Charles Schaffer (28 Jan 1925 - 24 Sep 2014)

Funeral Service

Location
Gorleston Crematorium Oriel Avenue Gorleston NR31 7JJ
Date
8th Oct 2014
Time
12.40pm

In loving memory of the late Charles Schaffer who sadly passed away on 24th September 2014 aged 89 years.

From Andy Neuschatz (Nephew)


My uncle Chuck died last week, at 89 , and he was a pretty remarkable guy, so I'd like to tell you about him.
Chuck seemed to be born with an aptitude for things mechanical and electric. At age 13 he modified his electric train set--by making it voice-controlled. Imagine seeing a toy train respond when a kid said "go!" in 1938. It must have seemed like magic.
Next thing, he was building one of those newfangled radios that send pictures. It's lucky that he grew up in Schenectady, New York, since perhaps the only television signals in America at that time were the tests coming from down the road at General Electric, Thomas Edison's old lab.
Chuck had a major illness in his teen years that cost him most of his hearing in one ear. As hard as that was, it had two positive side-effects: It kept him out of World War II. And it sparked his lifelong interest in medical machinery. He spent his entire career as a biomedical engineer at the Albany Medical Center, for which he created all kids of new devices. One specialty was low-light cameras, which they’d use to look deep inside a patient’s eye without having to shine bright lights. I expect he could have patented and published left and right, but it just wasn't his nature to pursue that.
But somebody did take notice: he received a request for a low-light camera from, of all places, the Hughes Aircraft Corporation. They couldn't tell him what it was for... but they did say that it had to be watertight even under intense pressure.
Apparently his camera (which might or might not have been used to watch Soviet submarines) worked quite well, because Hughes requested another, and another, and another.
Twenty or thirty large checks later, Chuck’s father finally let go of the idea that his son should stop fiddling with gadgets and get a normal job in business.
As kids, my brother and I loved visiting his house piled high with fabulous devices. Here were his telescopes, over there was the 2-way radio where he'd talk to people on the other side of the world. I must admit, it seemed to me that when he made contact with somebody out in Japan or England, the only thing they talked about was what kind of radio they were using. I preferred our excursions on his beautiful mahogany boat, on which we'd explore the Mohawk River.
Inside his house, as you looked around at the electronics, you might suddenly hear a giant blast of music, as though you’re in a cathedral. That's just Chuck playing the enormous pipe organ that he installed directly into the walls. He never took lessons, just figured out the tunes for himself, so he never learned to read music. But play a Bach or Telemann piece for him once, and he’d play the whole thing back to you, every trill and bass chord. If he whistled it, you’d hear two notes at once.
Chuck taught me things from electronics to astronomy, but I think the main thing I learned is the joy of engineering, of looking for the simplest possible solution. I remember when he wanted his VCR (he was the first person around to have one, of course) to skip commercials when it recorded shows. He didn't have to set up a timer that held the schedule of commercial breaks, or something that would notice sudden changes of scene. He just made a sound sensor: when the volume jumped up, it stopped recording. Simple as that—because it turns out, commercials are loud. His device was pretty much always right. That’s how I try to do it: when I'm writing software, I always look for the simplest solution. I ask myself what Chuck would do.
Chuck had no kids of his own. But since before I can remember, he had the Weekend Gang, a bunch of kids from various families he knew. Every weekend six or eight of them would come over; he’d take them to the movies or out on his boat; at night we'd all roll out sleeping bags. As some grew up and moved on, others would take their place. I suppose this would raise an eyebrow in our more suspicious time, which is too bad. These kids were from pretty disadvantaged homes, and I’m sure he was glad to open new worlds to them. But mostly, I think, he just really liked kids. They had the same wonder he did, they liked playing with stuff, and everybody could make each other laugh.
Chuck found his true love later in life--or actually rediscovered her. His pal Gwyneth, from two trips to Wales when he was in his twenties, got in touch after many decades. Things between them took off immediately, and they were married a few months later. They split their time between homes in Schenectady (boat on the river), Southern California (view of ships in the harbor) and, later, Reedham, England (boats across the street in the canal). Gwyneth gave him the love and companionship he’d always needed, as well as—instantly—a grand family. He always spoke proudly of "our grandson" or "our great-granddaughter." He had his Weekend Gang all over again, times ten.
Chuck Schaffer lived a pretty unusual life, but he was no iconoclast. I just don’t think he ever considered whether he was doing things like other people. Most people who like music don’t install pipe organs in their living rooms. Most people who wish they had kids don’t think of borrowing a half-dozen of them each weekend. And that’s OK for them. But for Chuck, life was too full of interesting ideas. He just kept tinkering with them.
--
Thanks for reading.

Richard Taylor wrote

I met this lovely man when I called a year or two ago to service his harpsichord. He brought me coffee in a shaky hand and I invited him to see if I had set up the instrument to his liking. He slowly sat at the keyboard, positioned his hands and played the J.S.Bach Italian Concerto perfectly. That's a moment I shall never forget - thank you Chuck.

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Molly Taylor lit a candle
Anglia Co-operative Funerals, Gorleston lit a candle
Saty Satya-Murti wrote

He was "uncle Chuck,"or "CAS" to some, and plain "Chuck to me and my family.
From 1976 when I had entered Albany Medical College as a new faculty till 1989 when he last visited our country home in rural Kansas, Chuck was a major figure in my life. An inspiration to stay unorthodox, transcend conventions, build that impossible gadget,be around to share a bagel or bagatelle, enjoy home cooked meals or formal dinners, and drive cross country on his Dad's Marquis, Chuck was the "mensch" to be around.
We Skyped on and off after he had moved to Reedham, and I to California. Alas, the last year our cyber-contacts with him or Gwyn grew thin. And he left us to find another dimension which he surely would enhance. We miss you so much Chuck. I wish I could touch base with Gwyn or Andy!
Saty, Viji and Lata.

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Saty Satya-Murti wrote

I was a friend of Charles Schaffer (died Sept 24, 2014). I learned of his demise only a few minutes ago.
Is there a way to get in touch with any of the survivors, especially Gwyn and Andy?

Thank you.

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Kay Coath- Hargrave posted a picture
Report abuse

Comments

  • How very sad to hear. He was so good to us. Love the picture Kay - I have so many memories of when you'd visit us from England!

    Posted by Claire on 14/11/2014 Report abuse
Comment on this photo
Kay Coath- Hargrave posted a picture
Report abuse
Comment on this photo
Martin Howells wrote

My uncle Chuck died last week, at 89. Most of you never met him, and he was a pretty remarkable guy, so I'd like to tell you about him.
Chuck seemed to be born with an aptitude for things mechanical and electric. At age 13 he modified his electric train set--by making it voice-controlled. Imagine seeing a toy train respond when a kid said "go!" in 1938. It must have seemed like magic.
Next thing, he was building one of those newfangled radios that send pictures. It's lucky that he grew up in Schenectady, New York, since perhaps the only television signals in America at that time were the tests coming from down the road at General Electric, Thomas Edison's old lab.
Chuck had a major illness in his teen years that cost him most of his hearing in one ear. As hard as that was, it had two positive side-effects: It kept him out of World War II. And it sparked his lifelong interest in medical machinery. He spent his entire career as a biomedical engineer at the Albany Medical Center, for which he created all kids of new devices. One specialty was low-light cameras, which they’d use to look deep inside a patient’s eye without having to shine bright lights. I expect he could have patented and published left and right, but it just wasn't his nature to pursue that.
But somebody did take notice: he received a request for a low-light camera from, of all places, the Hughes Aircraft Corporation. They couldn't tell him what it was for... but they did say that it had to be watertight even under intense pressure.
Apparently his camera (which might or might not have been used to watch Soviet submarines) worked quite well, because Hughes requested another, and another, and another.
Twenty or thirty large checks later, Chuck’s father finally let go of the idea that his son should stop fiddling with gadgets and get a normal job in business.
As kids, my brother and I loved visiting his house piled high with fabulous devices. Here were his telescopes, over there was the 2-way radio where he'd talk to people on the other side of the world. I must admit, it seemed to me that when he made contact with somebody out in Japan or England, the only thing they talked about was what kind of radio they were using. I preferred our excursions on his beautiful mahogany boat, on which we'd explore the Mohawk River.
Inside his house, as you looked around at the electronics, you might suddenly hear a giant blast of music, as though you’re in a cathedral. That's just Chuck playing the enormous pipe organ that he installed directly into the walls. He never took lessons, just figured out the tunes for himself, so he never learned to read music. But play a Bach or Telemann piece for him once, and he’d play the whole thing back to you, every trill and bass chord. If he whistled it, you’d hear two notes at once.
Chuck taught me things from electronics to astronomy, but I think the main thing I learned is the joy of engineering, of looking for the simplest possible solution. I remember when he wanted his VCR (he was the first person around to have one, of course) to skip commercials when it recorded shows. He didn't have to set up a timer that held the schedule of commercial breaks, or something that would notice sudden changes of scene. He just made a sound sensor: when the volume jumped up, it stopped recording. Simple as that—because it turns out, commercials are loud. His device was pretty much always right. That’s how I try to do it: when I'm writing software, I always look for the simplest solution. I ask myself what Chuck would do.
Chuck had no kids of his own. But since before I can remember, he had the Weekend Gang, a bunch of kids from various families he knew. Every weekend six or eight of them would come over; he’d take them to the movies or out on his boat; at night we'd all roll out sleeping bags. As some grew up and moved on, others would take their place. I suppose this would raise an eyebrow in our more suspicious time, which is too bad. These kids were from pretty disadvantaged homes, and I’m sure he was glad to open new worlds to them. But mostly, I think, he just really liked kids. They had the same wonder he did, they liked playing with stuff, and everybody could make each other laugh.
Chuck found his true love later in life--or actually rediscovered her. His pal Gwyneth, from two trips to Wales when he was in his twenties, got in touch after many decades. Things between them took off immediately, and they were married a few months later. They split their time between homes in Schenectady (boat on the river), Southern California (view of ships in the harbor) and, later, Reedham, England (boats across the street in the canal). Gwyneth gave him the love and companionship he’d always needed, as well as—instantly—a grand family. He always spoke proudly of "our grandson" or "our great-granddaughter." He had his Weekend Gang all over again, times ten.
Chuck Schaffer lived a pretty unusual life, but he was no iconoclast. I just don’t think he ever considered whether he was doing things like other people. Most people who like music don’t install pipe organs in their living rooms. Most people who wish they had kids don’t think of borrowing a half-dozen of them each weekend. And that’s OK for them. But for Chuck, life was too full of interesting ideas. He just kept tinkering with them.
--
Thanks for reading.

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Bert and Betty Mallet wrote

Chuck was a kind, friendly and loving gentleman and will be missed very much. Especially missed by Bert who has been friends with him for many years. Rest in peace. Love Betty and Bert x

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Martin Howells wrote

Charles Schaffer, Chuck to most of us, a generous, modest man with a mountain of achievements. It's often said at times like these that: this person touched the lives of those around them. Not to denigrate that as a sentiment, but Chuck had much bigger sphere of influence, Chuck not only touched lives of people he knew but through his inventions as a biomedical engineer, he helped to save and enhance the lives of thousands. Chuck often claimed that he had not worked a single day in his life,(I wish!!) the point being that he never considered his work as work- it was what he loved to do.

Chuck disliked ostentation and formality, he lived modestly and gave generously for important stuff like, funding private education for the grandchildren and great grandchildren.
For me, one of Chuck’s greatest and lasting achievements was to unite us as a family.

Growing up, Chuck had what some would consider a privileged childhood. This privilege had been hard fought for by his father Harry Schaffer. The Schaffers fled to America from persecution by the Russian pogroms, Harry being the youngest of six. With the death of his father, Harry at age seven started working and never stopped. Harry’s older brother Henry pioneered the Supermarket format and built an empire (in fact they were called Empire Markets) of 185 stores. Chuck’s father, Harry studied and then practiced law for 22 years before becoming vice president of this family business. ‘Taking care of business’ came with a package of duties and responsibilities that from Chuck’s perspective seemed to overwhelm their family life. Chuck openly disliked the formality of those times. Having to dress for lunch, having to dress for dinner, having to dress for the evening etc etc. As we all know, Chuck was a canvas shoes, slacks and T-shirt kinda guy, he couldn’t be doing with all that buttoning and unbuttoning.

Chuck felt that there was an imbalance in his upbringing- too much duty and formality and not enough love, play and encouragement. I think partly for this reason, when he and mum became an item, it was high on Chuck’s list of priorities that the family were an integral part of their new life. The project to get the then tobacco stained greasy Reedham house ready for habitation was a family project. The holidays at Ardgour. The (less than sober) weekends in Reedham. These were all things ‘engineered’ by Chuck that turned us into the large rambling functioning family unit that is evident in this room today.

Sure chuck wasn't a saint he could be irascible. To be fair to him It must have been frustrating having to deal with us of average intelligence. We would be sitting around talking about tv programmes or what shoes to buy. Chuck would be working out how to measure the surface area of a blood cell, correlate that with its mass and figure whether the result was a predictive factor in the incidence of leukemia..... Very interesting Chuck but the big question here is what shoes should I buy?

I remember a game of Pictionary, Chuck and I partnered up. It was his turn to draw. He drew in a frenzy of precision and proudly finished. tapping the sketch wildly with the pencil. He looked at my Neanderthal brow for a flicker of intellectual activity. Of course there was none – The Adnams had long since taken it all away. I could not make head nor tail of what he'd drawn. Chuck was crestfallen as the last grain passed through the timer. The clue was revealed... It was an artificial eye. Chuck had drawn a perfect cross section of an artificial eye. He'd probably improved the design of it adding features like zoom and infa-red capability. Had we taken his Pictionary sketch to the patents office, we could have registered it and retired. (Mind you his sketch of Kirk Douglas wasn't all that!!!)


Chuck, we are all better people for knowing you, we will miss you

Report abuse
Comment on this message
peter clutten lit a candle
peter clutten wrote

Forever in our thoughts Chuck
Love peter xx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Brenda Acres lit a candle
Brenda Acres wrote

It was a pleasure to know Chuck a very generous man and Loved by us all at the Ship.and our thoughts are with Gwyn and the rest of the family.God Bless Chuck. Love Brenda xx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Sharon Sparkes lit a candle
Sharon Sparkes wrote

I have known Chuck for over 20 years from our taxi days til now. I can't believe I won't hear his normal greeting " halloo halloo halloo!!" Visiting Chuck and Gwyn has always been a pleasure and Chuck was always so pleased to see me and never did I leave without him asking after my family.

Sadly I lost my dad in March, he and Chuck shared the same birthday and had very similar personalities a sunny dispositiion and a generous nature. This has been a horrible year as I have lost two very special men from my life.

I love and miss you Chuck. Another bright star to light up the night sky. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Chris Hargrave lit a candle
Chris Hargrave wrote

Grandad will be sorely missed not just by his closest love ones but also by everyone who was lucky to meet him. He was an extremely generous and giving man to whom I owe a lifetime of Hard work and gratitude.
If I aspire to be one tenth of the man that my grandad was I know that I will leave this earth making an everlasting impression not only on the people but the whole world aswell.

It is sad to see such a loved man pass, but he will remain forever alive in the hearts, souls and memories of everyone lucky enough to meet him.

love you
grandad

xxxxxxx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Kay Coath- Hargrave wrote

My Grandfather was truly an inspiration with a big heart, who changed many people lives for the better. He loved to have his family around him and we will all have many fond memories of the times we all spent together at Ardgour. He often used to set mini challenges for us, like the egg parachute! Another amusing memory that will always stick with me was when we played Pictionary and grandad had to draw a heart. Only he would draw an artificial one!
I used to love the fascinating real life events he used to tell us about in mid conversation, as something mundane would make him remember. The Phase that I will not ever forget “if it works why change the formula”.
I will miss him so much, lots of love and hugs Kay xxx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Tim & Jacquie Bagwell lit a candle
Tim & Jacquie Bagwell wrote

A generous man and a genius who gave made a huge difference to peoples' lives. Never happier than at the centre of his extended family in the holidays at Ardgour. He will be sorely missed.

Much love, Tim and Jacquie xx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Tim & Jacquie Bagwell posted a picture
Report abuse
Comment on this photo
Kay Coath- Hargrave posted a picture
Report abuse
Comment on this photo
Kay Coath- Hargrave posted a picture
Report abuse
Comment on this photo
Daniella Budd lit a candle
Daniella Budd wrote

What a kind and inspirational man who I was fortunate enough to meet if only a handful of times. Chuck always took so much interest in me and Chris and had so many incredible stories to tell. What a life to have led... You may have gone for now, but your memory, stories and all your hard work and accomplishments will live on forever. xxxx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Kay Coath- Hargrave wrote

Grandad


My grandad was amazing he has done loads for this world and I hope people can appreciate that. I was at school when he died I got home dad told me the news I broke down in tears I felt ill and that someone I love has gone never to be seen again but what I try to remember is not his death I remember the extraordinary things he has done like when he made me laugh or made a hearing aid for himself when he was seven!!! Or that he tested the brain waves of a monkey in space..... It is unbelievable what he did I’m just sad I didn’t know him well.

I love you so so much grandad, lots of Love Molly xxxx

Report abuse
Comment on this message
Kay Coath- Hargrave lit a candle
Claire Stafford posted a picture
Report abuse
Comment on this photo
Claire Stafford wrote

Thank you for the wonderful memories we now have because of the man you were.
All our Love
Claire Ross, Chloe and Piper
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Report abuse
Comment on this message