Obituary - Charles "Chuck" Paul Birkemeyer

Charles “Chuck” Paul Birkemeyer

Charles “Chuck” Paul Birkemeyer, former valley resident, died Nov. 29. He was 85. The following was provided by his family.

Chuck moved his family to Jackson Hole in 1978 when he was promoted to forest staff officer with the U.S. Forest Service supervisor’s office. Chuck bought a home in Hoback Junction, and the family settled in.

The family was shocked when the snow began falling in mid-October that year and didn’t seem to quit until May. It was also the year that New Year’s Eve celebrations were canceled due to power outages in town as the temperatures dipped to minus 63 degrees.

The family was determined to make their new move permanent and learned to adapt to the long winter weather by participating for the first time in snow recreation. Being outdoors was not new, but doing it in 5 feet of snow was. Chuck quickly became involved in the greater community as he and his wife, Trudy, helped out with 4-H clubs and the Teton County Fair.

Chuck was born Oct. 17, 1936, in Jerome, Arizona, to Florence Welk Birkemeyer and Irving Carl Birkemeyer. They lived in Civilian Conservation Corps camps, as his father was in the forestry business. When Chuck was 2, the family moved to Minnesota, where his sister Eleanor was born.

Chuck’s father, a U.S. Marine, fought and lost his life at Iwo Jima. Chuck was always proud of his dad, carried tremendous respect for the armed services and served in the Army ROTC while in college.

When Chuck was a teenager the family found their way to Arizona, living in Flagstaff, Kingman and then Mayer. It was in Mayer that Chuck started his first love affair: cars.

Ford V8s became his passion. His first car was a 1930 Model A Ford truck, which he bought for $5. His second car was a 1934 V8 Coupe that he turned into a roadster. The third Ford was a 1933 pickup, which he still owned at the time of his death.

He was continually working on his cars, fixing them or improving them, and rarely was there a mechanical issue he couldn’t identify and take care of.

Chuck’s second love affair started in high school when he started dating Emmaline Gertrude “Trudy” Teskey. The courtship continued for four years, and they were married on June 29, 1959. A honeymoon to the Grand Canyon started their adventure together as a married couple. This adventure spanned 62 years, starting in Arizona, taking them throughout Utah, to Wyoming and back to Arizona.

Chuck had a passion for forestry, rangelands and being a good steward. He became a forest fire lookout for the Forest Service right out of high school. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture and range management at the University of Arizona.

Chuck’s career with the Forest Service spanned 35 years, and he was the forest ranger and range staff officer on some of the biggest and most beautiful forest lands in Utah and Wyoming; the Manti-la Sal, the Dixie and the Bridger-Teton national forests.

Employees always described Chuck as a kind, respectful man, and many continue to say he was the best supervisor they ever had. Chuck was a fierce advocate for forest and grassland management. He worked to ensure that others knew how to preserve the land and improve it when possible. Often his position put him at odds with ranchers who were using leased forest land for cattle or sheep, or with national park officials whose forest management practices were different from the Forest Service. Chuck always handled these differences in courteous, respectful, humble and reverent manners. He retired from the Forest Service in 1992 after 35 years of dedicated service.

Chuck and Trudy raised four kids: Chuck Jr., Wendalynn, Carl and Trudylynn. Chuck was always involved in his kids’ activities whether it was sports, music, 4-H, hunting, fishing, camping or rodeo.

Chuck was a lifelong learner, reading everything he could and then continually teaching others and imparting his knowledge. He taught his kids the importance of knowing how to check and change oil and how to change a tire, including on a horse trailer with a full load of horses. He taught them the difference between various grasses and where they grew best and about pasture rotation and the issues of overgrazing. And he taught them all to love and embrace the outdoors.

Chuck volunteered countless hours with various horse riding clubs, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Lions Club, the Teton County Fair horse show, and Range Society in Utah and Wyoming. He always left communities a little better than how he found them.

Chuck developed a love for music early on in life. He would sing to the kids and play guitar. He also learned to dance, and was a natural. He was a great lead and would just glide across the floor.

After retirement Chuck enjoyed returning to Arizona, to work the Dugas Ranch with Trudy. Whether it was herding cows, fixing water pipes or enjoying the warm breezes at sunset, they were side by side. Chuck spent days on end working hard and just enjoying being outside.

In the last few years Chuck and family members began to notice some memory issues. Not too apparent to those outside the family, but with testing Chuck was diagnosed with moderate dementia. After a fall in October 2020 and a broken hip, Chuck moved into long-term care at Arizona Assisted Living. He enjoyed the entertainment, games and music they provided as well as the back courtyard with birds and garden.

Throughout this last year the family had the opportunity to visit, share stories and memories, and are grateful for the time to be able to prepare, accept, revisit old times, laugh, cry and share. Chuck was known in the home as the “tall cowboy.” Caretakers have shared that it isn’t the same there without Chuck being a part of it, as he had become part of their family, too.

Chuck died Nov. 19 with his wife, Trudy, by his side. A graveside service with family and friends was held at the Dugas Cemetery on Dec. 9. He leaves a legacy of service and knowledge, and a lifetime of memories.

Chuck is survived by his wife, Trudy; four children, Chuckie (Debbie) Birkemeyer, Wendy (Scot) Schmidt, Carl Birkemeyer and Trudylynn Birkemeyer (Lloyd) Funk; eight grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and his sister, Eleanor McNulty.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Yavapai County Arizona 4-H office.

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