IT WAS A VERY SWEET LIFE
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Charles Newel Huggins (Chuck) died on August 19 2012 at his home in Larkspur, California, with his wife Donna and family members by his side. Chuck's last days before his unexpected passing were happy and fun-filled - listening to hot jazz, bird watching, taking walks, playing with his beloved cats, and enjoying his favorite crab cocktails.
Known to everyone as Chuck, he was best known as the long time President and CEO of See's Candies, Inc. but he was so much more. He was a devoted family man, a loving husband, a community leader, a jazz aficionado, a lover of nature and animals and a generous philanthropist who touched thousands of people through his wisdom, generosity and humor. He was, in a word, a gentleman.
Chuck was born in 1925 to American parents (Charles and Ruth Huggins) in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was raised with his sister Ruth (known as "Squirt") in Portland, Oregon where his family had migrated in the 1880's. In 1937 at the age of 12 he took a four-month trip around the world with his grandparents Dr. Gustave and Mimo Bruere on the Steamship General Sherman. Just eight years later war was raging in many of the places he had visited. Very involved with scouting and the outdoors as a youth, Chuck believed that scout involvement prepared him for his service as an Army Paratrooper in WWII with the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division. He saw action in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and Germany including the Battle of the Bulge. His military service meant a great deal to him and he was often seen proudly wearing a red military beret embellished with his paratrooper wings.
Chuck graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and received an honorary Doctor of Law Degree there in 2001.
Following college (in 1951) he and his late wife Marian, better known as Mime settled in Menlo Park. Then through a chance meeting set up by his good friend Dick Balch, Dean of Men at Stanford, he began his 55 year relationship with See's Candies, first as a Manager of the Packing Department and followed by many other positions in the company before being named President and CEO in 1972.
Mr. Huggins was instrumental on behalf of the See Family in the 1972 sale of the company to Warren Buffett and Charles Munger of the Berkshire Hathaway Company. Warren and Charlie immediately decided to appoint Chuck President and CEO with the instructions to continue operating the company with the same principles which had guided Charles See and his mother Mary from its founding in 1921. Mr. Buffett has been quoted as saying that it took him about 15 seconds to realize Chuck was the person for the job and in later years wondered "why it took him so long". Under Chuck's leadership the company grew to more than 5,000 employees and 200 plus stores, with sales revenues in excess of $300 million. Chuck was responsible for developing dozens of candies (including most recently, the immensely popular Awesome Bars) and saving others from "retirement" including ginger, marzipan and marshmints. It has been calculated that he consumed over 300,000 pieces of candy in his lifetime! He retired, much to the dismay of hundreds of employees and See's fans, in 2006. It was a difficult decision for him, but after fifty-five years (!) he felt it was time to try other things - and try them he did (at the age of 86 he got a tattoo of his military regiment on his right arm; and he loved to tool around the Bay Area driven by Donna in her 1936 Ford). He was ready for anything!
Throughout his life Chuck continuously applied his personal charm and intellect to both his corporate life and community life. His many employees loved him. It was not unusual to see him hugged and cheered when he walked through the See's plants and stores. His philanthropy (both personal and corporate) was legendary. The many recipients of his largesse include the Filoli Center in Woodside where he started Jazz at Filoli, led the fundraising for the visitor center, and served on the Board of Governors; Family Service Agency of San Mateo County, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco where he sponsored the Easter Sunday Evensong for many years, The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation, the restoration of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, The Children's Health Council, The Stanford Jazz Workshop, The San Francisco Jazz Festival, The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco Opera and Symphony, Riverwalk Jazz, KCSM and KJAZ Radio, South San Francisco High School, Menlo School, Music in Schools Today, Kenyon College, Catlin Gabel School and Chapman School (in Portland Oregon), Carson High School (in Carson, California), The Maharishi School (in Fairfield, Iowa) and countless other public and private schools, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, California State Parks Foundation, Wildcare, The Marine Mammal Center, Ocean Conservancy, Peninsula Humane Society, the San Francisco History Association, The California Historical Society, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, The Guardians of the City Museum and Memorial (Chuck and Donna attended the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire observance each year at 5:00 am) and literally hundreds of others, including MANY music festivals, individuals, fundraising events (in the Bay Area as well as other locales) and on and on. In addition, under his tenure there were very few non-profit fundraising events that did not have See's goodies on the tables!
The numerous awards for his good works that he received throughout his life are too many to mention, numbering in the hundreds. He appreciated each and every one of them.
His happy 48-year union with his late wife "Mime" produced four lively children: Pete, Anne, Shelley and Chip. They spent many joyful and fulfilling years with them in Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, and for a brief time Los Angeles, where weekends always included trips to the beach with various dogs and friends piled in the station wagon. He adored his nine grandchildren and he lavished attention on them all. The spouses of his children were also a treasured part of his life. An annual family reunion at Kona Village on the Big Island of Hawaii was a fun-filled part of family life as were frequent trips to a second home on Blakely Island located in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.
Subsequent to the passing of his first wife, Chuck married Donna Ewald, a native San Franciscan and Marin County resident. Chuck and Donna shared many common interests including a love of music, travel, animals, conservation, history, philanthropy the outdoors and great looking hats! They spent a lot of time laughing, singing and generally loving life and everything it had to offer and to say they were always on the go is an understatement. Chuck and Donna had fifteen wonderful years together and they made the most of every moment. Chuck loved to say: "This is SERIOUS fun!" It sure was.
Chuck's love of music included performance. He was an accomplished singer and drummer and often took to the stage spontaneously. His rendition of Hello Central, Give Me Doctor Jazz always brought down the house. Other favorite tunes included: You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You, Bill Bailey, Lazy River, Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans, and Ace in the Hole. His favorite performers included Eddie Condon, Turk Murphy's Jazz Band (often accompanied by his pal vocalist Pat Yankee), The Jim Cullum Jazz Band (Turk and Jim were among his closest friends and Chuck helped Jim arrange Turk's gig at Carnegie Hall -a legendary blast!), Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Schulz and the Frisco Jazz Band, Shelly Berg, Dick Hyman and his idol, Louis Armstrong. He had tons of fun with Bud Spangler - producing shows at KJAZ, KCSM and Jazz at Filoli. Later, his friend Paul Blystone took over the Filoli concerts and kept the music going strong...always with a little advice from Chuck. Chuck supported the Riverwalk Jazz radio shows featuring the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and produced by his buddy Margaret Moos Pick. The 400 plus shows will live on through The Riverwalk Jazz Archive at Stanford Library and the programs will be streaming live on the Stanford website beginning in 2013. He was a member of the Bohemian Club and of Owl's Nest Camp at the Bohemian Grove, where he enthusiastically enjoyed the incredible music and camaraderie for so many years. He sang and played drums with a jazz band with his great friend Tom Ford called T Ford and the Model A's - that performed at charitable events all over the Bay Area and even toured Europe!
Chuck is survived by his wife Donna and her brother Ed, his son Peter Huggins and his wife Susan of Fairfield, Iowa and their children Evan, Ryan, Tye and Dia; his daughter Anne Huggins Walton and her husband Bart of Portland, Oregon; his daughter Shelley Huggins Dutton and her husband Peter and their children Taylor (Woody) of Portland, Oregon and Ella Campbell (Alex) of Chicago; his son Charles "Chip" Huggins and his wife Pam and their children Charles (Chuck) and Marian (Mimi) of Emerald Hills, California and Anna Morris (Matt) of Palo Alto; his sister Ruth Slack and her son Bob of Beaverton, Oregon and his two cherished cats Mimo and Gus. He was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first great grandchild.
Donna would also like to acknowledge the friendship of Helena "Leni" van der Meyden, Jennifer Stephens and Juan Flores who helped Chuck keep vital and strong for so long.
There will never be another like him.
Donations may be made to any of the charities that were close to his heart or the
. Following Chuck's example, be kind to someone everyday, and make it a "Wonderful World" in his memory.
Internment will be private. A benefit jazz concert in his honor will take place sometime in the near future. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from August 22 to August 26, 2012
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