Charles Eric Ledbetter


To Charles

In Loving Memory of my Son

September 21, 1981 ~ October 31, 1995

September 21st, 2004 -HAPPY 23rd BIRTHDAY, Charlie!

 

To my Blue-eyed Angel.

I Will Love You, Charles
...Forever & Ever...

my Angel in Heaven


My little Angel Charlie - age 2, Feb, 1983 "the little Adventurer"

 

Charles was never afraid...always inquisitive...generally a pain...but always loving, giving and had a laugh that was contagious.

He was the life of a party....he was the party!

Farm boys are bigger & stronger - 1987.

Charles loved the Holidays, and believe me, to him they were "Holy" Singing Songs together was always part of our Family Traditions, and my children loved to sing all kinds of songs, But Charlie's favorite songs were always the happy, cheerful ones & often the silly ones, and at Christmastime, that meant endless rounds of "JINGLE BELLS". He liked the silly ones too, like "Gramma got run over by a Reindeer" , and the silly version of "Rudolf the Red nosed Reindeer" with the echoes and phrases that you shout after each line.

Charles (right) and a cousin were Santa's Reindeer in a school Christmas program 1988.  He was so happy that night.

It drove me up the wall sometimes....but THAT was part of our family tradition, too. Charles sang those songs loud and strong. With Charles in our home, it was always a .

He did his best to make all the Holidays more fun with his humour and gaiety. He enthusiastically participated in everything from decorating to singing ; in preparing food or thinking up fun things to do. Making cookies to give to others was one of his favorite things to do during the Holidays. EVERY holiday was to be celebrated to the fullest, with every embellishment. He loved to make gifts to give others to show how much he cared. The Family & Family traditions were important to Charles.

He loved Angels and hearts...and to me they are symbolic of his heart & soul and undying Love.

In our home, Charles was, at once, the source of a lot of the trouble...and the source of all the fun and joy. He had a heart as big as the world and everyone in it could be his friend. He was the most forgiving person I have ever met in my life. He loved to make people laugh and loved to make them feel happy. He didn't like tears or sadness...even when someone or something he loved died.

Animals...Charles loved all creatures and he always had pets...sometimes too many. Lizards, turtles, gerbils, mice, cats, wild birds, snakes, racing pigeons, dogs, and even a ferret, he named Barricade because she was always getting into places and getting stuck.
Over the years he had rescued quite a number of wild birds that had been blown out of a nest during a storm or that had some sort of injury. Tending and caring for them, he nursed them back to health, and reluctantly, but with a feeling of pride in his accomplishment, he would after a few weeks, release them. He named the first bird, "Terry". He named the 2nd bird....Terry. In fact, he wittingly named every bird thereafter "Terry" to the amusement of our household.

 

Drako, his Rainforest Iguana, was his favorite exotic animal that he ever had. He took total care of her for over 4 years. She grew from a skinny, 10-inch lizard, into a whopping big 4-feet long beauty. The vets said they had never known anyone to keep one for so long a time and it be as healthy as she was. Charles even grew the squash & lettuce he fed her in our family garden. Drako was attacked by the ferret, and lost her nose and suffered much damage. As a result, she became very ill and nearly died. Charles cared for Drako every day, making her food puree in a blender and feeding her with an eye-dropper. He also gave her water that way. He would fix her a warm bath in the tub and soak her, then put her in the warm sunshine or set her on her "hot rock". He did this 4 or 5 times a day, every day, for over 5 months, never faltering. Then one morning, she got up and tore around through the apartment, ran behind the sofa and laid an egg. After that, she was her old self again, and she grew to be 4 feet long. She even ate out of the bowl with Charlie's kittens. He would take her outside to "graze" in the lawn which she loved. The picture above is from a series of photos I took of Charles in May, 1995, several months after Drake's recovery.

 Mr. Magoo

Mr. Magoo was Charles dog & best pal from day-1, following Charles and his ham sandwich back to our home. Hence, his nickname became Hammy.

Mr. Magoo had many nick-names: Hog Dog, Hammy, Piggy, Ham Hock, & Pooter were but a few of them...and he came to all of them. Look at that smile!

Charles and Magoo went on many adventures together. One time Charles went riding his bicycle around town and took Magoo on the leash. Magoo was running along behind the bike as fast as his little short, muscular legs could carry him. Poor old dog could barely keep up. When they got back to the apartment, Magoo laid down and began to make a yapping sound and seemed to be in pain. He sort of rolled to one side and panted heavily. I told Charles he was most likely having a heart attack. He had been run too hard and wasn't used to it. Besides, he was getting old and Charles needed to take it a bit easier with his old pal. Charles sat at his side and cried, telling "Hammy" he was sorry and how he didn't know it would hurt him. Hammy recovered. After that, their adventures became long "Walks" together along creeks and in the parks or on Campus. Everyone liked Charles' dog, They still do, too. And he likes everyone right back.

Sad news - On March 30th, 2003, at the old age of 17 years, Mr. Magoo quietly passed away. He is terribly missed by all who knew & loved that brave and courageous little black hound dog.[ See MaGoo's Memorial ]

More photos of Mr. Magoo can also be seen on the Author's Page.
    

 Charles & a very young Mr. Magoo "Hammy"   Christmas 1989 ->
 

The Boy & his Dog -  As in life, I hope they are together now.

 

Georgie

In the summer of 1992, Charles acquired a puppy. He named him, Georgie.  Georgie was a ball of fluff - part Chow and part wolf-dog. When Georgie was just three months old, he was a mound of fluffy energy. One day I found him riding Charles skateboard through the kitchen. He had learned by himself how to make it go and was riding all by himself across the kitchen floor linoleum. Placing three paws on the skateboard and pushing with the fourth one, he would push off and coast...push and coast, a stunt he was never taught to do. We often said we wished we had a camcorder so we could film it and send it to "Funniest Home Videos". Charles was sure he would win.  Georgie loved to play in the water with Charles. They spent hours in the back yard with the garden hose and the sprayer, Georgie snapping and growling at the spray of water. Once, while they were wrestling, Georgie bit Charles. Charles grabbed Georgie and pulled him to the ground, where he clamped his teeth onto Georgie's ear and bit down until the dog yelped. I heard him tell Georgie, "See how it feels?" That dog never bit Charles again. Georgie had a favorite toy. It was a crocheted frog that I made and stuffed with old pantyhose. His favorite game began with asking him "Where's your Frog?" Georgie would run to get his frog and then we were to chase him. All you had to say was "Frog, Frog", and off he would go to find it. He also loved to play, "Big Bad Wolf", wherein the boys would run through the house, and Georgie would chase after them growling and acting ferocious. It was frightening to visitors.

My beautiful son, Charles, with his beautiful dog, Georgie.

The other day I was going through some boxes in the basement and I found one of Georgie's old chew-toys that I had all but forgotten...a squeaky Kanga & Roo doll. At first glance I did not remember it nor who it had once belonged to. Closer examination revealed the tiny teeth marks made by Georgie when he was just a puppy. It was made of soft rubber and Georgie could easily have chewed it to bits, but he never did, even after he had grown into a big dog. It was in with Charlie's favorite things. I never knew that he had kept it after Georgie had died.

I remembered the day of Georgie's violent death, on June 21st, 1994, that terrible day, and how brave a little boy who was not quite 12 years old had been through it all. If we had not been so damned poor at the time, his dog might have been saved, but the local Vets would not take our dog and try to save him, even though I had always promptly paid my charges before. And so Georgie endured a long and violent death and all I could do was cry. But Charles never ever blamed me for not having the money to save his dog, nor even the damnable Veterinarians who could have saved a little boy's best pal but wouldn't for the love of money...nor did he ever say a word about it. He carefully and lovingly helped me bathe his dog and dry his fur, brushing it till it shined in the afternoon sunlight. We wrapped Georgie in a clean white sheet and carried him to the back of our garden to dig the grave. The ground there was dry and hard and the digging was toilsome. He spoke not a word as we worked hastily before the approaching storm hit. After a few minutes, he commented on how small & light Georgie appeared now that his life had gone from his body. Strange since he had seemed so big when alive and so heavy to lift, whereas now, he was as a feather. "I guess our spirits is what makes us so important, huh, Mom." He stood there for a few minutes, quietly staring at nothing on the ground before he spoke again. "Mom? - do you think Georgie is in Heaven with Elmo chasing rabbits or sumpin?" Elmo had been our dog of many years before the advent of Georgie,  and Charles often commented that if he could change just one thing in his life, he would like to have had Elmo alive again. I assured him that they were probably running and having a great time right then. He choked a bit, but smiled at me as he thought of that and said, "Yah, and I bet they are going nine-dy to nuttin' right now." He laughed, fighting back tears. "I hope Georgie doesn't scare God!"... then peered at me through pools of blue tears as he choked out a laugh and his mouth grinned and he said no more. Gently he laid his best pal into the soft earthen bed he had made for him and patted his head lovingly one last time before we began the task of covering the grave. He shed not one tear. In solemnity, he turned and left the garden, his head hung low, shoulders drooping and his too-big feet dragging a bit as he made his way to the back door. He said he thought he might just go take a nap. All that digging had worn him "Slap out". I found him later curled up asleep in my bed, holding Georgie's Frog and the rubber Kanga & Roo toy - Magoo at his side.
I sat beside him and stroked his silken hair and he snuggled close to me and slept a long time.

As I caressed the little doll, touching each little tooth mark and remembering those times, tears began to stream, and I sat down on the cold, musty floor in the basement, rocking it and sobbing...for...a long time.

(January 19th, 2001)


Charles taught his kittens to swim. They loved to play in the garden hose and swim in the bathtub with Charles. His black cat,
Demon, who is now age eleven years old,  still loves to play in the water and on hot days will run through the water spray when I am watering my garden. Charles had an amazing ability with animals. He was never afraid of them, no matter how they behaved...or misbehaved.

My Mom has a Blue-Crowned Parrot, named Heather. There is nothing she likes better than to clamp her big beak on your soft flesh. She would try to bite Charles and he was not afraid of her one bit. He would just reach in and grab her before she could get a hold of him with that enormous, hooked beak. She even nipped him good several times & brought the blood, but that did not deter Charles, not one bit.

 

Charles had silky blonde, flaxen hair and sky-blue eyes. He was very tall for his age...just shy of being 6 feet tall. He wore a size 13 shoe!  He liked the color black....he had a black cat named "Demon" and a black dog, "Mr. Magoo" - I cam e home from work one day to find he had even dyed his hair black. I wasn't too happy about that! You can see in the photo below, that the new growth of hair that was coming in was the flaxen-blonde that he was born with...my Viking son. Silly boy! He had a black cell phone and lots of black clothes & shoes. (Personally, I think it was just a phase he was going through - black was a COOL color in 1995.) He also loved to wear hats. He had quite an assortment of them. Nonetheless, he loved all bright, happy colors, especially RAINBOW colors together. Those were his favorite colors. His room was filled with bright colorful objects, including twinkle lights. He loved things magical and had begun to collect posters and things about wizards and such. They were stolen out of his room after he was killed - some of his school chums took them for souvenirs. I was heart sick over it.

 

 He loved NATURE and being out in it all the time. Even in school, he dreamed and longed to be at the pond fishing or the lake swimming. He grew up in the country and after we moved to town, all he talked about was moving back out to the country. He told me that one day he would buy me another home in the country, where we were the happiest. He kept his promise...but it cost him his life to give it to me.

He loved to build things and make things for others. He made many things for his Grampa Driggs, whom he adored. My home is filled with things he made for me and bought for "Mom". He loved hearts and roses, and angels. I have many items that say, "World's greatest Mom" or "Number ONE Mom", and hearts that say "MOM" or just a big heart key ring that says "LOVE"...all from my Charlie. One time he came to the Human Society where I was working as a Vet Tech, all excited to present me with yet another gift - an angel key ring.

Charles had a great love for all Animals. He wanted to be a veterinarian, working with wild animals in particular. He did many hours of Volunteer work at the Stillwater Humane Society, loving every minute of it. No job was too difficult - too nasty. It was pure joy for him. He enjoyed it so. He was a quick learner and did his best at all times. You never had to go back over any job Charles did. Upon his death, the Board of Directors had a brass plaque made with his name on it and it is currently on display at the Stillwater Humane Society, to honor his years of service as a volunteer.

Charles especially loved Hearts and flowers. He gave me many things with hearts or that were shaped like them. He loved flowers, too, not only for their bright colors which he loved, but also for their fragrance. He was BIG on fragrances. Man, he would dump cologne on himself until it choked everyone else in the room when he entered after he took a bath. His favorite was Drakar. Charles was very neat. He kept his room clean and orderly, but comfortable. But he didn't mind getting dirty or muddy when it involved fun or there was a job he had to do.. He loved to have mud fights at the lake with his siblings and friends. The kids would scoop the black goop off the bottom of the lake, and throw at one another. I have photos of that somewhere. We went to the lake nearly every day after I got off work. Those were good times...


 TIGER Lilies for Charles

July2004
Purple Garden Phlox and Tiger Lily "whiskers"

I don't know if he had a favorite flower or not, but Red Roses were big on his list, and the fragrant purple Garden Phlox because of it's luscious scent, but his all-time favorite would have to be the Tiger Lily. He loved their bright orangey-red color and gay little black spots and the long yellow pistols that sprang out of their centers, like shooting stars, or a cat's whiskers, he once told me. They swayed and danced on the wind.
Every Spring, when it came time to plant flowers, the first thing he would ask me was,
"Are We gonna plant Tiger Lilies this year, Mom? I like Tiger Lilies, Mom. Don't you like them Mom? How come they call 'em Tiger Lilies, Mom? They look more like a leopard to me, don't they to you, Mom? They are just the most specialis-stiss flower in the w-h-o-l-e world!"

I plant them all over my yard and take arms full of them to the cemetery in the summer when they bloom. I have even planted them out there, but it is a bit too hot and dry for them. Maybe when the trees get bigger....

Charles saw people as "kids" - there are "little-er kids" and "bigger kids". Although plagued with multiple learning disabilities, he had an extremely high IQ and was very gifted in many areas, especially engineering and mechanics. He tried so hard to accomplish every task and make good. I have no doubt he would have been a fine man and found his "nitch" in life as an adult.

 He was particularly good in any type of Engineering and mechanics. He loved to work on anything mechanical. Once when he was only 10 years old, I took him to college with me one particular day. There was a young couple who were both handicapped that I knew. They were struggling to make ends meet and with three little ones at home, it was a struggle. That afternoon, the young woman's wheelchair broke down. She could not get home. Her husband called Vocational Rehab to see about getting someone to fix it, but they said they could not do anything about it immediately. There they were, more than a mile away from their home and had no idea what they were going to do. A new Wheelchair would cost well over $2000. As we adults were trying to figure a way to get them back home, Charlie got down and took a look at the computerized mechanism under her chair. Using only his little fingers, he fumbled with some of the motor parts and made a few adjustments & in a matter of less than 5 minutes time, he had the thing running....enough to get them safely home. The reward for Charles? He got to ride on the back of Willa's wheelchair all the way to her apartment!

He loved to play sports...not for the competition or accomplishment, but for the fun and camaraderie.

 Charles was excellent at making money too. He was a money-making fool. At the age of only six years old, he was salvaging metals and even learning the art of metallurgy, smelting down aluminum and making it into bars to sell. He scraped gold off of components on old discarded TVs to be sold at the local metal junk yard. He picked up glass bottles to sell and aluminum cans. What at first seemed laughable to his older brothers, became a "family" project when they saw the money Charles was making, scraping! My boys came home every day, tired, hot and absolutely filthy from combing dump-sights for "good stuff" - but all smiles!

He loved to go "dumpster-diving" and salvaging, which in turn he would sell in his yard sales. You wouldn't believe the items he was able to sell! He even found TVs and vacuum cleaners, repaired them and sold them. Often his profits went to buying treats for all the kids in the neighborhood, or gifts for others. He was totally unselfish. He was excited about everything in life and was not afraid of facing anything that came along or lay ahead. "The mainest thing", he often told me, "is to be happy and make others happy". It was that very quality which he was most loved for by others.

He never thought of the future....there was only now, and he lived it as such...with  NO FEAR!

He did more in fourteen short years than most people do in a life-time. He made the most of every day and every opportunity. It was as if his little Spirit knew he would not be here on Earth very long.

Charles was an avid outdoorsman. He went fishing every chance he got, wherever we lived. He would walk for miles to find a good pond. He caught frogs too. Once while staying with my parents for the weekend, he caught a really large Bullfrog at a nearby pond and took it home. He really enjoyed that frog and loved it and when he took a bath, he put the frog in with him. My mother heard him talking to someone, so went to investigate, and found him busily going about trying to clean all the slime off the frog. The frog had a look of dismay. The warm water and soap did not agree with him. He was limp. Gran explained that he was supposed to have that slime to protect his skin. So Charles immediately took him out of the bathtub and put him in Gran's fish pond so he could be free. Within a few minutes the frog perked back up and it lived in there for a long time.

Oct 1994 - Charles camping with Gran & Grampa Driggs at Lake Keystone.
Charles loved to catch perch best of all and eat them. When he was only 10 years old, he used to bring me home a whole stringer full of nice big Sun Perch nearly every day. He would help me clean them and then I would fry them up for him or we would pack them in milk cartons with water and put them in the freezer for later. He went camping with his Gran & Grampa Driggs every summer. They would go camping all summer long with friends, staying sometimes through October. Charles was well liked and loved by all their friends. He liked boating, swimming and fishing. he liked campfires and hot cocoa on cold mornings in Gran's camper trailer. He liked scavenging for things along the lake to make into something he could use or have fun with. One time he found an old gas tank from a car or truck laying on the beach near camp. He dragged it out into the water to see if it would float, and it did! He played for hours on that thing, trying to stand on it and just paddling about on it having fun. He was such a clown acrobat that he kept the whole camp in stitches laughing at his antics. He was always in the water. Swam like a frog. He could swim since he was only a 3 years old.

Charles loved helping his Grampa Driggs at the Union Cemetery, doing maintenance work, like mowing and trimming around the stones and little trees that his Grampa had planted. Charles took pride in doing this work and even helped plant out the cedar trees along the north fence when he was about 5 or 6 years old. One of the last times that Charles went along to help his Grampa get things in order for the coming Memorial Day, Charlie was edging around a little tree and Grampa warned him to be extra careful and not get too close to the little trees or he might cut them. Well, after Grampa got him to working, he went over to the other side of the cemetery to work. Charles didn't like being clear on the other side of the cemetery from his Grampa and he kept looking up to see what Grampa was doing and to keep an eye on where he was at. He was trimming around one of the little ash trees that Grampa had warned him about and as he looked up to see where his Grampa was at, he accidentally whacked one and cut the top out of it. Grampa had a fit about it and asked Charles why he had been so careless...Charles just laughed and said..."OOOPS! Sorry Grampa. I guess I wasn't goin' where I was looking'." A few minutes later, when Grampa was trimming around another little tree on the other side of the cemetery, he got too close and he cut that little tree clear off to the ground!  Charles was quick to see the humour in this situation, and ran over to tease his Grampa about it, dancing about and hysterically laughing because Grampa had totally cut that tree off at the ground. In all his silliness, he had his Grampa & Grannie laughing about it in no time, too. He never, ever let his Grampa forget it though. My Dad cannot go by the little Ash tree that Charles cut the top out of without recalling that day with a smile and with tears.

Charles was buried there in the little country cemetery that he helped to make beautiful. He had planned to take over the care of the grounds for Grampa when he got a little older and Grampa got "too old" to do it any more. Grampa was proud of "his boy".

  Charles Eric Ledbetter

This photo was taken just two weeks before he was killed in late October. (Click to enlarge photo)

It amazes me how much Charles looked like I did at that same age. He told me that he didn't get his photo taken, although I had sent the money for them with him to school that day. I was pretty upset the him over it. It was wasn't until months later that the school called me to tell me his pictures had been found. You can imagine my surprise.  His Special Ed teacher told me she remembered that Charles had paid for his pictures to be made and she remembered his having them taken that day, but the studio could not find them. So, she personally went through the photographer's files of unclaimed photos, and found his photos. They had been looking for Charles Ledbetter, and he had told the photographer his name was Charles Hinkle, (taking his sibling's surname) ! The little stinker!

To view his Yearbook Memorial - CLICK here:

Charles' Feather Wreath

He & I made a honeysuckle vine wreath in 1993. I put sweetheart roses on it and Charlie put his feather collection on it. Since then, I continue to put feathers on it for him, feathers that I find that seem to say, "Add this one, Mom!" Not just any feather will do.

There are feathers from the following birds:
Golden eagle, Screech owl, Marsh hawk, Cardinal, Painted bunting, Wild Turkey, Pheasant, Blue Jay, Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Mockingbird, Bluebird, Crow, Chicken, Peacock, House Wren, Scarlet Sparrow, Golden Finch, Guinea Hen, and more.

All of these were found on the ground or resting on the branch of a tree, and many have literally come floating down from the sky ...landing on me.

I miss you so much Charles.

I am so proud of you, Charles!

You accomplished so much in such a short time...and had hundreds of friends from every walk of life and of all ages. But most of all, you saw the beauty in all the world and in every person, and life was always to be lived to the fullest, with joy and lots of laughs. You taught me so much. I wish I had been worthy the Gift of such a special boy as you.

....Mom

><> >+< <><

 You were my Sunshine...my little Sunshine. You made me happy, when skies were gray...you'll never know Dear, how much I love you...I will miss you all of my days.

I love you Charles...I will always love you.

 

Happiness is what I wish most of all

for all my Family,

this year and the years ahead.
I have learned this from Charles - To Live each day as if it were the last you'll ever know...for it very well may be.

I Love you All.

Love Mom

 

Table

Guestbook

Home

E-mail

This Web Site was created by Teddie Anne Driggs and is protected by Copyright. 1999/ 2000 / 2001