His four best friends — Tom, Eric, Ben and I — planned a reunion with him in April 2017. We spent a long weekend in Tucson reminiscing about all the years we’d known one another and what it meant to us. His spirits were rejuvenated; ours as well.
None of us ever left photography. Tom’s passion is the automotive world, Eric continues to work as a contract sports photographer, Ben is one of the finest architectural photographers in the world, and I embraced landscape photography in central Oregon. We owe our shared inspiration to Chuck.
He continued to live in his home, maintaining it as best he could. Time, however, was not on his side. Last August, he fell in the shower and broke a hip, and moved to a care center for therapy. He never returned home. His son, Scott, arranged for the house and its contents to be sold. Chuck kept his favorite pictures of Sherie and famous jazz musicians he photographed in Chicago nightclubs, his trumpet and a Linhof 4x5 camera kit.
The four of us wanted to get to Tucson this spring to see Chuck again. Schedules and medical conditions kept all but me from going.
Lyn Alweis, a former Denver Post photographer of 32 years who lives in Tucson, visited Chuck with me for an entire day, again reminiscing about our lives. He was still lively, humorous and congenial. It was also one of his last lucid days.
I called him on his birthday not knowing if he’d be able to talk. The care-center attendant held the phone for him. I said again how much his friends loved and respected him. He was able to say, “Thanks for everything,” his last words to me.
His son called the next morning, my birthday, as I walked on a beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It was the call I knew was coming. He said his dad had passed a few minutes earlier, and he thanked all of us for emotionally supporting Chuck in recent years.
Chuck was a treasure to all who knew him. Though his obituary in the Arizona Daily Star dutifully recounts the events in his life, there is so much more that needs to be known. I’ve tried to tell it. Of course, he would have laughed it all off with a smile.
Oh — he really hated the nickname “Peaches.’’
Jay Mather retired from The Sacramento Bee in 2007. His newspaper career spanned 35 years, beginning in Denver with Chuck Freestone. He worked in Kentucky at the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times for 10 years and shared the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting with Joel Brinkley. Jay's work in Yosemite National Park and the Sacramento Ballet while working for The Sacramento Bee was significant in its breadth, style and historic importance. He resides in Mechanicsville, Virginia, and can be contacted at [email protected].