You only get one chance to make a first impression, and when it comes to Charles Fitzgerald, dressed in a suit and hat, his first impressions are as memorable as his style.
Charles didn’t start off with impeccable style. Instead, growing up in Pocahontas, VA just on the border of West Virginia, he knew that he wanted to go to college to get an education. However, without the funding to go, he decided to join the Army and go to school while in the service. During his time in the service, he learned much more than a classroom would have taught.
His first move would take Charles to Fort Jackson, SC followed by Fort Bragg, NC for initial training in the Infantry and then the Airborne Infantry. Shortly after, he went to Fort Campbell in Kentucky for jump school or, as Charles said, casually, “That’s where I learned how to jump out of planes.”
After a short break, Fitzgerald went back to Fort Bragg before moving to Mainz, Germany just outside of Frankfurt.
“While I was in the Lee Barracks [in Mainz] in January of 1960, we were required to learn how to ski. We all went to learn how to ski in Austria. She was one of my instructors.”
She was Stefanie, Charles’ late wife.
“I knew within a few months that she was the one for me,” Charles said. “The things we talked about and how happy she always was. She was always motivating me and guiding me. She was the one to push me to go back for my education after Vietnam.”
Charles would move back to the U.S., to Fort Benning in Georgia, in preparation for the war and to join the Special Forces Unit as an Intel Analyst. Once deployed, Fitzgerald was wounded and sent to Hawaii to heal. He would go back to Fort Benning for future training before going back to Vietnam. When he got back to Fort Bragg after his tour, he worked as a Special Forces Instructor and took his wife’s advice: go to school.
He chose Campbell University, then Campbell College, in December of 1974 and majored in Business under the Bootstrap Program which allowed military personnel to go to college based on their service. Upon graduation, the pair moved to Fort Lee in Virginia for Club Management School to work with the Army MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Centers).
Located all around the world, MWR Centers are reprieves for Army service people and their families to give them not just a vacation but lasting memories. Charles was sent to Hanau, Germany where he would tour around with an audit team ensuring that MWRs were working correctly.
“We went to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf, Gaza Strip, Turkey … all over.”
Eventually, he moved up the ranks to Club Manager, Branch Manager, General Manager, and finally, a Sergeant Major to all clubs, continuing to work with a variety of military resorts to give back to the family of soldiers whom he loved.
After years living all over the globe and upon retiring, Stefanie continued to be his motivator and guide.
“I give credit to her for finding Scotia Village for us,” he said. “We came here on February 4th, of 2015, and though she passed away while we were here, the people here just put their arms around me. They’re there for me anytime I need anything, and they made sure I was okay then.
“They care,” he continued with a smile. “They help, and they get you involved with the different activities here. My family in Austria are always calling to make sure I’m cared for, and I always tell them that I’m well cared for here.”
Charles Fitzgerald still enjoys visiting the many places he has called home like Florida and Regau, Austria.
When asked where his favorite place he’s ever been or lived, he said, “Austria is such a beautiful country with so much cultural enrichment. There are also a lot of beautiful places in America, but Sedona [Arizona] was Stefanie’s favorite place so that may be mine too.”
We are so thankful to have a wonderful, charming resident like Charles Fitzgerald here at Scotia Village.