Obituary: Charles Turner Apel – April 28, 1931 – June 23, 2022

On June 23, 2022, Charles (Charlie) Turner Apel, loving husband and father of five children, passed away peacefully while surrounded by family. He was 91. Charlie was born April 28, 1931 in Kearney, Nebraska to Charles and Grace Apel. After moving several times in his youth, Charlie graduated from Saranac Lake High School in New York in 1948. He received his Bachelor of Science in 1952 from Morehead State University with majors in chemistry and physics and a minor in mathematics. While at Morehead, he earned money by working summers at the Lake Placid Club in New York. Charlie was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the Université de Grenoble for the 1952-1953 academic year. He crossed the Atlantic in 1952 on the legendary Queen Mary ocean liner, and while in France, he took courses in French grammar at the Sorbonne in Paris and in science at the Université de Grenoble. While in France, he enjoyed mountain climbing and hiking, made dear lifelong friendships and lived many adventures. During his Christmas and Easter breaks, he toured Spain and Italy, and, instead of returning home at the end of the academic year, he embarked on a three-month hitch-hiking adventure, exploring the rest of Europe while living out of a backpack. He returned to the States in September 1953 on the French liner, Flandre, and resumed his graduate studies in chemistry at Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa.

Charlie first arrived in Los Alamos, NM in the summer of 1954 after landing a position at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory as a summer graduate student. After long weeks of work, he would spend nearly every weekend mountain climbing in Colorado. By the end of the summer, he had fallen in love with the Southwest in general and New Mexico in particular. He returned to Iowa to complete his studies, and in Spring of 1956 received a Master of Science in Inorganic Chemistry. Charlie was hired into the Analytical Chemistry Group at the lab in Los Alamos where he performed analysis on nearly every element in the Periodic Table including uranium and plutonium before transferring into Spectrochemistry in 1967.

In September of 1956, while folk dancing in Los Alamos, he met Rita Martinez, the love of his life. He proposed to Rita in March of 1957. Charlie and Rita married in 1958 and were happily married for over 64 years. They had five children: Andrew, Bernadette, David, Peter and Valerie.

Charlie was a wonderful, loving husband, father/father-in-law, grandfather, great grandfather, brother/brother-in-law, uncle, Godfather and friend. He was always there for his family – band concerts, fireworks, sporting events, fishing/camping trips, graduations, weddings. Beyond family, he enjoyed sharing experiences and stories with others. He accepted everyone for who they were and loved unconditionally. 

Charlie loved the outdoors and especially enjoyed fishing, camping, hiking and skiing. One of the highlights of his early Los Alamos years was a rafting trip in Cataract Canyon in 1957 with Explorer Post 20. He was always interested in photography, operas, making root beer, and even dabbled with playing the accordion. He loved dogs. Charlie liked studying etymology (study of words) and poetry. One of his favorite books was The Little Prince, which he enjoyed reading in French. He was fluent in English and French and even learned a bit of Spanish, German, and Russian. Charlie was an active member at the Catholic Church and served a few years as a scout master.

Charlie retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1993, and stayed active in his later years with swimming, fishing, golf, a local investment club, and Silver Sneakers.

An inspiration to others, Charlie lived by example through his selfless love, patience, kindness, gentleness and sense of responsibility. He loved being asked for guidance, and when asked what advice he might have about life, Charlie answered with his classic light-hearted humor, “Live it!”

Charlie was preceded in death by his parents Charles and Grace, and his brother Francis. He is survived by his wife Rita, his five children, Andrew (Mary), Bernadette Starkey (Vern), David (Loretta), Peter (Angelica), and Valerie LaRose (Randy), his grandchildren, Michaela, Michael, Mike, Jake, Jordan, Christopher, Aleena, Rowan and Daphne, great granddaughter Alayla, and many extended family members.

Thank you to Charlie’s caregivers who assisted him with gentle, compassionate care over the last year, and to our dear friends and family for your continued love, support and prayers.

A memorial service for Charlie will be announced in the near future.