Freedom—November 4, 2019—Chuck DePew died on Saturday in Ohio, where he lived off-season after deciding that winters on the lake were no longer prudent. He was 89, and he was my friend and neighbor for more than 50 of those years.
I was a teenager when my father bought our cottage on Broad Bay. It was his second choice for a second home because the first choice, a log cabin down the road, where we rented for a few years running, wasn’t for sale. Before long we heard the cabin had been sold to one Chuck DePew.
Chuck was from Ohio, but his wife, Heloise, was from Walpole Mass., and her parents owned the cottage next door. My parents grew up in Walpole and knew Heloise’s family, so a friendship ensued. Whatever disappointment my parents had at losing the log cabin was quickly forgotten.
Sometime in the early 1960s, a group of fellow teens (some of whom are still on the lake) gathered at our cottage for a cookout, and then left by boat for the big lake at around 11 p.m. There was a dense fog that night, and a short time later we heard faint cries for help. Our friends had run their boat aground on the Camp Huckins island.
Four of us attempted a boat rescue, pushing and pulling the large wooden cabin cruiser, which was completely out of the water, its bow buried in the puckerbrush. Eventually we decided we would concoct a solution the next morning. But the next morning, the boat was tied up at our dock.
The mystery lingered for almost two weeks before Chuck revealed that he and his son had moved it. How? By pushing and pulling it, of course, meaning two had done what four couldn’t. A legend was born, and for years he maintained the story before admitting they used another boat to tow it off.
When my children were young, the boat story—in its original version, of course—was passed along. In awe of the feat, a young friend of my son’s piped-up: “Chuck’s the Man!” Thus was the legend perpetuated, with a catch phrase to boot.
Chuck spent untold hours working to maintain and manage a land trust that our road’s original property owners created to protect adjacent property. It was a precursor to his volunteer work as one of the driving forces behind the preservation of Trout Pond, now part of the Freedom Town Forest, the town’s jewel. He served on the library board and volunteered in many other town efforts.
When Susan Marks and I began Ossipee Lake Alliance he was there to help in whatever way we needed him, including appearing at public meetings where he was invariably articulate and informed about lake issues. He was also admirably fearless. A force of nature on behalf of good causes and wise decisions.
Of his business career, which apparently was a successful one, I know little. The Chuck I knew was all about the lake and the village of Freedom, for which he was a passionate advocate, and to which he devoted abundant time and made an indelible impression.
Chuck truly was the Man.