfer and a member of Hickory Hills Country Club for over 50 years, placing highly in some of the club's tournaments and winning it all one year as a member of the club's Gold Cup team in Las Vegas.

Joe never officially retired, but began slowing down his involvement in business activities during the late '90s in favor of spending more time traveling with Mary Lynn. They enjoyed tropical vacations with their friends, RVing, and split their home time between summers in Springfield and winters in Wilmington, NC.

As we bid him a sad, yet fond farewell, his family will always be grateful for the love and adventure he brought to our lives.

He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Mary Lynn; his two sons Chuck and Web (including Web's wife Gilda, stepson Damien and granddaughter Madison); stepchildren Mark Bryan Newton of Burlington, NC and Audra Michele Latham of Charlotte, NC; and a brother, James Edward of Springfield.

Graveside services, under the direction of Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home, will be held at Maple Park Cemetery on Saturday, March 15 at 4:00pm with the Reverend Billy Wear Jr. officiating. A celebration of his life will be held afterward at the Elks Lodge, where he was a life-long member and the youngest to be initiated "back in the day" at age 20.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Liberty Hospice, 2550 S. 41st Street, Wilmington, NC.




Published in the News-Leader from Mar. 8 to Mar. 12, 2014
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