Charles L. Townsend and his brothers William “Butch” and Mark were born and raised near Newcastle and Osage. They successfully operated several oil and gas businesses and several cattle ranches, together with raising remarkable families in an isolated environment with a strong sense of community. Their parents provided vital genes and a strong work ethic.
Chuck Townsend was one of my favorite people. I thought about that a lot at his funeral on January 2. Chuck worked his ass off in the family businesses, devotedly raising three kids, serving on more public boards than anyone else I know, elected as a popular state senator, only to be robbed of another 15-20 years of being “Grandpa Chuck” by cancer at age 68.
Packing the Methodist Church in Newcastle were many hundreds of people, including a big chunk of the Wyoming Senate, a U.S. Senator, many other elected officials, former employees, friends and family. Many people spoke of Chuck’s political skills, tenacity, charm, wit and successes. Chuck had a biting wit sometimes, but no one was offended or at least not for long. He was one of the most insightful people I have ever known. Any lobbyist who thought he could run a line by Chuck was either, depending upon Chuck’s need of time for other things, totally ignored or made quickly to feel small.
The thing I missed at the funeral was Chuck. I wish he could have been observing a community’s outpouring of respect and loss to a true giant of a man. He would have made some comments. “Oh hell, that’s not true. These people are carrying on too much. These preachers talk too much; it’s time for a drink.”
Chuck was a guy who anyone could ask for advice. He loved people. He tickled them, he teased them, he poked and prodded them, maybe just to stimulate them to rise above their perceived limitations. I wish I had taken the time to be with him more. At least I got to sit in his blue Thunderbird convertible.
And I wish I could patent his big open grin. The inside of the funeral program had a photo of Chuck grinning above the legend, quoting a speech he delivered in the Senate: “Make My People Happy!”
We need more Chuck Townsends in our legislatures. We need more Chucks everywhere.
If you enjoyed this column and would like to see more quality Wyoming journalism, please consider supporting WyoFile: a non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to in-depth reporting on Wyoming’s people, places and policy.