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Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 05:58 am


Charlie Brittin was a true renaissance man. He was interested in so many different things that even now I’m learning new facts about him.

Many knew Charlie as a fine musician, which he was. He was a member of several different bands here in Springfield, playing bass. Tom Irvin in his column last June gave a fine tribute to Charlie’s musical legacy. Many people will also remember Charlie as the person who tuned their piano, which is how he made his living.

Charlie also had a love of cars, which led him to be a member of the local Vanatics van club. Charlie brought the same dedication and craftsmanship that he used in his piano tuning to the van he owned. It was a full-sized Ford, for which he built custom cabinets. But he went further and installed a hardwood floor in his van, making it a very unique ride. At various events Charlie would run Hot Wheels races, using a special track that he built.

I met Charlie thru the Springfield Automotive Modelers (SAM) club, a group of model car builders. Once again Charlie brought his attention to detail to building models that were outstanding. For example, once he won a club contest with a model of a stretched six-wheel van. Now, it is not easy to make one stretched van out of two ordinary model kits. For one thing, the place where the two bodies are joined together must be perfect, with no seam showing. Charlie’s model had no seam, no joint, and perfect detail and paint.

For several years Charlie and his wife, Sally, let us have our club meetings/build nights at their home. One year Charlie spearheaded the design and building of a club diorama display for the Milwaukee NNL contest. One of the proudest moments for our club was seeing a picture of a model Charlie had built in Scale Auto, a national model car magazine.

Charlie was more than a victim of cancer, he was also a fighter. Twice he outlived the doctors’ predictions of how long he had to live. The first time, they told Charlie he only had maybe a year, and he lived for more than 11 years; the last time he was told he only had two months, and he live for five more months.

Most of all Charlie was a devoted Christian and a member of Hope Evangelical Free Church. In his final months, instead of moaning about what was happening to him, Charlie comforted those around them. Charlie had been giving bass guitar lessons to a young member of his church. Charlie gave his bass to the boy with the understanding that he would take Charlie’s place in the worship band. At Charlie’s memorial service a video Charlie had made was shown. In it Charlie explained that he would be fine, because he was with his Redeemer.

–Vernon Nelson
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