MONTGOMERY: Charles was an extraordinary musician with great depth and range in his playing. He was always kind, with great wit and humor, a true gentleman.
Charles was born with the music in him. At age 3, he started picking out tunes on the piano. By the time he was 6, lessons had started. He played piano all through high school and college, along with baseball and other sports. Whitman, Mass., was his hometown. Buddy, as he was known growing up and until the move to California and the University of California, Los Angeles, “was greatly appreciated for his wit, caring, and demeanor by fellow students in our high school and college days,” wrote friend Mike B. While in California, a friend from Vermont working in the LA area sent Charles Vermont Life engagement calendars every Christmas. Eventually, Charles came to Vermont in the summers to escape the LA smog.
One fall day in 1989, Charles and his guitarist, photographer friend, Harold, were driving through Montgomery. Charles’s ’68 Lincoln Continental overheated, so they stopped at Kilgore’s General Store for water, instead of the service station next door, so that Harold could take photos of the store. That is how I met my husband. The store had a stage, and when I learned they were musicians, I asked if they would like to play over the Labor Day weekend. Charles had a portable electric piano, and Harold, one of his many guitars, and could they play!
The next summer, 1990, Charles asked to play at the store on weekends. He never went back to California, ending his 20+ years there of performing, teaching piano and as a dance accompanist. He welcomed all to join him in making music. His leaving was mourned as the “contribution he made to the joy people at the beach get out of music, a joy not even his leaving can dampen. Keys stilled; sounds remain.” He performed classical, jazz, ragtime, boogie-woogie, Broadway, old favorites and new age. He was one of the first-prize winners in the 1973 Frank Sinatra Musical Performance Awards Competition.
Playing at the store, Charles attracted many musicians and customers who just loved to join in or just hear him play. One day, Don Hill and Pixley Tyler Hill wandered in. Charles was playing Don’s favorite rag, “The Graceful Ghost.” He became the house pianist for The Tyler Place Family Resort. For 24 years he considered the Tyler Place a second home and family. He played a classical night; a jazz night, in which he gathered musicians from all over Vermont; and a Broadway sing-along night, attracting skilled (and unskilled) singers.
During that time he also taught piano and played for weddings and many other gigs, including the Montréal Jazz Festival with Harold.
He was predeceased by his parents, Louise and Bob Pratt; his sister, Mary Louise Pratt, and his best man and long-term wonderful friend, Neil Gretsky; his cousins and fellow music lovers, Fred and Dick Bail; and friend and mother-in-law Agatha East.
He leaves behind stepdaughter Elizabeth Davidson and her daughter, Elena Wells; stepson Daren and his wife, Renee, and daughter, Eva; Dawn Davidson and daughter Alexis; and brother-in-law Barry East and his wife, Viola. He also leaves behind his cat, Mickey, who kept him company throughout the night and greeted him every morning. His wife, Morgan East, and Charles had a wonderful life together. He was especially close to his granddaughter, Elena. They shared the love of baseball and goofy jokes and puns.
Charles loved the roses that were planted in front of their deck. There were never that many blooms, but the day after he died, all four of them bloomed like crazy! And they still are.
Bayada Home Health Care helped me take care of him for a year at home and were with him when he went to Queen City Nursing & Rehabilitation for the last six weeks of his life. The staff at Queen City would wheelchair him to their old upright piano, and he would play for staff and residents.
Donations can be made to any hospice care or home health agency. Franklin County Home Health Agency stayed with Charles once a week so I could run errands. Charles would like the young supported in music, the arts and sports. He had the gift of music and gave of it freely. Keep the music playing.
His last words to me were, “I am so fortunate to have had such a wonderful life.” Goodbye for now, my love and dear friend for the past 32 years.