Three days after moving to Chaffee County years ago, I met with Wendell Pryor. I remember he had about 20 people on a list – in his head, of course – ones he said I had to meet. “But start with the best one,” he said, “Charlie Forster.”

In the days since his passing, the recurring image I associate with Charlie is one of people leaning toward him, working hard at the act of listening. His energy in conversation was infectious, engaging, inspiring.

“I have an idea,” he would say, demurely, “what do you think about this?” And later, after more than an hour most of the time, it was “Yes, yes, that’s it, that’s it!”

Ending our conversations was always hard because there was always more he wanted to share, more I wanted to hear.

I fell under Charlie’s spell the first time I met him. He probably didn’t consciously gather students around him, and I don’t think he thought of himself as a teacher, but he was one.

The best way to learn about history is through storytelling, and Charlie was a great storyteller. The best storytellers have a voice, plot, character, details.

From Charlie I learned about Main Street Buena Vista and Salida, downturns and resurgences, his friend Lew Lowe, the history of banking in Chaffee County, how to change the trajectory of communities through transformative capital campaigns (not his words, but his message), what people made Salida and Buena Vista special, and who the next generation of change agents were.

Dry stuff? Not at all; I was glued, every time, for dozens of our talks.

Be somebody to somebody. Charlie was that and more to so many of us. Teacher and mentor and storyteller.

Brian Beaulieu

Chaffee County Boys & Girls Clubs

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