Remembering Charles Gentry

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Charles came into my life on January19th and he also left us on January 19th. Always employing his memory tricks, he would reverse the numbers and joke that we met on 9-11. No matter how hard it is… this will be an anniversary celebration of how much he brought to our lives and not a reminder of what has been lost. That’s what he would have wanted. We will hold tight to the good times and honor your fear- less enjoyment of life through our own. There are many things Charles taught us by living his life in the moment….everyday. He taught us that the beauty of life is in the details if you take the time to cherish them. He could get as excited about a Groupon at Pirhana’s as he would winning the lottery. On the outside he may have been a cultured, well- traveled man who looked great in a tux, but just under the surface was the wide eyed little boy from Georgia who couldn’t wait to drink it all in. I hope we all can learn to see the world a little more like Charles did. These are a few of my favorite “little” things I cherish and his words that still echo in my head.

–Charles loved his mother and his camily. “In the end, you end up at the nursing home with a picture of your momma and your baby shoes!” He emptied his pockets every night into a dresser drawer with his baby shoes in it…I think it was his way of going home a little bit every day.

–Charles loved the driver’s seat. Even if YOU were behind the wheel, Charles was still driving the car. “I would have taken 5th…..but I’m not the one driving!” Driving was one thing he couldn’t always do after the accident but he never complained, and the car was always lovingly cared for even as it sat in the garage just begging to have the top down on a warm Austin day.

–You will never find the parking spot he thinks is ideal on the first try, so just don’t even try. “This spot is in the shade but I don’t like that big truck so close!” There is only one spot worthy in front of Nordstom’s…heaven help you if someone was already there. Luckily downtown living meant that you didn’t have to park that much…and he loved walking downtown and town lake.

–You can never have enough monkeys in your house. “I love mon- keys!” Artwork to wine caddies….he had some of it all. How will Gump’s survive without him.

–Do not be afraid to double book your calendar. Your friends love you and they will forgive you! “We don’t do stress!” Occasionally, (OK…all the time) Charles’ plans would overlap but only because he just didn’t want to miss a thing. On some level maybe he knew how it would go.

–Use Post-Its to say what’s on your mind and use them gratuitously and often. “Did you see my notes for you!” The kitchen counter always had yellow notes stuck to it. His day planner, if you will. The photo attached is a note he kept on the refrigerator and it pretty much says it all. Time itself occupied Charles’ mind quite a bit. He pondered the wise use of it, the limitation of it and the loss of it. His accident in 2003 was a catalyst for changing the everyday workings of his life. I still hear his voice saying “Tomorrow is never guaranteed,” and he, above all, knew that. He was determined to use the extra time he had been given to the fullest. He spent every day pushing himself and everyone around him to care more…love more…and live more. Our gift back to you, Charles, will be to do the same. His circle of friends spanned decades here in the city that he loved so. I am blessed to have met both the old and the new these past few years. New or old, a connec- tion with Charles was forever. Charles’ amazing friends are a direct reflection of Charles himself and the endless enthusiasm and love that he poured on all of us every day. He was a social whirlwind that was all-inclusive, tightly embracing and packed with LOVE. We are eternally grateful you chose us, Charles. Whether we held you in our hearts for years or decade, it was never enough. So, friends near and far, new and old, don’t wait to hold your loved ones near. Tell them you believe in them. Tell them you’re proud of them. Tell them you love them: that’s what he would have wanted. I miss you, Monkey… Mr. Coty. —Coty Long

I met Charles when I joined the Board of Zach Scott in 2002. His genuine interest in people, incredible warmth, and overall happy demeanor really took me by surprise. I kept thinking that people like this just don’t exist anymore. Turns out, they do. When Charles found out I joined the board to work with an amazing theatre AND busy myself after the death of my partner, he couldn’t contact me enough to invite me for coffee, lunch, or whatever I wanted to do. The time was always spent having great conversations spanning many topics with his intense interest in making sure I was okay at the forefront of every encounter. We talked off and on over the years, always checking in to make sure the other was doing okay and always having a good laugh while doing so. Flash forward to when our cruise ship crashed and sank off the coast of Italy a few weeks ago, Charles was one of the first people to contact me making sure we were okay and offering one of his amazing hugs when I returned. Well, friend, your hugs were so amazing that I felt a virtual one all the way in Rome when I received the message. The point of all of this is to say that Charles was a amaz- ing giver of love, support, and happiness. And, he was a happy giver at that. Despite his own personal struggles, he always wanted to make sure people were okay. RIP to one of the most amazing and positive people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You will be missed and never forgotten! —Blake Miller

Like most of his friends, I was smitten with Charles the first time I encountered that big smile of his. So many fine memories of our years of friendship, which became much closer after the initial head injury, after he turned to me for help with disability paperwork, packing him up for the big move to 360, getting him into our Pilates class with Sara, and always lunch together after class. And I will always have Charles to thank for getting Richard and me involved with Zach Theatre; I’ll be thinking of you, Charles, when we open the new Topfer Theatre you worked so hard to get built. —Gary Cooper

Con mucho gusto! That’s how Charles lived his life. No matter what horrific medical nightmare he had just endured and no matter how grim the prognosis, Charles always had a smile on his face and a hug for all the women (and some of the men). —Richard Hartgrove

Back when my partner Rob was moving to Atlanta with me in 2006, we had a going away at Mirabelle. It was a great party, as Charles always loves. When I met Charles in 1994 we connected because we both were from Georgia and both were at Georgia Tech at the same time. Then every time Charles came to and through Atlanta, it was a chance to catch up and grab a bite at The Varsity. He confessed there were times he ate at this institution more than once a day on his vis- its here! And he had good words of wisdom to share, especially after all his own health lessons. It will be a bittersweet visit back to Austin again in a few weeks. But there are LOTS of memories…—Mark Sandifer

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