COLUMBIA — An athlete, businessman, environmentalist, family-man, fisher and veteran, Charles "Charlie" Luther Atkins died at home Tuesday, July 16, 2013. He was 85.
He had returned from a party in his honor hosted at Unitarian Universalist Church — "Living Celebration for Sweet Charlie's Life" — where he was a member.
He died of metastatic colon cancer, less than a month after diagnosis.
Mr. Atkins was born in McKenzie, Tenn., on May 26, 1928, to James Euel Atkins and Lucy Lurlyn Baker.
While in school, he was captain of the basketball and football teams. He was also a part of the track team.
After graduating from Poplar Bluff High School in 1946, he attended Westminster College in Fulton.
Following the death of his parents on Christmas day 1947, Mr. Atkins transferred to MU, where he graduated with a business degree on an Army ROTC scholarship.
A year after marrying Donna Jackson in 1950, he was shipped out to serve in the Korean War. On his return, he received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for valor.
In 1963, the Atkins family moved to Columbia. Mr. Atkins worked towards his master's degree in Extension Education at MU. In 1973, he co-founded the Peace Studies program at MU.
Because he liked living in Columbia and sensed a good opportunity for a business, he opened Roth's Department Store in 1967. He went on to open three more stores, one each in Sedalia, Jefferson City and Osage Beach.
As a member of Veterans for Peace, he was instrumental in establishing a chapter of the group in Columbia. Two years ago, the chapter was renamed the Charles Atkins Chapter of Veterans for Peace.
"He was a good role model for the peace community, other veterans and the members of our chapter," said Mary Manderino, a member of the chapter. "A wonderful role model, he educated people about the real costs of war in a very quiet way."
In 1980, he married Ellen Anderson Sweeney, whom he shared the last 33 years of his life with.
He is survived by his wife, Ellen Atkins; two sons, Doug Atkins, and his wife, Paula, David Atkins; step-daughter Beth Perra, step-son Brian Sweeney, and his wife, Vera; seventeen grandchildren Amy Atkins, Tyler Atkins-Mose, and his wife, Koda, Holly Strawn, and her husband, Troy, Lindsay Ayala, and her husband, Addam, Abe Atkins, Cary Atkins, Jay Atkins, Kristyn Atkins, Jeff Atkins, Lauren Meesey, and her husband, Ryan, Chase Atkins, Alison Sweeney, John Sweeney, Megan Sweeney. He had one great-grandchild, Braeden Ayala.
A daughter, Buffy Atkins, died earlier.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the following locations: 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 Boone Hospital Home Care and Hospice, 601 Business Loop 70 W, Suite 260, Columbia, MO 65201.