December 26th, 1927 - March 20th, 2019
Charles McCormick, who went by Bill, passed away peacefully on March 20th in Camp Verde, Arizona.
Bill and his loving wife of 65 years, Gisela, raised two children, Eric and Heidi; were blessed with four grandchildren, Kirsten, Lauren, Phillip, and Alexandra (Muffie); and saw the new lives of three great-grandchildren, Owen, Emma, and Charlie.
Born in Long Beach, California to Cecil and Mabel, Bill spent most of his childhood in the Holbrook-Winslow area of Navajo County, Arizona.
After graduating from Holbrook high, he enlisted in the Army and served in the intelligence corps in Korea. Upon return from overseas, he attended the University of Arizona and Brigham Young University, before settling at Arizona State University, where he graduated as a Bachelor of Science and Master of Education.
In his younger years, he was a firebrand, wild man, cowboy, and student of the world, prying and poking and exploring the world around him for answers. He loved the great outdoors and traversed between every back road and trailhead in northern Arizona for years with his friends and family. Camping, fishing, carrying-on, and taking in the science of nature as close as he could get to it.
Always a man of science, Bill would lead thousands of beloved high school students through the experiments and eureka moments of chemistry, biology, physics, and adolescence as a high school teacher. He thoroughly encouraged and enjoyed letting students make their own, sometimes explosive, discoveries as a more memorable method of learning. Throughout his 28 years in front of the class, often leaning in his cool stance with a massive head of curly blonde hair and blue eyes, he charged all his students to try to prove him wrong or outsmart what we may know, as a core ethic of scientific pursuits.
And at 6’-6”, he stood out in the world, so it was even easier for past students to call out to him in public and proclaim he was their favorite teacher or that he inspired their chosen career. He was “that cool” teacher at Flagstaff High that students sought to get a class with or hail down in the halls, ‘hey Chazz, Chuck, teach, or Mr. McCormick,’ as it were.
As he raised Eric and Heidi in small town Flagstaff, they became his most attentive students of all. He’d take them across the Navajo Indian Reservation and Camp Verde, up the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks and the Snow Bowl, down through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, and beyond, proving scientific theories in their natural habitats, collecting plants for the Museum of Northern Arizona, or just getting lost in the wilds of the wandering and wondering. The family of four took several marquee voyages to Germany to visit relatives, once making the return trip across the sea and country in a roomy VW bug.
Bill and Gisela enjoyed decades of joyful retirement together in Flagstaff—waking up to the crisp mountain air in their home overlooking the golf course, spending their days swapping memories of the old days, catching each other up on the latest news and opinions of the day, cooking for each other, talking about the kids and grandkids, working with the Bahá'i School in Bellemont, and cultivating their own Bahá'i faith. And one very special day a month, they’d brave a mighty trek south to Phoenix for the crucial task of getting a touch-up from their favorite hair stylist.
Whether we knew him as Bill, Dad, Opa, or Papa, we knew him for his kindness, warmth, humor, tall stature, taller tales, wild hairs, positive viewpoints, and undaunted rebellious curiosity. Even into his later years, his thirst for a ripe audience of studious minds never ceased, often staging playful antics or practical experiments in public to prove a scientific point and spur a eureka in us all...all the while riling up his offspring and often drawing unwanted attention until Gisela could get everyone, including Bill, back in their seats.
Yes, Charles William McCormick was truly in a class of his own, but never by himself.
Services will be held at 11am on Saturday, March 30th at Lozano’s Flagstaff Mortuary, with interment to follow at Citizen’s Cemetery in Flagstaff.