Obituary - Charles Norris Caughlan (1915 - 2013)

Biography | Publications  | Curriculum Vitae | Videos | Slides | Articles | Obituary

Charles N. Caughlan (1915 - 2013)

ACA RefleXions, Fall 2013



After a long life well lived, local political activist Charles Norris Caughlan died April 25, 2013 at the age of 98 surrounded by his wife Helen and members of his family. Charles was a 73 year resident of Bozeman. 

He was born in Pullman, Washington January 20, 1915 to Ada and John Caughlan. His earliest memory was waking up to find his entire family stricken with the Spanish Flu during the flu epidemic of 1918-1919. His father John was a progressive Methodist minister whose social activism kept them moving throughout the state. While attending Grey's Harbor Junior College in Aberdeen, Washington during the early 1930's, he observed the struggles and violence against the workers attempting to unionize the timber industry. The experience solidified his liberal political agenda and he would work for peace and justice for the rest of his life.

The family lived in many northwest towns until finally Charles spent his high school years in Seattle. He went on to the University of Washington where he earned his Bachelor's Degree and a PhD in chemistry, specializing in x-ray crystallography. Charles was committed to pacificism; from 1944-1946 he worked at Eastman Kodak in Rochester NY. His professional life was marked by a long career as a chemistry professor at Montana State University where he also served as head of the Chemistry Department for several years. During his teaching years he was honored often for his excellence in teaching. Charles was a long-time member of ACA, and was local chair for the Bozeman meeting in 1964. 

An avid skier and outdoorsman, he was instrumental in the beginning and early development of Bridger Bowl Ski Area where he enjoyed skiing into his 92nd year. He learned a love of mountain climbing in his teens when he climbed most of the higher peaks in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains in Washington. After arriving in Bozeman that love of the outdoors compelled him to climb many of the mountains in south central Montana and Wyoming including several different routes up the Grand Teton. He fostered a love of backpacking in his children and continued to backpack with them and his grandchildren well into his late 80's hiking with a yearly family backpacking trek on trails in Montana and Washington. He was also passionate about tennis and could be seen frequently on the tennis courts at MSU where he played until he was 93. 

After retiring from the university, he was able to devote his time to his other passions: civil liberties and human rights, Scottish dancing, baking, gardening, music and travel. He was a frequent and popular contributor to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's "Letters to the Editors" about his concerns for peace, civil liberties and all aspects of both domestic and foreign human rights. In 1997 he was awarded the Walt Brown Award by the Montana Human Rights Task Force, for his "recognition and dedication to human rights and civil rights in Montana." For many years, Charles hosted the Task Force's radio call-in program ending in 2007. In 2006 the Montana ACLU awarded him the Jeannette Rankin Award "for his tireless efforts to advance civil liberties and human rights and his steadfast commitment to peace and justice." He also finally received the Order of the Silver Marmot award in 2010 from Washington State's Boy Scout Camp Parsons after expressing regret that he hadn't received it in 1927 when originally earned at age 12. 

Charles married Georgeanne Robertson in 1936 and they had four children. He later married Helen Cameron in 1974. He is survived by his wife Helen; his four children Cheryl Allen of Truckee, California, Kevin of Kensington, Maryland, Kerry Travers (Mike) of Chelan, Washington and Deirdre of Butte; Helen's four children, Greg, Dan, and Richard Mecklenburg of Bozeman and Laurie Cameron of Flagstaff, Arizona; fifteen grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. He was always interested in and curious about the world around him, he had a sparkle in his eye, a remarkable zest for life, and an endless energy for his passions, especially for issues involving peace and justice. 

Adapted from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, May 5, 2013