By Mick Holien
Charlie James made his mark on this earth long before publication of Sweetheart Magazine.
But the singles publication that long preceded the current horde to tease romantic or even platonic arrangements was the cherry atop his well lived life that touched so many.
And the cross section of more than 100 people who attended a memorial in St. Ignatius last week was fitting tribute to the wide ranging breath of his involvement with people that culminated with Cowboy Cupid and his wife Katie (Cupcake) and since deceased daughter Lise hosting singles affairs at their Sweetheart Ranch on Old Freight Road and elsewhere.
Before saying a Warrior’s prayer in his native Crow language, Leon Stewart Old Elk, a neighbor from Hardin said James had a profound effect on his life.
“He helped me focus on the here and now,” he said.
Charlie was born and raised in Harlem before enlisting in the U.S. Army on his 17th birthday.
Charley was the youngest staff sergeant in the Fifth Infantry Division in Germany, graduated from Special Warfare School and received his Green Beret in 1963.
He actually was In Country on that fateful November, 1963 morning when JFK was assassinated.
A highly decorated Master Sergeant, he served three Viet Nam tours and volunteered for a fourth before being overruled spending his later military years as a recruiter.
He operated the Adit, a shopper in Helena which featured a meet and greet column then moved to the Mission Valley in 1978.
But when the ranch fell on challenging times with the downturn of the eighties, he founded the singles magazine, an endeavor that ended when daughter and partner Lise died in 2004.
Charlie’s wide smile and easy manner were infectious and a mention of his name draws some faded recognition but mention of the magazine often brings a wide smile, a nod and an explanation of familiarity.
He was part of the group that created in Viet Nam Memorial in Missoula’s Rose Park and transported the Copenhaver designed Angel statute on a flatbed to the Crow and Cheyenne Reservation before its Garden City 1988 dedication.
“The world needs more people like Charlie James,” said Bob Kipfer in an audio memorial.
Charlie’s religion was people,” added nephew David Goss.
With bagpiper Dick Bratton at the lead the group proceeded outside the Community Center where they released 81 red, white and blue balloons representing the years of his life before he received a 21-gun salute.
Imo shares the belief that the world needs more such people.