The story has probably been told a thousand times – although most likely not by Charlie Babcock himself.
But it is a quintessential story about the man known as “Sir Charles” who would walk through a hurricane if he had to, made friends with everyone he met, and could just as easily humor a child as he entertained a fellow senior citizen.
Major Steve Carroll mentioned to Babcock, a senior soldier at the Cambridge location, that there was a gymnasium that wasn’t being utilized and he was considering turning it into office space and rooms for the homeless that were housed there.
Carroll explained that not soon after that conversation Babcock came to him with plans he drew up. The blueprints were exactly what Carroll had envisioned. And then, before he knew it, Babcock was knee-deep into the project - in the space putting up walls and hammering drywall.
Babcock, who lived in with his wife, Myrna Jones Babcock, died on June 14 after a two-year battle with leukemia. He was 91.
“Charlie did just about everything you could possibly ask him,” said Carroll. “If you had anything bad to say about Charlie Babcock then didn’t know him.”
The stories of his selfishness don’t end there.
An accomplished artist, poet (member of The National Library of Poetry), writer, wood-carver, builder – really anything working with his hands – his last wood carving was for a priest who lived in Asbury Grove who owned a Boxer. Out of the blue Babcock showed up with a detailed piece of work that looked exactly like the dog.
“Every (condolence) card I have received says how much they loved Charlie. Even people I haven’t met are sending cards,” said Myrna, who was married to Babcock for five years. “I probably have 75 (cards) now. All of them say how he did things for them without asking.”
He was born in Newfoundland, Canada, and grew up in Cambridge. He also lived in Lexington and Burlington before Hamilton. He was a veteran of World War II as a member of the Navy and a life member of the Tin Can Sailors.
Myrna explained that almost everything handy he did was self-taught. His father was also very handy and when Charlie asked why he never got one of his father’s paintings the elder Babcock said he didn’t need to give him one as he could do it himself. So he watched his father and learned on his own.
“He would build anything. I said I wanted a shelf in the bathroom. He went out to the shed and a half hour later he was putting up the shelf,” said Myrna, who met Charlie when they both had seasonal cottages in Asbury Grove.
But it wasn’t only the older generation that Babcock gravitated to. Carroll remembered when his daughter was very young she was interested in art. Babcock came to the house and set her up with an easel, showed her how to paint and mix colors.
It apparently stuck with her as years later she majored in graphic arts and got her master’s in Fine Arts.
“She would tell you it was because of the great encouragement Charlie gave her as little girl,” Carroll said.
Asbury Grove Manager Bruce Taylor said that everyone in the community – which has 63 year-round homes and 83 cottages that are occupied from April to November – knew Charlie. Not only was he one to strike up a conversation but he was quick to help out in any way he could.
“He was the first to pick up a paint brush or a hammer to help out,” Taylor said.
“(Everyone) probably would pay Charlie all the same accolades. He was someone who was generally a good person. That is few and far between these days.”
Babcock was just the type of person who wanted to get to know you or help out if he could, whether it was getting to know all of Myrna’s Bonita Springs, Fla., neighbors in the first week he was there, to teaching a class for the homeless at the Salvation Army on how to use tools, he didn’t think twice about the time, energy or cost it might take.
“He was the most easy person to get to know,” said Carroll, who said the Army is making plans to name a room or location after him. “If you met him on a bus, by the time you got off you were friends. He could strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you knew him for five minutes you were a life-long pal.”
Many people lost that pal a couple weeks ago.