Charles Northam Lee – The world has lost another from “The Greatest Generation”. Chuck passed peacefully at home from natural causes surrounded by his family on June 7, 2022.
He was born the oldest of 3 in Syracuse to Isaac Laurance “Larry” and Minnie Lee in 1925 and grew up near Syracuse University. As a child, his interests included piano and guitar – both of which he continued to play throughout adulthood and almost entirely by ear. If he heard a song he liked, usually something blues or country, he’d hop on the piano and play it as if he’d known it for years. In high school, he competed in gymnastics and won Syracuse All-City Gymnastics Champion.
As with many who grew up during The Great Depression, he started to work at the age of 9 and held jobs as a golf caddy, lawn and tree worker, and assistant at Cooper Decorating & Stage Lighting. At the age of 17, he lost his father suddenly, and along with his mother, supported his younger siblings. By 18, he hitchhiked to Seattle where he found work in the logging industry. This is where he learned to “keep his eyes and ears open, and his mouth shut!” It was a tenet he would raise his children on!
In 1943, he was drafted into the US Navy and attended officer training at both Cornell and Columbia Universities. He was assigned to the USS Block Island and was honorably discharged to the Naval Reserves in 1946. After graduating from New York State College of Forestry, he was hired into management by Insular Lumber Company at their Philippines headquarters.
In 1951, he accompanied one of his friends to a party where he met his future bride, Maria-Luisa Sarasola. In 1952, they married and made their way via ocean liner back to Syracuse. He returned to school at Syracuse University where he pursued multiple degrees in Civil Engineering. He received a National Science Fellowship to pursue his PhD at M.I.T. When he returned to Syracuse he was promoted to Professor, as well as Computer Center Director at the newly renamed SUNY ESF. He remained with the College until retirement in 1995.
In retirement Chuck spent most of his time either in his yard, or in his shop making beautiful furniture. He loved to golf, read, and travel with his wife to the Philippines and Spain. Right up to his last days, anyone who met Chuck, loved Chuck. He was pragmatic, genuine, and well-read with an easy laugh and “make the best of it” attitude.
He is pre-deceased by his parents, and his sister Erma Hannay. He is survived by his brother Dr. Laurance Lee of Ft. Myers, FL; his children William, John (Karen), Marisa McGuire (Mark), Tina (Robb Sharpe); and grandchildren Andrew Hutchison, Katie Hutchison, Lauren McGuire (Alex Webb), John Lee, Jr., and Daniel Lee, and nieces and nephews.
The family would like to offer their deepest gratitude to the staff and caregivers at Constant Care 24/7, for their compassionate care and love over the past year. Thanks also go to Hospice of CNY who greatly assisted in the last few steps of Chuck’s journey.
Calling hours will be Sunday, June 12, 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm at Burns-Garfield Funeral Home, Syracuse. A Mass of Christian Burial will be said at Holy Cross Church, Dewitt on Monday, June 13 at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of CNY by going to their website form.jotform.com/211534613766052