Before the COVID tide, I attended church without Zoom in New Braunfels, Texas. In this intimate, stone, A-frame sanctuary, I met an extraordinary soul.
As I looked back a few pews to glimpse the choir, I noticed a distinguished gentleman and his daughter smiling as if they knew me. During the church service “peace,” I wandered back and introduced myself. Our connection was immediate… as if we’d traveled down the same paths in life.
We spoke with gentle hearts and open minds that reminded me of life in those promising days of college years ago. That was it. I asked Charles “Charley” Chadwell where he had gone to college. I realized Trinity University was the magnet that had drawn us together in a timeless way.
Charley attended Alamo Heights High School, but his class never graduated because schools were shut for a year due to the polio outbreak (striking resemblance to COVID-19 now). He was able to attend Trinity from 1946-1950 (then located at Cincinnati and Woodlawn Streets in San Antonio), which gave him the boost of a lifetime after polio and World War II.
When he spoke of Trinity, the promise came back into his eyes. He said, “The people in charge were doing their best to allow young men, such as myself, to grow up.” Trinity helped students overcome the effects of disease and war. Charley learned for the first time the importance of applying himself to his studies and the value of studying/learning with others. These skills allowed him to focus on achieving another goal 17 years later: obtaining a Ph.D. in special education at the University of Texas at Austin.
He also discovered how to actively participate in sports. He lettered in football his first year, 1946, lettered in basketball in 1948-50, lettered in baseball in 1947-49, and was on the varsity tennis team. He and his sister, Nancy, who was two years behind him at Trinity, played together on the intramural tennis team, which was all levels. It was about enjoying the sport and just having fun. When he wasn’t playing sports, he sang in the choir, had a paper route, and lived at home.
After graduation Charley became a Captain in the Army (his degree from Trinity placed him higher on the scale). He was set up to go on a blind date with a young nurse, Barbara Carreon, who worked at Nix Hospital. She was focused on her work, but his gentlemanly ways changed her mind. They were married four months later in 1952. They’ve been married 68 years with five children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
As our conversation continued over several months, Charley brought the Mirage yearbooks from 1947-50 to give me the flavor of that time. Quonset huts served as libraries, dorms, and veterans’ housing. Nothing lavish, for sure. In this simple oak tree setting, the greatest education was offered to Charley. He fully embraced the opportunity to learn and grow and he’s still grateful for how it shaped his life in an extraordinary way. His Trinity University education gave him many gifts, especially gratitude in thinking of others before himself, even at age 91.
The thumbnail features the author, Carol Folbre, and Charley looking at old Mirage yearbooks together.