How did an Iowa farm boy earn an MBA from Berkeley, get hired by IBM,
and then switch careers to commercial airline pilot before retiring to a house
in Fearrington Village filled with impressive Japanese art prints? That would
be the story of Charles (Chuck) Waldron.
Born during the Depression in West Union, Iowa, Chuck became self-
sufficient at a very young age. While his single mother went to school each
morning to teach music and his older brother walked to the local elementary
school, Chuck, aged four, stayed home and took care of himself. He
remembers playing alone and then crossing the street each day to pop into the
local restaurant, where the waitress gave him a child’s coffee—warm milk
and sugar with a splash of coffee. When Chuck turned five, his mother
registered him for first grade, and although he was younger than his
classmates, he adjusted well. Three years later, his mother remarried and the
family moved to a farm. Farm life taught Chuck the value of hard work:
getting up at 4 a.m. to help milk the cows, then going to school, and returning
home at 3:45 p.m. for the day’s second milking.
In high school, Chuck won a Navy scholarship to attend college. After he
graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in physical science, he
applied to Navy flight school in Pensacola, Florida. There he trained to be a
pilot. During his four years of active duty with the Navy, Chuck flew all over
the Pacific, and during visits to Japan, he developed an interest in Japanese
After leaving the Navy, Chuck went to California and earned an MBA from
Berkeley. He took a job with IBM and loved the Oakland, California area, but
IBM? Not so much. So, remembering how much he enjoyed flying when he
was in the Navy, Chuck applied to American Airlines to become a
commercial pilot. That career lasted 30 years. While in San Francisco, Chuck
met Anne, a highly talented Canadian journalist. The couple fell in love and
married. Within a few years, they had rounded out their family to include four
The years flew; suddenly it was 2013, and Chuck and Anne’s daughter
decided to move to Chapel Hill. Chuck and Anne came east to visit her and
meandered into Fearrington Village. Now retired, they thought to themselves,
Why not move to this beautiful community? And they did.
Finding himself with free time on his hands, Chuck volunteered to be a
handyperson for Fearrington Cares and changed so many smoke alarms that
he became known affectionately as the Smoke Alarm King. Eventually, he
progressed from changing smoke alarms to helping coordinate the
handyperson service offered by Fearrington Cares. Sadly, Anne passed away
a few years ago.
Although he no longer climbs ladders, Chuck has stayed active. He still takes
time daily to look at his Japanese art prints and recall all the interesting
places his travels have taken him.