It has been quite some time since I thought about Big Chuck.
Memories of him popped up the other day after reading an upcoming column by Christine Flowers on suicide.
I guess I don’t need to tell you that Big Chuck took his own life.
He was a friend and former colleague during my first newspaper job following college. The stories he wrote were well reported and you could always find his quick wit cleverly sprinkled in a paragraph or two.
It made my wife and I angry when we learned of his death. I wanted to punch him …. knock some sense into him. How could he do such a thing? But isn’t that weird: I’m angry at someone for taking their life and want to hit them?
It’s just that Big Chuck was so talented and such a character.
He loved music, especially that of the 1950s. He lectured us with reverence about Buddy Holly, Sha Na Na and Chubby Checker. He could recite most of their songs word-for-word. There were times when a daily deadline inched closer that he would break out in song, bringing some much-needed levity into the newsroom.
Big Chuck also loved food, especially a good steak.
There was a steakhouse in town that offered a challenge: If you could put away the largest steak on their menu, the meal was on them. Big Chuck did it twice. There was no third time. The steakhouse owner cried “uncle” and banned Big Chuck from participating.
He ended up losing his job at the newspaper because he quit talking to people. Not a word. He later explained to a group of us that he came into work one day and didn’t say anything to anyone. The day went so well that he decided to do it again and again.
He eventually found work at a newspaper in West Virginia. Several of us went down to visit him once. Plenty of beer was consumed that night as the tunes of Buddy Holly and Sha Na Na filled the air. It’s the last time I saw Big Chuck.
To this day, we don’t know why he chose to buy a pistol and fire it just one time … one fatal shot. It hurts to think about it.
My guess is that you too know someone who has taken their own life. That is what is so horrible, that so many of us have felt the pain of losing someone this way. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us suicides are the No. 10 cause for death in the United States. But even if it were the 100th cause or the 1,000th — it would be too many.
We are told there is no single cause behind suicide, that in reality, people die by suicide for many complicated reasons. The warning signs — the red flags — can be very subtle and extremely difficult to pick up.
If only those contemplating suicide knew how much people cared about them, about how much they mattered. Maybe then there wouldn’t be so many.
If only they found the will power to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 800-273-8255. Maybe then, they could find help.
If only they were here today so we could laugh one more time with them or give them a hug.
If only …
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.