Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Life Well-Lived and Full: Eulogy for Colonel Charles James Bauer

note: a few months ago, my father passed away. It took more than 6 months to be able to have a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, due to reasons I will never understand fully. I was asked by my mother to deliver the eulogy at that occasion, December 10, 2014. 

Welcome family and friends. We meet here today at this hallowed place of national memory to honor and celebrate Charles Joseph Bauer—father, husband, man of faith, soldier, and rags-to-riches American success story—indeed, his a life well-lived and full. We have only hurried moments now to reflect upon this life, but any of us can share a personal observance during the reception that follows our services.

Charlie (many of us knew him affectionately as “Pia”) was a man with a deep sense of FAMILY. Perhaps this strong sense of family was due to his own early life experiences of being orphaned and separated from his siblings in foster care. Along with his dearly departed sister and brothers, he fought to preserve those tenuous family ties, as family meant so much to him. Family times were memorable, parties and holidays filled with laughter. Nothing was more special to him than Christmas—the twinkle in his eye reminded us of Old St. Nick himself—and for one who had so little as a child, he delighted in the giving of marvelous toys and gifts, especially to his children and grandchildren. From one left as an orphan, he forged with Edna a family of six children, and through those marriages, 13 grandchildren, and with one expectant granddaughter in law with child, we await Charlie and Edna’s 6th great grandchild. Truly, a full quiver of descendants, is his and Edna’s legacy to this world.

Charlie was also man of great FAITH. His was a faith that matured over the years, strengthened by reflection on the scriptures and prayer. His was also an active faith, teaching in many churches, helping the downtrodden or the lost, supporting out of his blessings the good works of missionaries around the world. He combined faith and his insight into finance, serving as a treasurer in various churches. In his final days, he shared a quote with me from St. Augustine, who wrote, “A man is what he is before God, and nothing more.” Despite family, financial success, his service to his country, he knew that his life was finally accountable to an almighty, righteous, and merciful Father. We will miss his insights and hearing his prayers, which often graced our table over the years.

Charlie was a man of great FEARLESSNESS in defense of his country. He was willing to place his life upon the altar of ultimate sacrifice, exposing himself to many dangers as an American warrior. Rising in the ranks from an enlisted private through commissioning as an officer through the rank of full Colonel, Charlie led men in battle in Korea and Vietnam. No rear-echelon administrator, he was an exemplar of a commander who led by doing. His Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Flying Cross; a Bronze Star with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Silver Star—some of our nation’s greatest commendations for heroism in combat—soon will be etched in the granite of an Arlington headstone. This stone will memorialize his faithfulness, his genuine love of America’s founding freedoms, and an equal determination to protect them. There are other stories that tell us not only of his courage, but also his essential humanity—one story he shared (and like most warriors, his remembrances of the field of battle did not broadly circulate) was when he emptied an entire stick—a battalion formation of Huey helicopter gunships, of all of their equipment and most of their crews, just to fly them to the only ice cream factory in South Vietnam, in order to load those choppers full of ice cream, and deliver that then otherworldly treat to his men in a sweltering hot jungle landing zone. He was a soldier’s soldier. He loved America, and flew the flag at his home as often as possible, and cherished the deep friendships of men who similarly devoted themselves to military service, including those who today honor us and Charlie’s memory with their presence.

Like his military career, Charlie was also a FORCEFUL presence in the world of commerce. After the Army, he made the decision, along with eldest son Chuck, to form B&B Records Center, a microfilm and records management business, in the early 1980’s. B&B would eventually employ nearly every member of the Bauer family, and itself would take on the characteristics of an extended family to so many who came to work there for the nearly 20 years of its existence. Under Pia and Chuck’s leadership, supported by Edna in the front office, B&B not only survived in a hypercompetitive business environment, it thrived. We appreciate all those B&B family members who grace us today with their presence.

His deep sense of FAMILY, his FAITHFULNESS, his FEARLESSNESS, his FORCEFUL leadership of a successful business enterprise, all speak to the man we remember today. But how could we conclude without remembering Charlie’s sense of humor and FUN, his ability to find humor in the mire and morass of life. No one was quicker with a joke, a funny story or a song—I hope many of us share some of those stories in a few moments at the reception.

So take your rightful place, father, friend, fearless warrior, here among this band of noble heroes in whose company you in honor will forever be joined. Rest proudly here; may your deeds bring you rich welcome by the others who have so nobly served this nation. Take your place among fallen comrades and family long departed. We also know that your journey does not end here, even in this hallowed place. Death is another path, one we must all take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it...white shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise. Stand faithful as from this earthen vessel you walk further to an eternal rest from life’s labors, and heaven’s thunderous Voice gives to you its own welcome: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share in the glory of your master.”

We will always remember you, Pia.

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