Civic leader Charles Karrick dead at 55
By By Bonnie Bartel Latino
Special to the Advance
In just over a week, two of Atmore's more prominent citizens have died.
Eddie Staff's death was mourned by practically the entire town and was buried Feb. 4 in a moving Roman Catholic service that was a celebration of both life and family.
Late Friday afternoon, Atmore lost another well-known and proactive citizen when Nancy Karrick came home after her day at Huxford Elementary School and found her husband Charles dead. Funeral services were held Monday at First Baptist Church.
Many officials and residents say that Atmore has lost a man of great character and tireless work on behalf of his family, both immediate and extended, and his adopted hometown, Atmore.
What originally brought Charles here was his marriage to Nancy Bosenberg, who had grown up in Atmore after her parents, educators Charles and Velma Bosenberg, moved here from Pensacola, Florida. Nancy graduated from Escambia County High School in 1965 and went off to college. She eventually met and married Charles, who was from Montgomery.
As a military couple, they lived an exciting life in various locations around the world, including a tour of duty at West Point, while Charles served as an Army officer. When he retired as a lieutenant colonel, he opted to return to Nancy's hometown. He soon made it his own.
Having served his country for 20 years, Charles then set out to serve Atmore in a variety of capacities, including as an active communicant of First Baptist Church and as a member of both the Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion. In the summer of 2002, Charles' pastor at First Baptist, the Reverend Kelly Brown, knowing of Charles' military background, asked him to follow up on a letter he had received from Christine Comeau of Bedford, Massachusetts. She had requested First Baptist's help in locating the burial place of a Corporal Richard Benjamin who was said to have been from Atmore.
In less than a month, Charles had found and visited Corporal Benjamin's burial place – not in Atmore – but in the cemetery of the New St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church near Walnut Hill, Florida. He had also written a detailed letter giving Ms. Comeau explicit directions from Interstate 65 to the cemetery and exact plot location.
In his letter, Charles added, "I am a member of Atmore Post 7016 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vice Commander of Atmore Post 90 of the American Legion . . . We must not let this current generation forget what veterans have done in the past for our country and, as a result, for them also . . . Feel free to contact me if you need any more assistance."
In an unusual coincidence, when Charles visited the cemetery, the plot next to Corporal Benjamin's was being prepared for his father's casket to be buried that very afternoon. Charles had tracked down the father's obituary and enclosed a copy of it in his letter Ms. Comeau. This is only one incident that perfectly exemplifies Charles Karrick's humanity and illustrates the extent to which Atmore's community of souls is diminished by his death.
According to the Reverend Kelly Brown, Charles was Sunday school director at First Baptist, where he was also a deacon serving as the current secretary of the deacon's group. Reverend Brown said of Charles, "He was capable of doing research and handling information and keeping efficient records. He enjoyed doing things behind the scenes and didn't want a lot of attention. He was very appreciated and was just so capable in so many ways. We knew that he had not felt well for several years. He had several medical problems that did not seem life threatening. His death is such a shock and it's a real wound not to have him . . ."
An active member of the Lions Club, Charles began a new career at United Bank in the early 1990s. He quickly became known as a tireless workhorse noted for his meticulous attention to detail and skill at multiple tasking. According to David Swift, Chairman of the Board of United Bank and Corporate Secretary of United Bancorp, Charles had risen from the job of Assistant to the President and Chief Executive Officer (Bob Jones), to Corporate Sectary of United Bank.
In a telephone conversation on Saturday morning, Swift said, "Charles was on leave of absence from his regular duties to work on a history of United Bank that will commemorate the bank's centennial in 2004. In fact, I met with him around 11:30 (Friday) morning to talk about the book." According to Swift, Karrick, " . . . looked fine and was functioning perfectly normal" at that Friday meeting. Swift added, "Charles was just a fine and kind person. He was somebody you could always depend on. He will be missed by the bank and this community … I miss him already."
Known for an eternally optimistic personality, Charles had no enemies and was admired by all who knew him. In his own upbeat way, Karrick packed more life and service to others in his 55 years than most people could envision.
As active as he was professionally and in the community, perhaps he will best remembered for his devotion to his family. The Karricks' daughter Nancy, a recent graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, became engaged over the Christmas holidays to the delight of her parents. Indeed, it was a happy time for the Karrick family.
Family was far more than a mere word for Charles, who had visited his mother-in-law, who lives across the street, around lunchtime on Friday. As they had for Mr. Bosenberg and two of Nancy's elderly relatives before their deaths, Nancy and Charles also kept close watch on Mrs. Bosenberg and her brother-in-law Larry Fischer. Charles' devotion to his extended family was further remarkable when one considers all the many organizations and activities in which he was involved. Recently, he had overseen the extensive renovations of a downtown family-owned building that greatly enhances the attractiveness of Main Street.
The Karricks' ties to the community run deep because of their many associations with all of the above-mentioned associations, as well as Huxford Elementary School, where Nancy has been librarian for several years.
Over the years, Charles was also active in the Girl Scout program, as daugher Nancy is believed to be the only "gold award recipient" in this area. This is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn and is the equivalent of the Eagle Scout Award in Boys Schools.
(Atmore native Bonnie Bartel Latino is a freelance writer.)