Charles Frazier died on July 24, 2018, in Philadelphia.
Charles was born on August 23, 1931, to Ross Frazier Sr. and Clara Frazier. He was the sixth of eight children born to that union. Charlie was born in Westchester Hospital, although the family lived in Howellville, Pa. The family later moved to Philadelphia, where he attended Philadelphia public schools, and was a graduate of Overbrook High School.
After working for a short time at various jobs, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a radio operator during the Korean conflict. During his time in Greenland, he met and bonded with lifelong friends Richard Hansen, Raymond Crumbly, Don Jones, and Maurice Hickman, and often shared stories of those days and how they supported one another during tough times. After leaving Greenland, the friends stayed in touch, and gathered frequently to enjoy one another’s company.
While in the military, he married high school sweetheart Thelma Floyd, also from Philadelphia, also a graduate of Overbrook High School. The young couple spent time in Texas before returning to Philadelphia and beginning their lives together. After moving to Philadelphia, Charles and Thelma, along with his older brother Bob and brother-in-law Howard Speed, owed and operated a small record and appliance repair shop on 60th Street in West Philadelphia, establishing his entrepreneurial roots. Charles and Thelma started a family and had three children, Leslie Ann, Charles Michael, and Alison Beth. In his later years he met and married Florence Anne Sumpter of Abington, Pa., and spent many years traveling, playing tennis, skiing, and nurturing his stepchildren, Phillip and Lele.
A staunch believer in education, Charlie in the early ’60s attended Cheyney State College and earned a bachelor of science degree in education. While teaching full-time at Sayer Junior High, and later Beeber Junior High, he also worked part-time for the U.S. Postal Service, and still found time to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a master’s degree in education and an administrative certification. He was also a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, and was involved in planning many events sponsored by the fraternity. As a community activist he was a member of Black Men in Motion, worked with the Kingsessing Roadrunners, built games for community events, and helped engage many young men in sports. During the turbulent ’60s and in the midst of our struggle for civil rights, he attended the March on Washington and supported the local chapter of the Black Panther Party. Leaving the district for a short time, he worked at Trenton State College as the director of community affairs. Returning to the Philadelphia School District, he took a position relating to alternative programs for the district. In that position, he developed and wrote the curriculum for what would become CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts High School) and Carver Engineering and Science High School. Finally getting an opportunity to head up a school, Charlie was assigned as interim principal at John Bartram High School in 1976. This began and established his tenure as an administrator with the district. He later served as vice principal at Overbrook, John Bartram, and finally retired from the district as vice principal of West Philadelphia High School.
Once again feeling the entrepreneurial spirit, Charlie decided to try his hand at building in one of his favorite places, Martha’s Vineyard. Along with Air Force friend Richard Hansen, who was instrumental in bringing him to Martha’s Vineyard in 1957, during the early ’70s the two began planning. The original plan was to build housing for the two families, but Charlie the visionary, seeing the future, decided to begin his Vineyard legacy. Charlie along with brothers and master carpenters Bob and Ross began building houses on a three-acre lot, which became known to guests as Frazier’s Circle, and later purchased several other lots. For the next several years, the brothers made weekly trips to Martha’s Vineyard on the weekends, and spent summer breaks building Charlie’s vision and supporting their brother. As the years went by, it became somewhat of a family venture, and when finally completed, the trio had built seven houses encompassing 14 rental units. Frazier’s Circle became a vacation destination for many families, and operates to this day. Charlie never missed a summer since 1957.
Desiring a warmer climate, he pulled up stakes and headed south to Palm Coast Florida, where he enjoyed playing golf, relaxing with a book, and getting together with the Palm Coast Thursday Lunch Bunch, breakfast at Cracker Barrel, visits from grandchildren, and attending gatherings at friends’ houses. Never giving up his desire to educate our young black men and an opportunity to pass on his wisdom, Charlie joined the African American Mentoring Program serving the Flagler County School District and Rymfire Elementary School. Even as his health declined, he pressed his way to those sessions, with the help of many friends.
He always stressed the importance of education and financial independence. While living in Palm Coast, he was a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, where he attended faithfully until his illness sidelined him. While living up North he was a member of the deacon board at Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown, Pa., and often attended Church of the Open Bible with family members.
Charlie enjoyed traveling, especially if it was to some remote skiing destination. He took many trips with the Blazers Ski Club, where he earned the nickname “Mogul Charlie” for his ability and enthusiasm for skiing the expert hills with moguls. He made sure all his kids learned to ski and play tennis, two of his favorite sports. He showed them the basics, and then they were on their own. He enjoyed reading and had a thirst for knowledge; if you saw him on the Vineyard you would see him on the couch or the deck with a book, newspaper, or magazine. He was always ready to engage you in a lively discussion about any topic, and you better have your facts straight. He was always ready to “Google it”; always ready to tell a joke that was followed by a jolly laugh as if it was the funniest thing ever heard. He was a great storyteller, and could recount many experiences at the drop of a hat. If you had an issue, he had a story.
Charlie loved spending time with family and cherished the monthly Sibling Luncheon, which was held the third Saturday in each month. They would eat and share their experiences and their love for the goodness of God. One of his favorite sayings was, “If the good Lord spares me.” Dad maintained a deep spiritual awareness, and always shared the Gospel of Jesus and how he had been kept by the grace of God. One of many fond memories his children have is walking in their parents’ room and seeing Dad on his knees praying. He knew from where came his help. Many will miss him, but his legacy has been established, and will remain for years to come.