Charles "Charlie" Luther Atkins, of Columbia, May 26, 1928 — July 16, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013 | 4:27 p.m. CDT; updated 8:05 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 18, 2013

COLUMBIA — Charles “Charlie” Luther Atkins, 85, of Columbia, Missouri died Tuesday, July 16, 2013, at home, shortly after 170 of his family and friends attended a “Living Celebration for Sweet Charlie’s Life” at the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Columbia.

Charlie was a long time Columbia businessman who owned and operated Roth’s Department Store. He co-founded the University of Missouri Peace Studies program and was president of Veterans For Peace Mid-Missouri Chapter, later named The Charles Atkins Chapter of Veterans for Peace.

He loved his wife, Ellen, his children, grandchildren, wonderful friends and fishing!

He is survived by his wife, Ellen Atkins; two sons, Doug (Paula) Atkins, David Atkins; step-daughter Beth Perra, step-son Brian (Vera) Sweeney; seventeen grandchildren Amy Atkins, Tyler (Koda) Atkins-Mose, Holly (Troy) Strawn, Lindsay (Addam) Ayala, Abe Atkins, Cary Atkins, Jay Atkins, Kristyn Atkins, Jeff Atkins, Lauren (Ryan) Meesey, Chase Atkins, Alison Sweeney, John Sweeney, Megan Sweeney. He had one great-grandchild, Braeden Ayala. Charlie’s daughter, Buffy Atkins, preceded him in death.

Over the years, Charles has been heavily involved in many peace and environmental projects and organizations including: 

Co-founder and financial supporter of the University of Missouri Peace Studies Program. (1979)

President of the Veterans For Peace Mid-Missouri Chapter (1992)

Missourians Against Throwaways (Columbia Deposit Ordinance).

Columbia Public School Conflict Resolution Program 

National Board Member Veterans for Peace delegate to the 50th Remembrance of the Atomic Bombing in Hiroshima, Japan. (1995)

Helped bring Hiroshima/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Exhibit to Columbia. (1996)

Received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award from Stephens College (1998)

Received his Eagle Scout. 

Inducted into the Poplar Bluff Sports Hall of Fame.

Charles is member of Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia.

Charles was born in McKenzie, Tennessee on May 26, 1928 to James Euel Atkins and Lucy Lurlyn Baker. He had two older brothers, James (Jim) Hillman Atkins and Donald (Don) Hanes Atkins. In 1946, he graduated from Poplar Bluff (MO) High School. He was very athletic, playing in three sports (football, basketball, and track) and was captain of both the basketball and football teams.

Charles attended Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. On Christmas day 1947, at the age of 19, Charles’ parents were killed by a drunk driver in an automobile accident as the family was heading to grandparents in McKenzie, TN. The next year he transferred to the University of Missouri where he graduated with a degree in Business on an ROTC scholarship. In 1950, Charles married Donna Jackson, with whom he had three children.

Upon college graduation as part of his ROTC commitment Charles began his service in the Army as a First Lieutenant and was shipped out to the Korean War in January of 1951. There he spent six months on the front lines as an artillery officer before being wounded by shrapnel and spending six months on a Dutch Hospital Ship. He received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for valor. Charles was shipped home to Poplar Bluff in 1953 where he recovered in the hospital and worked at Stovall’s clothing store with his two brothers. He went on to open a store in Kennett, Missouri in 1955.

In 1963, the Atkins family moved to Columbia so Charlie could take classes at the University of Missouri. He received a master’s degree in Extension Education because “that was the only program at the University where I could take the courses I wanted.” Charlie liked Columbia so much and since there weren’t any good family clothing stores in town, he opened Roth’s Department Store in 1967, with the backing of his brothers. It took several years for the store to become successful, but eventually went on to open stores in Sedalia, Jefferson City and Osage Beach.

In September 1980 he married Ellen Anderson Sweeney, welcoming Brian and Beth Sweeney into his family. They shared 33 loving years together.

He lived less than a month after a diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer. As his son David said, “Dad was alert to the last, together with his loving wife at his side answering a question she asked him, ‘Who is the woman in that movie,’ to which Charlie replied “That is Myrna Loy”.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to: Charles Atkins Veterans for Peace Chapter, c/o Dick Parker, 215 W. Sexton Road, Columbia, MO 65203, Unitarian-Universal Church of Columbia 2615 Shepherd Blvd, Columbia MO 65201, and/or Boone Hospital Home Care and Hospice.

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