Obituary, Charles VanMeter Wesley

Wesley, Charles VanMeter
posted May 8, 2006
Charles VanMeter Wesley died on Saturday, May 6, 2006, in a local nursing home.

Charles was born atop Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga on Sept. 20, 1913. He was preceded 15 minutes earlier by his twin brother, the late John Henry Wesley.

Charles was the son of the late Henry Willis Wesley and Blanche Van-Meter. While growing up in the Chattanooga area, Charles was very active in sports. He held both the city boxing and badminton championships.

He attended Western Kentucky State Teachers college. Then the Navy came calling. Charles was stationed at Pensacola NAS teaching flying when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He stayed on in Pensacola as a flight instructor to both British and American pilots. In 1942, he became part of a new fighter squadron, VF-11 J headed for the Pacific.

While en route from San Diego, the squadron got word that their ship, the USS Wasp, had been hit by three Japanese torpedoes and had to be scuttled. They were diverted to Pearl Harbor then to the Fiji Islands. While on Maui, the squadron, named themselves the “Sundowners” and designed the squadron’s insignia. In April of 1943, they found themselves land-based on Guadalcanal and sharing a runway with a squadron of Marines. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his conduct as a Navy fighter pilot in the Solomon Islands area during June-July 1943. After 12 weeks of combat, the Navy rotated several of the experienced fighter pilots back to the states to Fighter Director School. Charles spent the rest of the war as a fighter director on the USS Enterprise, USS Franklin and the USS Ranger.

In 1947, he met his future wife, Sara Frances Colvin, on a blind date. They were married in 1948. In 1949 he resigned his Navy commission and went back to school, this time at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Charles found himself back on active duty when the Korean War broke out, this time in the Air Force. He stayed in the Air Force until his retirement in 1969.

Charles and Sally joined St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club in 1969, the same year that the “Flying Scot” replaced the “Fish Class” as the club boat. He had been active in sailing most of his life, beginning when he and his brother, John, built their first Snipe in their mother’s basement. He was introduced to the “Fish Class” while he was stationed in Pensacola before the war. Charles was very active in the yacht club, spending several years as the fleet captain. He also served on the race committee, as a USYRU judge at various local and national events and on the GYA appeals committee. Charles and Sally were members of several Bridge Clubs in the local area. Charles continued to play duplicate at the Panama City Bridge Club until 2004.

Charles is survived by his wife, Sara Frances Colvin Wesley; children, Barbara Harrell Wesley, of Panama City, Charles Van Meter Wesley Jr., of Arizona, Richard Colvin and Kay Ellen Wesley, of Panama City; grandchildren, Donna Christine Exum, her husband, Lee Exum, and Richard Colvin Wesley Jr., all of Panama City; and greatgrandchildren, Sara Nicole Martin, Wyatt Lee Exum and Madison Leigh Exum, of Panama City, and Richard Nicholas Wesley, of Louisiana. He also is survived by several nieces and nephews in California, Texas and Chattanooga.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday, at Kent-Forest Lawn Funeral Home with the Rev. Tully Hunter officiating. Interment will follow at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens with full military honors.

The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. at the funeral home on Tuesday. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Jim and Flo Nixon Respite Center, Council on Aging, in Panama City, FL.

Arrangements are by Kent-Forest Lawn Funeral Home, 2403 Harrison Ave., Panama City, FL 32405.

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