There are those special people in our lives that anytime we’re around them or talk to them, you will experience a moment of inspiration. Talk about Intentional Legacy Building! They don’t plan it, they are just being themselves. My Uncle Charles Douglas Seigrist is that person for me.
Stephen Douglas Black & Charles Douglas Seigrist
I’ve written about being named after him before, but as a reminder, I have the honor and privilege of having his middle name. Since my earliest memories, this has always been something I’m extremely proud of.
Some might think it’s because he had one of the most successful military careers; who wouldn’t like to be named after a Lt. Colonel in the US Army? But, I got the name way before that milestone in his life. Let me tell you a little more about him:
He is the youngest of five children born to Curt & Eleanor Seigrist. They divorced when Charles was in elementary school, living in Clinton, OK. In the odds column of people that will most likely be successful, the numbers for Uncle Charlie would have been pretty low. That’s because he grew up in a time where a single mother raising three of her five children would simply not be able to give him the benefits afforded to others.
(The comments below in quotes are directly from Uncle Charlie.)
What Eleanor (my gramma Seigrist) did give him was something that money can’t buy; “Unconditional love…period. No questions asked.” (Something he has passed on to his three girls and made sure they knew) “She worked as a maid, took in ironing and they survived on welfare, a whopping $86 a month”. #sacrificialLegacy
In fact, he’d tell you that my mom, Polly, was like a second mom to him. She helped raise him along with their mother, even though she was only four years older than him. His two older brothers, Milton & Earl were 10 & 11 years older than him and when Charles was in the sixth grade, he lived with Milton & Lucy for a time.
Charles has often said, “I learned everything I NEEDED to know by the time I finished sixth grade.” #legacybasics
He was bored with high school and wound up quitting high school and joining the army after his junior year. “He says that although that was a mistake, was probably the best mistake he ever made.” He credits growing up in Oklahoma, learning a good work ethic and just being an honest person as core to who he is today.
Clearly he could ham it up!
Recently when he and I were visiting, we got to talking about growing up poor. (I’m sure we all have the “we were so poor….” stories). I shared with him that one year when Melanie and I were first married we were so broke that on Valentines Day, we both went to the Hallmark store, selected cards for each other, gave them to each other to read and then put them back on the rack and left the store.
He then shared with me that he had onion and mustard sandwiches growing up. Yikes!
In that conversation, Uncle Charlie shared a nugget from his oldest sister, Louise, that will forever be a quote I’ll cherish:
“We weren’t poor, we just didn’t have any money.”
After joining the army, he quickly found out that life as he knew it was about to take a dramatic turn. One of his earliest memories in the army was when they were separating the troops one day. One group were those that graduated from high school, and the other group were those that didn’t. At that moment, he decided right then that he would get his GED. He didn’t want education to keep him from being the best version of himself.
Most of you have heard that behind every successful man, stands the true image of his strength – his wife. His support that allows him to go out and conquer the world. That person for Charles is our sweet Aunt Carol. She grew up in a military family and knew what she was in store for. They have raised three daughters, who love them and each other dearly.
Uncle Charlie didn’t have a good example of a successful marriage, so they just had to learn together along the journey. “Carol and I both simply tried to do what we thought was the right thing…with each other and the children. Made a lot of mistakes along the way, but, none were fatal and we were quick learners….my mistakes were honest and part of a learning process.”
Charles & Carol Seigrist, 52 years of marriage and counting!
I love this part: “We are not Charles or Carol, we are Charles and Carol….one word….one entity. Today she is my lifelong friend and companion and the love of my life. She was and still is the most beautiful female I had ever seen. I am lucky she is as beautiful inside as she is outside.”
“Divorce was never in our discussion…murder maybe, but, not divorce. (just kidding here)”
His take on his career in the armed forces:
“The decision to join the army was a knee jerk one…a bored teenager with no plan. Best move I ever made. I knew from day one this was no joke..screw up and wind up with a federal conviction and they got my attention. I simply did everything they told me to do until I could figure out what to do on my own.
Turns out the old soldiers knew what they were talking about and I learned from them. I never really saw the person in myself that everyone else seemed to see. I knew I had a lot of shortcomings…no high school diploma…so had to get a GED. Later when I was commissioned and became a 2d Lieutenant all my contemporaries had a bachelors degree so again I was behind and had to work harder…when I finally obtained my bachelors’, my contemporaries had masters so again..had to work harder..finally obtained my masters degree and when I thought back on all of it, it wasn’t the degrees,
…it was all the hard work I had done over the years that accounted for my success.
That is easier to say with the degrees under my belt. I was a distinguished graduate from OCS and that was a result of hard work and leadership skills I developed. I was the youngest Sergeant in the 82d Airborne Division at one time..19 years old. All hard work and trying to make up for a lack of education..and in my defense, I enjoyed the success and wanted more. I have learned too many things to enumerate, some good and some bad. If I had any advice to someone starting out, it would be to never tell yourself no…make someone else do that!
The single thing that keeps most people from success is opportunity…so take advantage of every opportunity presented or made..and always be the one guy that gave someone else an opportunity. #legacybuilding
I retired shortly after making Lieutenant Colonel and never really thought that much about being one. At each step along the way in my career, I learned what it took to be successful in the job, worked hard at it, tried to make myself unnecessary by training my subordinates to do their jobs and developed them as leaders of people and managers of things. I was always prepared to do the job above me….”
Since retirement, Charles has enjoyed cooking, reading, spending time with his family and mentoring his grandchildren. He has also completed a four year study from the University of the South in a program called Education for Ministry. Learning how you can develop your own personal ministry in life and your own spirituality.
“Being a grandfather is the best time of life…..it carrys with it a huge responsibility to live up to all the things you’ve taught your children. To continue to be the one who sets the standard and be the example.” #legacy
With such a decorated armed services career and a lifetime of creating value in people; what he said at one of our family reunions has stayed with me now for decades.
“Each of you are going to spend the majority of your life working. At the end of that work life, when this old world has gotten everything out of you they can – you will be discarded. Thrown away. All you’ll have left is family. So I urge you to keep your family first place in your lives. In the end, they will be the ones that are there, so make sure you take the time every day – NOW – to let them know what they mean to you.”
There will be more inspirational writings about Uncle Charlie as there is no way I could sum it all up in just one. This article hit some highlights of his life’s journey and for sure just a few…
Moments of inspiration!