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PHIL SCHEFFLER: I don't think I missed a single ON THE ROAD in all the years Charlie did them. I read his books and watched his television specials. I even went to hear him speak once or twice.

I'll always have those in print and on tape, but what—I won't have is my friend of 40 years. What I won't have is my next—door neighbor and my sailing buddy, my housemate, my traveling companion' the person I celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and holidays with—sometimes much delayed, to be sure. When we shared a house in the country with Charlie and Petie Kuralt, we had to put off Christmas several years in a row. One time, Jack Benny died and Charlie was dispatched to Nassau to interview Mr. Paley and then anchor a broadcast about Benny. I think we opened our presents around December 29th. The next year was something else. When the news or the assignment or the story called, it never occurred to him to say no.

I don't remember when he stopped being Charlie and started being Charles. Maybe John Steinbeck's book had something to do with it. Perhaps it was approaching grandfatherhood. Maybe he felt the need to be more dignified as the world around him became less civil. Somehow, despite all his efforts, "Charles" never stuck, not with me, anyway.

He was passionate about many things, about sailing, the New York Yankees, daffodils, especially fly fishing. We moved into our house with two beds, a card table and four chairs, and the only decoration on the walls was a Tonkin cane fly rod—that was all the art he needed. We planned a vacation in London once, and the dates and arrangements had to wait until he could organize a week of fly fishing on the Test river, the most famous trout stream in the United Kingdom. To land a wily trout on the Test, he said, would be a dream come true.

As wonderful as his voice was, he could not sing two notes in succession. When he told me that he and Loonis McGlohon had written and were going to perform a musical tribute to North Carolina to raise money to endow a chair in his father's name at the U.N.C. School of Social Work, I had this awful, awful vision of Charlie in front of his friends, actually trying to sing. But he left the singing to Loonis and stuck to the poetry, and he raised the money to honor his father.

But he tried to sing. How he tried. Once when we were sailing in the British Virgin Islands, we put in for dinner at some beachfront restaurant. You know the kind: thatched roof, simple food and honor bar off to one side, and a man in shorts playing the guitar, singing sea songs. When he sang "We Sailed on the Sloop John B," Charlie was transported. "It was magical," he said, and perhaps it was. He made me repeat the words to him over and over, and he practiced singing it in the cockpit the rest of the trip. The results were those that only very good friends could put up with. But he often spoke of that night: "The best night of my life," he said.

He was all of the things he appeared to be on television—interested in others, fascinated with the goodness and richness of America, aware of his gifts, but modest in the presence of others. And he was a wonderful traveling companion, with that curiosity, that infectious enthusiasm that made an event of every trip, of every weekend, of every meal.

He was, to be delicate about it, physically unprepossessing, and often he would go unrecognized as we traveled around. That is, until he spoke. Heads would turn. It's really his voice which is so well known in America. If you look at the ON THE ROAD stories he did, you'll be surprised at how little he actually is seen. He preferred it that way.

If he seemed modest in public, well, he really was, and he was thrilled when he met what he described as a "real" celebrity, particularly if it was one of his own heroes. He would come back from a trip and tell us that he had run into, say, Mickey Mantle at the airport. "Can you imagine?" he would say, his face beaming. "Mickey Mantle!" Well, it was "Hi ya, Mickey!" "Hi ya, Charlie!"

He was a hopeless romantic—more about that in a minute—but he was also very clear about what he wanted and what he didn't want. And above all, he did not want to be told what to do. He was invariably polite about it, but it was unmistakable. That house in the country the Kuralts and the Schefflers bought together had a clause in the ownership arrangement whereby we each agreed we would buy the other out at any time. And after four years or so, Charlie asked me to buy his half. He was away so much, he said, and he was tired of paying half the mortgage and half the upkeep when he used it so little. But I suspect his decision was really made when, one Sunday morning, Linda Scheffler picked up Charlie's coffee mug from the new, bare dining room table and slipped a placemat under it. He had no intention of living that way. He still loved us, of course—we were still his best friends—but living under other people's preferences was not what he had in mind. So the Schefflers acquired a guest room and the Kuralts bought the house next door, where presumably he could put his coffee mug down any damn place he chose.

When he went on the road, it became clear that he really had found a world in which no one told him what to do, and he resisted any effort to change that. At least three times, Don Hewitt tried to get him to come to 60 MINUTES, and while he was polite in his refusal, the real reason was that he couldn't abide the idea of the kind of heavy editing and consensus which is the center of 60 MINUTES' editorial system.

But, as I said, he was also a romantic, and ON THE ROAD fed that part of him as well. And to see what a romantic he was, you need only to look at what's in his garage, filled with wonderful reminders not of how the world is, but how it ought to be. There is the plain pipe-rack Jeep—every country squire, even the squire of an acre and a half in Essex, Connecticut, needs a Jeep to run down for the New York Times in the morning or run up to Ballek's nursery to pick up some daffodil bulbs. That Jeep is 13 years old and it's averaged a shade over 75 miles a year.

Then there are the two Raleigh three-speed bicycles with the straw baskets over the handlebars—just the thing for a gentle roll through our beautiful New England village. I think the only time they were used was when I borrowed one to bring to New York to use during a transit strike.

In one corner of the garage are parts of a wood-fired, stainless steel maple sugarer, used once. Charlie decided, now that he lived in New England not 75 miles from where his father had grown up, that the natural order of things required him to make maple syrup. Between our three acres, there were plenty of maples, so he started tapping them in late winter, and as the bags and pails filled, he transferred the watery liquid to several large drums. Actually, Charlie tapped the trees and went on the road, and Petie did most of the emptying. I think I even carried a bucket or two. Then came the day for cooking the sap, and this incredible device was set up in the tool shed—a huge fire drum underneath with a smokestack sticking out of a window and that stainless steel cooker on top. You pour the clear, raw sap into one end and the liquid proceeds through a series of mazes and baffles until it reaches the other end, mostly cooked away and, by now, that dark, rich maple syrup color. We have the evidence on our wall: a picture of a beatific Kuralt, plaid shirt, heavy leather gloves, steam rising all around his head—a happy man. That the whole effort produced only enough maple syrup to cover the next morning's pancakes didn't faze him a bit. Sugaring is what one does in late winter in New England. And besides, next year there might be a quart.

I forgot to mention that his romantic notions extended to the sea as well as the road. For a number of years, he kept a beautiful, small Hinkley sailboat at a slip on the Essex waterfront and, like the Jeep and the bicycles and the maple syrup maker, it got little use. But to him it represented some ideal life, and he often sat in the cockpit as the sun dropped below the yardarm, drink in hand, imagining himself, I'm sure, out at sea with only the horizon in front of him.

His alternate vessel was in the garage: the most beautiful handmade birch-bark canoe anyone has ever seen—and probably the most expensive. Charlie did an ON THE ROAD story about the man in Minnesota who made these canoes, a few a year, and he decided he had to have one. He sent the man a check and waited patiently for a year or two until he got the call that his canoe was ready. Come and get it.

He flew to Duluth, drove several hundred miles, tied the canoe on top of his rented car, drove back to Duluth, got someone to build a crate for it, shipped it by air to Hartford and arranged for a friend to pick it Up and deliver it to Essex. Again, I cannot swear to this, but I believe that the canoe was only in the water once: it was on one Fourth of July when Charlie ceremoniously canoed the 200 feet from his house to ours.

As painful as Charlie's death is, it seems somehow fitting that it happened on July 4th. I think it was the day of the year he loved the most—the birthday of America, the day Jefferson and Adams died. In 1976, on Bicentennial Day, Charlie and I and Petie and Linda spent the day on the Coast Guard tall ship, the Eagle, the lead ship in the parade of tall ships in New York Harbor.

Twenty-five years ago, one Fourth of July at breakfast, Charlie pointed out that the New York Times always prints a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, and he started reading it, the words rolling forth. It was thrilling. After a while, he handed it to Petie to read and then I read some and so did Linda. And then he finished with the stirring closing words. The tears rolled down my cheeks.

We have read the Declaration of Independence every Fourth of July since, many times with him, always with him in mind. When, on a boat in Greece, we received word of his death this July 4th, I had a copy of the Declaration of Independence in my pocket but, somehow, we could not bear to read it.

But his voice and his words will not be heard at my memorial service or at those of many of the people in this room he loved and admired—words written and spoken by him that would make us more noble and more dignified than we had a right to claim. It is not fitting that, instead, my poor words are being said at his memorial. The one saving grace is that he will be impossible to forget. Many of the happiest times we can remember were spent with Petie and Charlie Kuralt. He's left one hell of a hole in our life, in all our lives.

Additional Tributes

Phil Scheffler | Dan Rather | Shad Northshield
Ed Bradley | Walter Cronkite | Bernie Birnbaum
Linda Mason | Missie Rennie | Mike Wallace
Andy Rooney

USA Today Editorial
Forgiving Charles Kuralt

The Book
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About The Book
| Reviews | Author Biography
Preface
| Foreword | Eastern North Carolina

Addendum to Book
Nobel Peace Prize
| Remembering | Sir Charles
Timeline
| A Tribute | CBS Transcripts |
Letters To Ken McClure|
David Brinkley on Charles Kuralt
Kuralt's Remarks At Hugh & Julia Morton's 50th Wedding Anniversary

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Charles Kuralt's People

An intellectually stimulating collection of insightful and occasionally poignant commentaries, Charles Kuralt's People is very highly recommended reading for students of the human condition in general, and legions of Charles Kuralt fans in particular. — Midwest Book Review Click for more info.

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