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March 18, 2003

Let me interrupt for just a moment the series of columns about corner stones in public buildings.

The death of Charles Monroe Jr. last week removed one of Perry's last links to an era of great significance. Charlie was the son of Charles Monroe Sr. and Icie Monroe. The family business they operated was known at one time as the Dotts-Monroe Hardware, but it later became Monroe-Lang Appliances, Furniture and Hardware. The peak period for the store probably was a decade or two after World War II, when young families were building new homes all over the U.S. Perry had its share of that kind of development. It came after a four-year fallow period in which the Allies defeated the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) in a four-year struggle.

Until that peacetime surge began, Monroe-Lang had been principally just a small town hardware store on the south side of the square. It occupied the two-story building (Kirchner Hall) now owned by Glenn and Jill Zimmer. When the new post-war homes began sprouting here, local merchants had to provide furnishings, appliances and other services, and Monroe-Lang quickly responded. It was a period of great economic growth throughout the land. There were no Lowe's, Home Depots, Wal-Marts, or similar stores available to prospective customers. Perry did have three good lumber yards and skilled workmen were available, but you had to look hard for major appliances and the right kind of furniture. Charlie's Dad had died so when peace broke out, Charlie and his brother-in-law, J.E. (Tiny) Lang became the operators of Monroe-Lang. They did a good job of filling customers' needs, and the store prospered. After a few years of business and community leadership, Charlie left the firm to become manager of Oklahoma's state-owned, lodges and resorts. In time he became a successful restaurant operator in New Mexico, and at some point he retired and turned that business over to his son, Chuck. Charlie and his wife, Trudy, moved back to Oklahoma City.

Charlie turned 87 not too long ago, and his health declined. Last Tuesday, March 11, he passed away, and a private memorial service was held four days later in Oklahoma City, where he and Trudy resided for several years. I remember him especially as a dedicated member and president of the Perry Rotary Club in 1947-48. He was president of the club the year before I was elected to that office, and he taught me many things about Rotary, civic responsibility and life in general. He was the definition of a good guy. Although he's been gone from our community several years, we still regard him as "a Perry boy," and one that we will miss for many reasons. Our condolences go out to Trudy and her son and daughter, Charles Monroe III and Cathy Peck.