On July 29, 2019, Lt. Colonel, Charles James Harkins, Jr., retired Air Force pilot, took his final earthly flight. His destination: heaven. There he joins the love of his life and wife of 71 years, Genevieve Harkins.
Born in Abderdeen, Washington on February 22, 1921, friends and family lovingly called him Chuck. His youth was something like you’d find on the pages of Tom Sawyer. Adventurous, industrious and independent could be used to describe his childhood exploits. From building his own raft to sail the Puget Sound to deconstructing his Grandma Anderson’s trunk to sneak a piece of cake, Chuck was a determined young man who could figure out most anything.
Though his youth was filled with diverse experiences, including living in Montana fighting fires with his step-brother or herding cattle with his stepdad his dream was to learn to fly. While working at Boeing in Seattle, he was drafted by the Army and was chosen for flight school.
As a B-17 pilot during World War II, Lt. Harkins, was stationed in Polebrook, England. He flew 20 missions over Germany and had 947 combat hours. His recollection of the events were harrowing, yet he successfully returned each member of his crew to the US when the war was over. Chuck was the last surviving person of the 10 member crew.
In 1945, 3 weeks and 2 days after meeting Genevieve Nadine Santarelli, they married. The Army sent Chuck to Panama where he felt he could not safely bring his new bride. While stationed there, back in Colorado the stork delivered their first daughter, Virginia. The separation was tough on a young family and upon his return Chuck changed his status with the Army to reservist. Chuck and Gen then moved their family to Spokane, WA where their second daughter, Marilyn was born.
In the 70’s Chuck and Gen moved to Centralia, WA where he worked for many years. As a natural trouble shooter, he passed the master machinist test without ever having to complete an apprenticeship. After over 30 years of hard work and dedication, he retired.
Chuck didn’t sit still during his retirement. He maintained his pilot license for many years and even had a timeshare plane in which he and Gen travelled the country. Later, they bought a beautiful motor home, in which they travelled many miles and enjoyed their time with many new friends. Gen was truly his life co-pilot.
Chuck had many hobbies and was frequently ahead of his time. He was a photographer, had one of the first home computers, first video cameras and later equipment to convert video to DVD’s. He loved to spend time in his computer room. His life was full of love, family, friends, learning, traveling and fun! He was a charming gentleman until the very end. Cheers to Chuck who loved life and loved to laugh.
Chuck was preceded in death by his beautiful wife Genevieve, his parents and siblings. He is survived by his daughters: Virginia (Richard) Pylman of Billings, Montana and Marilyn (Dennis) Stafford of Arlington, Texas; seven grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.
Cremation has taken place. A military burial is planned for 11:00 am, October 3, 2019, at the Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel, Montana.
Our entire family genuinely thanks the exceptional team at Morning Star for becoming his new, extended family. You made a wonderful new home for him, after he lost his beloved wife, which was not an easy task. Your kindness and caring will not soon be forgotten.
Thank you also to Stillwater Hospice for the help and care in Dad’s last days.