Chuck Single

Chuck was born in Chicago in 1926 and was the baby in the family—with an older sister and an older brother—until he was ten years old “when my parents had an afterthought—a kid sister!” Chuck says.

After Chicago, the family lived in Detroit for a while, then moved to Dalton, Georgia, for work. Moving for work was better than the alternative, Chuck explains, “My father had different successful jobs and we moved around a lot. During the Depression, he was earning enough money for us all to eat and live well enough—so we didn’t suffer as so many others did during that difficult era.”

When Chuck was ten, the family moved to Saint Joseph, Michigan, where Chuck’s father worked as superintendent of the Cooper-Wells Hosiery Mill. Chuck went to middle and high school in Saint Joseph, where he met his future wife Gerry. World War II started with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, when Chuck was in seventh grade. “I was a ninth grader when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and I graduated high school in 1944,” he says.

After high school, Chuck did what so many young men of his generation did, they entered the US armed forces to participate in the war efforts. Chuck went first to College Station, Texas, for six weeks, then to Navy Pier in Chicago for six months, where he mastered the sonar and radio communication equipment the Navy was using.

At Navy Pier, Chuck was less successful in mastering music, where he and fellow cadets formed a woodwind quintet. “I was an oboe player and at times thought I would be a professional musician. The other members of the quintet were professional level, and I learned right then I could not have a career as a professional musician,” Chuck remembers.

World War II ended when Chuck was on a troopship heading to the Philippines. Much of his communications work once he arrived dealt with concluding the war effort and exiting the Pacific theater in most venues. “I was land-based in the Philippines, communicating with submarines in the Pacific,” he recounts.

Chuck was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1946 and graduated from college in 1950 with a master’s degree from Michigan State. “I had no previous secondary education,” Chuck tells, “but was able to get a master’s degree in electrical engineering, with support from the GI program, in three years.”

Chuck and his wife, Gerry, were married in 1947, and their first child was born in 1949 as Chuck was finishing up his graduate work. Gerry had a long career as an obstetrics nurse. “She was in nursing school completing her RN when I was in the Navy. She worked at a doctor’s office to support me when I was in college, and for that, I have always been extremely grateful,” Chuck says.

Chuck taught math labs in graduate school, helping undergraduates learn the Laplace transform—a technique developed by Pierre-Simon Laplace, the “French Newton,” for handling differential equations used widely across mathematics and engineering.

His master’s thesis was an analog simulation of the Ford 1949 sedan. “You do an analog in the lab by setting up the key components as dynamic models. The springs become capacitors, the shock absorbers become resistors, and so on. Then you calculate the dimensions of the car and the materials used and drive the model car over a curb. You put lights on the wheels and, using an exposed camera, you capture the bouncing motion of the wheels and turn that into data that should match the bouncing of the actual car,” Chuck describes. “Since they matched, I passed my thesis!”

Chuck was recruited by General Electric and Westinghouse and ended up in the Westinghouse atomic power division near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And it was there Chuck and Gerry’s second child, Steve, was born.

At Westinghouse, “we designed the control system for the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine,” Chuck recounts. “We made an analog simulation for the reactor system that drove the vessel and spent a lot of time training the crew on the submarine how to understand and monitor the reactor.”

In 1955, Chuck took a job was with Beckman Instruments building analog computers to work out new types of time-delay circuits, “which were very important in the development of computing technology generally,” he notes.

In 1963, Chuck joined Applied Dynamics International (ADI) in Ann Arbor as a senior engineer, where he focused on the aerospace industry. “ADI had perfected analog computers as a training tool for aviation students. They were scaling up to commercial size and brought me on because of my analog computer experience. I had a long and productive career there,” he says.

Raised as an Episcopalian—“with perfect attendance,” he claims!—Chuck has taught Sunday School, served on vestries, and helped build church buildings. He knows the church community was good for his family and good for his marriage, “because it gave us common interests and a sense of community,” he says. Chuck and family did their best to tithe at full salary, using a pre-tax calculation!

He admits this was a burden at times, but 35 years after having prostate cancer and surviving, he now realizes, “I have God to thank for my health and my family, so in that perspective, it is not and never was a burden.” Chuck and Gerry were married for 56 years. Gerry died in 2003, at the age of 77. “We had seven years together at Saint James, and we sang in the choir together,” Chuck notes gratefully.

Chuck had sung in barbershop quartets as a young adult but never in a church choir until he got to Saint James. “I consider singing in a choir a form of praise. That’s what the choir is doing—praising God,” he says. It’s also an opportunity to build up that sense of community: “I’ve enjoyed singing with the Saint James choir immensely, especially being in the bass section with Jack and John.”

Chuck retired in 1992, so he is coming up on 30 years of retirement and a big birthday a few years later. Chuck counts his biggest blessing in life as his family—“From my two dear children we have six grandchildren and eleven great children. All have been born healthy and are active, lovely people. God is good!”