Charles McDade was the vice president of the Greater Madison Valley Community Council (GMVCC) for 20 years. That term must be some kind of a record for voluntary community service! For Charles, service and kindness to others are the guiding principles of his life.
Charles grew up on a family farm in Winnfield, Louisiana during the 1940s. He found life extremely difficult during this period. His family struggled financially, racial tensions were stressful, and corporal punishment was a household norm. He was miserable. Even as a child, Charles frequently contemplated death as a deliverance from what he viewed as a hopeless existence.
Then one day, Charles had an experience that changed his life.
At the age of 11, Charles had a vision of a great tree falling and crushing him into the ground. Over the next two years, he had this exact vision on multiple occasions. He began to think that perhaps this was the death and release for which he had yearned.
When Charles was 13, he was helping his brother chop down a tree on their property. Suddenly, the tree snapped prematurely and came crashing down towards him. He recognized it as his vision and felt the weight of his whole life, both past and future. Instead of embracing the death he had sought, Charles leapt from harm and saved himself. He describes this experience as an epiphany. In that instant in which he chose life, Charles matured and felt in control of his destiny. “I decided then to start living. I had a realization that if I led a life of kindness towards others that everything would go well for me.”
Charles moved with his family to Portland, Oregon when he was 18, and then on to Seattle a couple months later. He began work collecting garbage for a Seattle disposal company and quickly became a favorite among the customers. One couple offered him a job with their advertising company. His facility with people enabled him to assist the company as a worldwide representative. He traveled not only for business but was able to visit many countries for pleasure. These experiences served to confirm his belief that we are all one people and deserve only kindness from each other.
After other employment and retirement, Charles sought community service in his neighborhood as a means to practice his beliefs in kindness. He boldly confronted sex workers, violent gang members, and drug dealers, asking them to take their business out of the neighborhood. He has offered assistance to the elderly and has helped organize block parties. His calm presence has often been requested at the bedside of a dying neighbor. He is well loved and appreciated by all who know him.
As our community council vice president, Charles served as a voice for all volunteers. He reminds members that service as a volunteer does not mean overextending yourself or stressing about projects. Our responsibility is to serve as a forum for neighbors to come together and to create interest groups in order to accomplish goals together.
After the 16 years of service, this reporter hypothesized that Charles would be our vice president for life. Alas, this was not to be. He served us in that capacity for another four years and then: Enough!! He now enjoys himself with friends and family but does keep up with community issues.
Gratitude is an inadequate word for our heartfelt feeling for Charles.