Charles (Chuck) Gilbert Staples was born to Harold and Margaret (Smith) Staples in Providence, Rhode Island, on October 6, 1929, and passed away peacefully in his home in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago on August 16, 2022. He was educated at the Moses Brown School in Providence, The Putney (Vermont) School, and at Marlboro College, where he majored in Fine Arts in the first graduating class (1951). He subsequently matriculated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he pursued the development of his considerable talents as an artist and trained as a teacher. He studied under a state-sponsored scholarship at Loyola University and received a masters degree in social work in 1961 from the University of Chicago before embarking on a long and well-respected career of twenty-five years with the Chicago Public Schools. He met his dear wife, best friend, and life partner, Joan Leah Hobbs, at a Valentine-themed dance sponsored by the Hyde Park Co-op at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. They married in 1963 and have resided in Hyde Park for the past 59 years.
There were numerous threads to Chuck’s life, all of which spoke of his deep love for humanity, his unwavering instincts for social justice, his reverence for the natural world, his sense of adventure, his innate inquisitiveness, and his affinity for artistic expressions of all kinds.
His 71 years of association with the First Unitarian Church of Chicago was a pillar of his life, establishing life-long friendships and developing a lens through which he viewed the world. Starting as a member of the Channing Club, the student Unitarian group, he served the church as an usher and as a member of the Communications and Finance Committees for many years.
Chuck’s involvement in multiple facets of his community resulted in profound contributions and numerous associations throughout the city that endured for much of his life. He was a tireless volunteer for the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization for more than four decades, serving as the treasurer and overseeing fundraising for the South Chapter for several decades until 2015. He was actively involved in the Chapter’s statewide endorsements throughout many election cycles and vigorously supported the candidacies of many prominent state, county, and local politicians.
The most visible of his contributions to his beloved Chicago was his leadership of the campaign to save the old central library building, 78 E. Washington Street, now the home of the Chicago Cultural Center, from demolition in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was a volunteer greeter at the Chicago Cultural Center from 9 am to noon on Wednesdays for many decades and also served as a tour guide for the building for many years. Mr. Staples was recognized in 2017 by the Department of Cultural Affairs for his role in preserving the historic building, and in the same year received the Landmarks Illinois’ 2017 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Joe Antunovich Award for Leadership for mounting a wide-ranging grassroots campaign to create a citizen coalition of support for preserving the iconic building.
Beyond Chuck’s enduring contributions to his city, state, and spiritual community, his soul and spirit found their ultimate home in the beauty of classical music of all kinds and in hiking through the natural beauty of the peaks and valleys of the mountains of New England, especially Mount Washington in New Hampshire, and wherever he would travel. He and Joan travelled extensively throughout the country and the world, keeping up connections with family and friends, attending music festivals, and seeking out enriching cultural experiences wherever they found themselves. Together, they were regulars at the numerous concerts and performances offered on the campus of the University of Chicago, particularly at Rockefeller Chapel. They have been faithful supporters of public television and numerous opera, symphony, chamber, and choral organizations in the city and its suburbs. Chuck could name just about any tune he heard in the concert hall and, despite not being a performer himself, retained his sense of perfect pitch right up to his peaceful passing on.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends. He was predeceased by his three siblings, Richard, Jean, and Peggy (Margaret).P
A memorial service to celebrate Chuck’s life will be held at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, 5650 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago 60637, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 8. A link for remote attendance will be posted on the church’s website, firstuchicago.org, or by request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of other remembrances and in celebration of Chuck’s love for music, you are encouraged to make a contribution to the music program at First Unitarian at the address listed above.