Charles Michael van der Horst
January 4, 1952 - June 14, 2019
Charles Michael van der Horst, died on Friday, June 14, at the end of a marathon swim in the Hudson River of an apparent cardiac event. He was born in Hilversum, the Netherlands, and immigrated to the US as an infant. He was the son of the late Johannes Martines Arnold van der Horst and the late Sonja Eichenbaum [Teicholz] van der Horst, a holocaust survivor. Charlie was 67 years old.
As Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Charlie worked passionately on the front lines of the HIV epidemic, both in the United States and Africa (primarily Malawi and South Africa), starting with his compassionate care and advocacy for the very first AIDS patients and making important contributions to the research that has made HIV/AIDS a preventable and treatable disease. After retirement in 2015, he volunteered at the Open Door free clinic in Raleigh, NC, where he created a program which provided access to Hepatitis C curative treatment for this medically vulnerable population. Charlie was also deeply involved in progressive politics and causes, and became a public face of North Carolina's Moral Monday movement, often standing beside the Rev. William J. Barber II. He and his wife were generous financial supporters of numerous progressive causes and organizations that support the most vulnerable.
Charlie was a friend to so many, and was always the first to offer real help to anyone in need. He seemed to have infinite capacity to bring people into his caring embrace.
He was a passionate athlete, ran multiple marathons including NY and Boston, competed in triathlons, and in the last year began training for marathon open-water swims. He loved to challenge himself, and surely was proud that he completed that last 15.7 mile swim.
Most important to him and those who loved him, he was a devoted, fun, funny, loving husband, father and brother. He leaves behind his wife Laura Svetkey (Chapel Hill NC), his daughters Anna Svetkey van der Horst (Salt Lake City UT) and Sarah Svetkey van der Horst (Chapel Hill NC); Sarah's husband Eddie Alcorn; Anna's partner Louis Nichols; his sisters Tatjana Schwendinger (Robert Schwendinger) and Jacqueline Sergent (Herve Sergent); his brother Roger van der Horst; his mother-in-law Marcia Tuchman Svetkey Wallace; his sister-in-law Susan Svetkey (Stephen Houze); his brothers-in-law Jonathan Svetkey (Ilana Virchis), Benjamin Wallace (Gwen Griffith), Benjamin Svetkey (Lenka Ulrichova), and Ford Weisberg (husband of the late Nancy Weisberg); and many beloved nieces, nephews and their children.
Funeral services will take place at 11am on Tuesday, June 18 at Beth El Synagogue, 1004 Watts Street in Durham, NC. A casket containing meaningful reminders from Charlie's life will be buried at the Durham Hebrew Cemetery after the funeral service. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Charlie's honor to the progressive cause of your choice.
Published in The News and Observer on Jun. 17, 2019.