Charles Custer, family man and mutual fund businessman, dies at 91

Charles Custer

Charles Custer, who stayed in Hyde Park after leaving western Kansas to attend the University of Chicago, married a local woman, had four children and worked in mutual funds, died on Jan. 21 at the age of 91.

He was born to Raymond Earl and Eva Walker Custer in WaKeeney, Kansas, where his father was the high school principal. His grandmother had lived in a prairie sod house, and Charles grew up during the Dust Bowl period, and his first job was emptying railroad cars of coal.

Custer matriculated at the U. of C. in 1946, where he met Irene Macarow, a native Hyde Parker. He proposed during their first visit to his parents, asking to marry her in three years so that he could make a living first. She countered his offer by offering to help out immediately, and they married in his parents’ living room that weekend. In 1950, the two began a two-year working honeymoon as photographers across rural America, developing 5-by-7 prints in their motel rooms by night and taking reprint orders the next day.

They eventually returned to Hyde Park, where Custer earned a degree from the U. of C. Law School in 1958. He eventually led the investment services group of the law firm Vedder Price Kaufman & Kammholz, with clients such as Kemper Insurance and Dimension Fund Advisors.

The Custers eventually bought a 10-bedroom Hyde Park home that predated the World Columbian Exhibition and restored it into a home for their four children — Charley and Kelly Custer and Shannon Nelson, who survive him, and Murray Custer, who died in 2008 — as well as boarders, friends and numerous cats and dogs. They engaged in world travel while endlessly renovating the home until Irene died in 2011 and Charles moved into Montgomery Place, 5550 S. Shore Drive.

He was a longtime member of the Quadrangle Players play-reading group and the Cliff Dwellers Foundation for the Arts.

Survivors include daughter-in-law Liz Davidson, son-in-law Robert Nelson, brother-in-law Max Overton, sisters Jeanne Conner, Kathleen Bankston and Sara Overton, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many other family members and friends.

A memorial is planned at the United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St., on Saturday, March 28, at 3 p.m. with a reception to follow in the Fellowship Hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless,

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Liz D

A small surviving collection of Charles and Irene's astonishing photos is viewable online at ,

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