Charles W. Caldwell was born Nov. 26, 1923, in Princeton, Illinois, the son of Rev. George W. Caldwell and Ellen Hawk Caldwell, RN.
He was raised in Cameron, Missouri; Penney Farms, Florida; and Orrville, Ohio. In 1938, Chuck came to Gettysburg for the 75th anniversary of the battle and spent four memorable days talking to the veterans.
Graduating from Orrville High School in 1941, he entered the University of Alabama in September, leaving school in December 1941 to enlist in the Marine Corps, serving 30 months in the Pacific during the Solomons, Gilberts and Marianas campaigns.
In 1945, he married Navy WAVE Jackie Murphy, and returned to the University of Alabama in September 1946 on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1949, immediately starting work with the Institute of Nuclear Studies in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
In 1950, he was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. In 1952, he began work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and participated in the 1957 and 1958 atomic bomb tests at the Nevada Test Site.
While in Oak Ridge he was an elder and Sunday school teacher in the Presbyterian Church, taught water safety and life saving for the Red Cross for 22 years and organized the Oak Ridge Civil War Round Table. Out of this group grew the 1st Tennessee Infantry re-enactment unit, which during the Civil War Centennial years participated in 41 re-enactments in 11 states, including the 100th anniversary in Gettysburg during 1963. Between April 3-8, 1965, the unit walked the 110-mile route of Heth’s Division from Petersburg to Appomattox, Virginia.
When Jackie introduced Chuck to a new material called “Sculpey” in 1966, the possibility of sculpture as a full-time profession was considered and in 1968 resigned his job at the Oak Ridge National Lab to pursue his lifetime dream.
In the 1970s, the family, now with four children, David, Bob, Shonna, and John, moved to Texas where Chuck was commissioned by the Franklin Mint to do the “People of Canada” pewter series and then the “Western Bronze” series of miniature figures.
In 1980, his love of history brought him to Gettysburg where he opened “Caldwell’s Originals” which he operated for 28 years, closing only with the death of his wife Jackie in 2007.
During the years before moving to Gettysburg, Chuck completed museum work for circuses in Florida, St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, Dallas Cowboys, Coach Paul Bryant, Helms Athletic Foundation in Los Angeles, Hall of Valor at New Market Battlefield in Virginia, designed the Atomic Pioneer Medal awarded by President Nixon, the original miniature figures for the Korean War Memorial and more recently the entire Glen Miller orchestra for the University of Colorado Glen Miller Museum.
He was a life member of the Marine Corps League 705, Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, 2nd Marine Division Association, VFW Post 15, American Legion Post 202 and the Adams County Allied Veterans Honor Guard. Chuck’s life is captured in a book by author James Rada titled, “Clay Soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art & Atomic Energy.”
Chuck was reunited with Jackie on the evening of Feb. 7, 2019. He is survived by son David, wife Becki and grandson Nicky in San Diego, California; son Robert, granddaughter Krystine and great-granddaughter Rene in Texas; daughter Shonna Shelley and granddaughter Jesse and great-grandson Brandon in Gettysburg; and son John living in Gettysburg and his daughter Aubrey in Kansas.
His remains were donated to the Anatomy Gifts Registry. A memorial headstone for Chuck and Jackie Caldwell has been placed in Evergreen Cemetery (Section T-6). A memorial celebration of Chuck’s life is planned for March 30, 2019, at 2 p.m. at the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church, 208 Baltimore St., Gettysburg, PA 17325. For more information please contact David Caldwell at 619-990-8575 or email@example.com.
Any memorial contributions may be made to the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church, 208 Baltimore St., Gettysburg, PA 17325 to support Mission trips.