In tribute: Longtime resident remembered for pursuit of excellence

Courtesy photo Friends, family members and business colleagues remembered Charles Wade, 77, as a man who excelled in what he learned, in what he inherited and even in positions where nobody would expect to find him.

Kevin Wilson

For better or for worse — but usually for much better — Charles Wade was never satisfied with “good enough.”

Friends, family members and business colleagues remembered Wade, 77, as a man who excelled in what he learned, in what he inherited and even in positions where nobody would expect to find him.

Wade died Aug. 23 at his vacation home at Vallecito Lake, Colo. The family believes the death came from either a heart attack or an aneurysm, and declined to have an autopsy performed.

Born Jan. 7, 1934, in Snyder, Texas, Wade grew up in Clovis, where he sacked groceries and delivered newspapers as a child, while his dad started up Wade’s Sporting Goods on Main Street.

“He was a very outgoing person, and he did crazy things,” said his wife, Jim Elyce Wade, a Portales native who started dating Charles when the two attended Eastern New Mexico University in the mid-1950s. “I think he appealed to my lighter side. He was just a lot of fun.”

Before he sought to renovate parts of Main Street — an ongoing project when he died — he served on numerous committees including the Running Water Draw (Ned Houk Park) Board, the Memorial Hospital board of directors, the Committee of Fifty, the Executive Club (founder), the Fourth of July Fireworks board, the ENMU Symphony Board (for business expertise) and the New Mexico Optometry Board as a lay member at the request of James Simnacher (”He enjoyed it, and seemed to do very well,” Jim Elyce said).

Daughter Debbie Bracken remembered her father as an over-the-top car lover, and an eccentric gift-giver. He gave his daughters 1950s jukeboxes that they still own today and his wife a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air — the first car they owned as a married couple — for her 60th birthday.

“My first car was an MG Midget,” Bracken said. “I’d come out of high school, and it would be sideways because anybody could pick it up and move it; they’re so tiny.”

He was usually the one to buy his children and grandchildren their first vehicles, and also taught them how to drive when he wasn’t working and the family wasn’t vacationing in Colorado.

In his later years, Charles drove a small “smart car” everywhere he went, but Bracken said sometimes he would be in the mood to drive the limousine he owned, and he’d put on the chauffeur cap even though he was driving alone.

Family members conceded that his best quality, a relentless pursuit of making things better, was also his most annoying quality. But Jim Elyce, who had two separate marriages with Charles from 1956 to 1980 and 1983 to his death, said the good times far outweighed the frustrating ones.

“He loved to be doing things,” Jim Elyce said. “He was always somewhat of an entrepreneur, even when he was young. He was always thinking of how to change things, how to make something better.”

When his father died at age 51, Charles suddenly found himself as a 29-year-old owner of Wade’s Sporting Goods. Armed with no real business training — he’d studied agriculture at ENMU, then served in the U.S. Army — he kept it going for another 30 years, turning a fishing and hunting store into a huge operation that offered ski equipment, sold sporting goods to local schools and engraved trophies.

Debbie’s husband, Clay Bracken, said he always knew Charles as the guy who sold him sporting goods, but came to respect him as a business partner and love him as a father-in-law.

“He was very accepting, and he just took me in as part of the family,” said Clay Bracken, who went into a partnership with Charles and Debbie on various land purchases. “I always felt comfortable with him and it was a joy to be around him.”

Grandson Tristan Carpenter said he loved the vacations they took growing up, and when his grandfather would visit him in New York City. But the best memory was the once-a-week phone calls.

“I can’t begin to describe the excitement in his voice when he would ask how my job was going, and what I had been doing, or when he told me how much he thought of me and missed me,” Carpenter said. “Every phone call would end with him telling me how proud he was of me and how much he loved me.”

Charles Wade’s final project was to take Main Street and make it better. The first step was “The Village” at Seventh and Main streets, one in a series of jobs done by Wade on the Realtor side of a Realtor-contractor partnership with Dennis Rogers.

“We built homes in Iris Arbor and Country Meadows,” said Rogers, who noted the two had worked on many other projects, including the redevelopment of the eastern 600 block of Main Street. “It worked out that we felt the same about many ideas that we had. The things we did were successful, and he just kept doing them.

“It was something that needed to be done,” Rogers continued. “We spent more than we should have, but it was the right thing to do.”

The plan, Debbie said, was to slowly buy Main Street property that was run-down and get it back to the standards he remembered from Wade’s Sporting Goods and pristine shops surrounding it.

“His store was part of our growing up,” Debbie said. “He was just a part of Main his whole life.”