Charles “Charlie” Callaci
February 24, 1924 – December 25, 2022
Charlie passed away peacefully Christmas morning, December 25, 2022, at the age of 98, two months before his 99th birthday, at his cabin in Lake Arrowhead with his wife, Peggy, by his side.
Charlie wanted to live to be 100 or more but God had other plans. He was born February 24, 1924, in New York City. His parents, John and Maria Callaci, immigrated from Sicily to America through Ellis Island in the early 1900s.
Charlie was on home hospice care for the past six months. He was lovingly cared for by his wife of 44 years, Peggy, and his hospice and caregiver team. He is survived by his six children – John Callaci, Bill Callaci, Mary Barr, Richard Callaci, Bob Callaci and Judy Smith – 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
He lived through the Great Depression in 1929 and served in World War II with the Army Air Corps; he was assigned to the “Mighty” Eighth Air Force 401st Bomb Group. He was stationed in England from 1943 until the end of the war, receiving his honorable discharge in 1945. In 1947 he attended and later graduated from Emerson College in Boston.
Charlie had a long and varied career. In August 1951 he and his brother Vinny were winners in the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts Program with their comedy singing team. He was a special guest on You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx (one of his idols) in the 1950s; was a preschool and elementary school teacher; speech therapist; had his own television program for children in San Francisco and later in Corvallis, Oregon, called Choo Choo Charlie.
He was production manager for the Instructional TV Center in the Anaheim City School District and director of educational services at KCET Channel 28 in Los Angeles. He was on the board of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences from 1969-1973; associate dean for Educational Media and Instructional Development for all 19 California State Universities and Colleges; taught media and communication courses at the University of Southern California and California State University Los Angeles. He was a professor at Cal Poly Pomona and Director of Media until his retirement in the 1980s.
He also worked with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office as a reserve deputy sheriff helping produce training video tapes for their Plans and Training department. After retirement, he became involved with the Diocese of San Bernardino and conducted lector training workshops for the Diocese for over 15 years including writing “How to be an Effective Reader.”
In 1987 Charlie was asked to train the lectors for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Los Angeles where the Mass was held at the Coliseum. He helped Fr. Michael Maher with the founding of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Chino Hills. He served as Father Michael Manning’s television producer for his weekly “30 Minutes with Father Manning.” For two years he was a monthly columnist for the newly established Chino Hills magazine, “91709,” later renamed “West Coast Magazine.” Charlie wrote for many educational journals and magazines.
He spent the last 30 years writing articles, some published in The Epoch Times newspaper, about his conservative and Christian values in hopes of educating, influencing and helping others.
Charlie was busy to the end trying to educate others.
Charlie and his Italian family shared their enjoyment of music, their outspoken manner and sense of humor. His genuine love of music and for people led him to play the piano and guitar for those at nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other places where he could entertain children (who were his greatest fans) to senior citizens. He would engage them in the music they knew and loved. His son, Richard, who is now a professional musician with two Emmys, used to lie under his Dad’s feet as a child as he would play the piano and would absorb all the music and inspiration from his father.
Charlie and Peggy met in 1977 at Cal Poly Pomona when both of their spouses were battling brain cancer, each having the same doctors, treatments and prognosis. They died within four months of each other. In 1979 Peggy and Charlie married. They enjoyed spending time with family and friends, traveling the world, visiting many countries and getting to know people who are now still a part of their lives.
Their love of the mountains brought them from Chino Hills (where they still have a home) to Lake Arrowhead in 2000 where they made their home with their two dogs. Charlie’s greatest joy was working with the church and trying to make a difference. He surely did that.
Rest in peace, Charlie. As the lyrics to the military Taps song read, “Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lakes, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.”
A funeral Mass will be held at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church on Saturday, January 21 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow at the UCLA Conference Center from 1 to 3 p.m. Burial will be at Riverside National Cemetery, 22495 Van Buren Boulevard, Riverside, on Monday, January 23 at 10:30 a.m.