Charles Asher Runnels

BURNHAM – Charles Asher Runnels, 76, of Burnham, passed away at Inland Hospital in Waterville on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, after several years of declining health.

Charlie was born in Rumford on July 14, 1947, the son of Asher and Helen (Beckler) Runnels. By the age of 12, he was helping support the family as his father was disabled due to heart attacks. He was proud to need a social security card at that age.

He graduated from Gould Academy in Bethel in 1965. He was a starting guard on the football team all four years and ran track. Charlie enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps May of 1965 on the buddy plan with his good friend, Hugh “Lennie” Brown. He didn’t dodge the draft; he wanted to attack the enemy. He made two of the three amphibious landings made in Vietnam. He served with C Co., 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, surviving one of the fiercest battles of the war on Easter Sunday 1967 during Operation Beacon Hill. He was awarded the Purple Heart. Two books have been written about his platoon. Although he lost friends, he always considered his service a positive experience and one that would shape his life. After returning from Vietnam, he served as an instructor in motivation platoon at Parris Island. If you knew Charlie, you know that his natural temperament was friendly, talkative, and kind. He said that every morning when he got up to go to work, he had to try to get mean for the day.

In July 1971, he was hired as a deputy by the Racine County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin. Gunnery Sgt. Ralph Grant, who he had served with in Vietnam, was hired on the same day. Charlie was quick to point out to Gunny Grant that he was now senior to him as he had been higher on the hiring list. Charlie was promoted four times, eventually retiring July 1997 as lieutenant in charge of the Detective Bureau.

He worked homicides as a detective and was doing so the day he met his wife, Donna Jean (Krogh), February 1979, when she was training to be a dispatcher at the Mt. Pleasant Police Department. Their mutual law enforcement experiences helped form the tight bond that they had. They would have celebrated 40 years of marriage on June 2. After retiring, they moved to a farm in Abbot, where he played at farming. He realized how much he missed law enforcement and the military as he had no hobbies and was definitely not a handyman.

He subsequently worked as a corporal at Greenville P.D., guard at Charleston Correctional Facility, chief of Clinton P.D., as a court marshal, and the Northern Maine Re-entry Center.

In addition to his time in the Marine Corps, he served many years in the Army Reserve at the 84th Division in Milwaukee. He was promoted to Command Sergeant Major at a young age, the highest rank an enlisted person can attain.

Charlie and Donna were foster parents in Racine County for 10 years, having mostly teenage boys. Raising successful young men was important, and they had their share of success. They were both certified USA Track and Field officials for 25 years, specializing in the racewalk. They worked many high school, regional, Junior Olympic, and National Masters meets. A highlight was when they traveled to Houston, Texas, all expenses paid, to officiate a 50K racewalk.

Charlie is survived by Donna; his children and grandchildren; her children and grandchildren; a brother, Phillip, three in-laws; nieces and nephews; cousins; and several treasured foster sons.

He was a member of Pleasant Street UMC in Waterville, the American Legion in Greenville, and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He loved history, especially military, and was very knowledgeable of the Civil War.

A public viewing will be held on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. with a funeral service to follow at 11 a.m. at Pleasant St. Methodist Church in Waterville. There will be a chapel service at Maine Veterans Cemetery on Mount Vernon Road Augusta at 1 p.m.

Arrangements are under the care and direction of Veilleux and Redington Funeral Home.

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