Charles and Claire Fenolio

Sep 2, 2012 | 3 comments

Chuck and ClaireCharles “Chuck” Fenolio and his wife Claire “went home to be with their Heavenly Father” within 20 hours of each other on August 29 and 30. They would have celebrated 65 years of marriage on September 10. Today their life celebration was a standing room only event at their church, Glory Christian Fellowship.

The first thing I noticed about this large, loving family: the men were wearing white shirts and blue jeans. The women were wearing blue silk flowers in their hair. Son Ron told me that this was Mom’s wish. She wanted them to be comfortable and not get too dressed up, and the blue and white was a tribute to Dad’s favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.

In fact, Mom had planned out in great detail many aspects of her last days and had provided a list of things to do for the memorial service. The interesting boxes that held their cremated remains came from Hobby Lobby – classy and much less expensive than those containers the funeral home offered. (Point of information: you have the right to bring your own container to receive cremated remains from a funeral home or cremation provider.)

Chuck and Claire lived out their lives in the family home they occupied for 60 years, and they died at home. Their home was always open, their love of family and of Jesus Christ a strong bond. They had six children, 16 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

The family filled the first five rows from the front of the church. Members of the church streamed in carrying platters of food for the reception after the service. The Glory Christian Fellowship was Chuck and Claire’s church for a very long time. Pastor David Wintermute said he’s known them for 47 years and considered them his second parents. The memorial service program said “Officiated by Pastor (and adopted son) David Wintermute.”

He opened by saying, “Welcome to a fantastic celebration of Chuck and Claire Fenolio’s lives.” This was greeting with shouts of “hallelujah” and applause. After an opening prayer, we listened to the song “I Can Only Imagine,” a popular selection at Evangelical funerals.

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself
Standing in the Son

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine

Pastor David said, “We can only imagine what Chuck and Claire are doing now. I can see her dancing before the Lord, although Chuck wasn’t much of a dancer.” Claire was confined to a wheelchair for the past 30 years because of multiple sclerosis, and Chuck was a devoted care giver.

Then he read two Scripture passages that Chuck and Claire spoke of often: Psalm 23 and Revelations 21. Then a photo montage video of the family showed Chuck and Claire in their younger days, a growing family, work and play, and many good times. The pictures to set to a Big Band song “To the End of Time,” “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music, and “Shout to the Lord,” which prompted one great-granddaughter to dance on the stage.

Family and UrnOver the next hour, family members got up and shared many, many memories of both Chuck and Claire. One of the wonderful things about them was that they identified themselves by name and how they were related to the couple. They unanimously expressed thanks to everyone who came today to show their love and support.

From the children, to the grandchildren, to the siblings, nieces and nephews, loving portraits of both Chuck and Claire emerged.

Chuck was remembered as a supportive father who followed his children’s athletic endeavors and was a big fan of the Lobos and Dallas Cowboys. To daughter Kathy, he was “Daddy and my hero.” She was deathly afraid of bugs as a child. One night as she stood frozen in fear by a creepy-crawlie she encountered on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, Daddy appeared and dispatched the insect. She didn’t call out, he simply sensed her distress and came to her rescue.

Grandson Justin said he wants to be a daddy like Grandpa was. Others said he was gracious, tender, loving, always there for you. You could count on him for a piece of candy or a trip to the Dairy Queen. He loved Jelly Bellies and donuts and was known for helping himself to many, many donuts. He was a man of true gentleness who hugged well and often.

Chuck and Claire's weddingClaire was strong-willed and strong in faith. She was full of joy and laughter. Granddaughter Shelby recounted the moment Claire met Chuck at a USO event. She called dibs on him to her friend who was with her that night. It was so romantic, just like the movies. Pastor David said that the film The Notebook depicted Claire and Chuck’s relationship.

She was loving and taught her grandchildren “God stories.” Grandson Justin accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior when he was nine years old thanks to Grandma. “The fruit of her going in the chair is our family’s faith,” he said. “She knew she would walk and dance again before the Lord.”

Sherry’s comments were inspired by John 10:10, and the theme of life in abundance, physically, emotionally and psychologically. This was a couple who lived a long life, who had a family in abundance, who had 65 years of love. Not even death could separate them. They left a legacy of lives touched and transformed with an abundance of good traits: faith love, forgiveness, fun, generosity… the list went on and on.

Sarah, who was Claire’s sister’s granddaughter, shared a moving tribute about Chuck and Claire’s true love story that she had posted on her Facebook page. After Chuck had passed, Claire followed him 20 hours later. With outstretched arms, her final words with her last breath were, “Charles, Charles.” “Your love story will never be forgotten,” Sarah ended.

For the loving care giving they provided Chuck and Claire over the past four years, four members of the family – Jackie, Stephanie, Shelby and Shawn – were recognized with a standing ovation.

Leland Grubb provided a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace” while he played the guitar. Pastor David invited everyone to invite Jesus into their hearts and receive eternal grace. Everyone stood for the final song, “Come Thou Fount.”

At the end of the closing prayer, the pastor extended the Priestly Blessing: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

Peace to the family, with thanks for the abundance of these two lives. If you’d like to share a memory or comment, please post in the comment box below.

Charles and Claire Fenolio
A Good Goodbye