November 28, 1944 – January 4, 2022
In Loving Memory ~
Charles Austin Sprague was born in Washington, DC on November 28, 1944. For many, Charles was more than a friend; he was a foundation stone upon which to build a life-long friendship.
Charles adored his parents, Austin and Barsha Sprague, and was always best friends with his sister Julia who was three years older. The family lived in Greencastle, Indiana where Austin was a physics professor at DePauw University. In 1963, Charles graduated from Greencastle High School.
After graduation, he went with his parents to spend a year in Paris where Austin set up the physics department at the American College in Paris. Charles enrolled as a student there and stayed on, rooming with the Bouteiller family, for his sophomore year.
After those two years in France, he returned to Indiana where his interest in photography led him to enroll at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington.
The late sixties and early seventies were tumultuous times across the country. In 1970, Charles and his sister Julia, who was an elementary school teacher in San Francisco, decided to leave the materialism, consumerism, and violence of the U.S.
At the end of a several-thousand-mile journey to find a new place to live, they met Peter and Kay Hughan in the Nass Valley of northern British Columbia, Canada. Peter and Kay agreed to rent them a hundred-and-three acres of cedar, hemlock, and spruce forest along the Tseax (‘See Ax’) River.
In the spring of 1971, Charles and Julia led a small group of their friends back to that magical place to live off the land—to create and sustain a self-sufficient community. With no road, no electricity, and the only running water in the creeks and river, they worked hard to meet their basic needs and built out from there. It was pure adventure and they all fell in love with the natural world of which they were a part.
In 1973, Charles invited his college friend, Lorie Simmons, to join him. They were married in October of that year. Together, Lorie and Charles built a house and sheds, dug a root cellar, created and grew gardens, baked bread, and jarred hundreds of quarts of vegetables. The community of families around them thrived. Charles spent eleven years on that hillside.
While in the Nass, Charles led his friends hiking through high mountain meadows filled with wildflowers and glissading across fields of deep snow. There wasn’t a season he didn’t like, or a reason to be outside that he didn’t say yes to.
In 1982, Charles and Lorie made the hard decision to leave the Nass Valley and returned to Indiana to help care for Charles’s mother who was suffering from dementia. While there, Charles returned to IU and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in photography. In 1987, he and Lorie moved to Chicago where she began further graduate studies and Charles worked at carpentry.
In 1992, Charles and Lorie decided to go their separate ways and soon after Charles bought a house in Bloomington across the street from Ann and Mike Smith and their five daughters, whom he adopted as his chosen family.
Charles was an avid explorer of most everything: caves, streams, bicycles, movies, music, mushrooms, and life in general. He was a builder of friendships, a skillful craftsman with wood, a fixer of broken things, a creator of beautiful photographs, a storyteller, a trickster (he named his all-black cat ‘Sunshine’), a collector of rocks, shells, plants, and much more, a helper to many, and a global and astral traveler.
After many full and happy years in Bloomington, Charles was diagnosed with dementia. Eventually he moved to Jill’s House, a residential center where he received excellent care for four years. Near the end of his life, he was moved to Cedarhurst, an extended care center, where he passed on January 4, 2022.
Charles’s beloved sister Julia Alice Meyer, who also had dementia and lived in a care facility in Burns Lake, British Columbia, passed away on January 12th, eight days after Charles. They both leave their second cousins Carol Kohrs and her husband Peter from San Antonio, Texas and Bruce Collins and his wife Barbara from Phoenix, Arizona.
Charles’s humor, smile, positive gentle energy, and generosity of spirit will continue to be a bright light to his family and many friends around the world.
An online memorial service and a website are being created to honor Charles’s life.
Please send an email to Lorie Simmons firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be sent information about the website and online gathering.
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