Charles Franklin Gorder, Sr.

November 9, 1925 to November 19, 2017

Long-time San Diego resident Charles Franklin Gorder, Sr., passed away at age 92 on November 19, 2017.  Known to all by his nickname “Chuck” he was a dedicated family man, a faithful Christian, a proud Navy veteran, and a practicing lawyer for over 50 years.

Chuck was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota in 1925.  While he was in high school, his family moved to Oakes, North Dakota, where he graduated from high school and attended North Dakota State University for one year while he was applying to attend one of the nation’s military academies. While at NDSU he joined and was elected President of his fraternity = Sigma Chi. He ultimately received a nomination and appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, entering with the class of 1948, although he graduated and received his commission as an Ensign a year early in 1947.  While at the Naval Academy Chuck earned a letter in football and blocked a punt in a game against Rutgers on his twenty-first birthday, in the same game at which his nose was broken.

Chuck’s first assignment was on board the USS Springfield=CL-66, a light cruiser, which deployed to the Western Pacific, including Japan and China.  He later taught at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, Rhode Island, where he met Ensign Bonnie Brunner of Nora Springs, Iowa.  Chuck and Bonnie were married in 1951, shortly before Chuck left for the Korean War.  Chuck served in the Korean theater for one year, during which time he suffered a partial hearing loss caused by the sound of the Naval guns bombarding North Korean and Chinese troops. While he was in Korea, his first child, Charles Jr., was born.

After Chuck returned to the United States, the Navy sent him to Washington, D.C., where he attended George Washington University Law School, graduating in 1956 as number one in his class and where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the George Washington University Law Review.  While he attended law school his second son, Bruce, was born.  After graduation, as a JAG officer, Chuck was assigned to legal duties at a series of Naval bases and at the Pentagon, moving his growing family twice to Norfolk, Virginia where daughter Janet was born, twice to San Diego, where his third son Matthew was born, as well as to Groton, Connecticut and the Pentagon.

Chuck rose to the rank of Commander before he retired from the Navy in 1967.  He moved permanently to San Diego that year, where he joined the law firm of Higgs, Jennings, Fletcher, & Mack, and began a second career as a lawyer in private practice.  He spent most of that career as a partner in the firm of Jennings, Engstrand, & Henrikson, and specialized in counseling small business clients in their various needs and handling wills, trusts and estates for his clients.  He did not stop practicing law full time until he was well into his 80s.

Chuck’s wife of 44 years Bonnie died in 1995, and he married his second wife Rhona in 1997.  The couple recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.  Chuck and Rhona enjoyed travelling especially to visit family and friends at home and abroad, and they loved to cruise. They stayed actively involved with the US Naval Academy Class of ’48, and attended many Naval Academy class reunions and events. The couple were also active in numerous charitable and church activities in San Diego, including membership in the Downtown Lions Club, the Econ Ed Foundation, of which Chuck was a founding director, the First Methodist Church, the Fusenot Foundation, the Sons of Norway and the Moores Cancer Center at UCSD where they were active in raising money for cancer research and Chuck served on the Board of Directors for over 22 years. They were San Diego Padre season ticket holders as Chuck was a loyal and avid fan since 1969.

The biggest disappointment of Chuck’s life was the premature death in 1992 in Boston of his second son, Bruce, from melanoma.  But finding a silver lining in that dark cloud, Chuck and Bonnie with Bruce’s widow Vicki, and later Chuck and Rhona, determined to use Bruce’s memory to raise money for UCSD’s medical school in order to support research in finding a cure for melanoma.  They organized the “5K Bruce Gorder Walk for a Cure,” first in Massachusetts, and later here in San Diego.   Chuck attended the 24th annual walk at UCSD in October of this year.  To date, over $1.92 million has been raised by the walk for melanoma research at UCSD thanks to Chuck, Bonnie, Vicki and Rhona.

Chuck is survived by his second wife Rhona and her family, his daughter Janet Gorder Dabbert, sons Charles and Matthew Gorder, daughter-in laws Carol Griest, Vicki Gorder, and Anita Kramer, son-in-law Jack Dabbert, and 7 grandsons and granddaughters.  He was predeceased in death by his first wife Bonnie and his son Bruce.

Services will be at the First United Methodist Church of San Diego, 2111 Camino del Rio South, San Diego, CA 92108 on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Bruce Brunner Gorder Memorial Fund for Melanoma, Moores Cancer Center Development, 9500 Gilman Drive #0937, La Jolla, California 92093.

Celebration of Life

I remember Chuck as a kind and patient mentor when we were both assigned to the Administrative Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy in 1967, just prior to his retirement. May he rest in peace.

RADM Richard L. Slater, JAGC, USN (Ret.) on December 05, 2017

Dear Gorder family members, Please accept my condolences at Chuck's passing. I hope his last days were peaceful and pain-free. Chuck was a great partner of mine at Jennings, Engstrand. He was certainly the most cordial, friendly and civil partner in the firm. He was also a very able lawyer, and I often (almost always) went to him for counsel when I had a problem I needed to talk about. He was always available and willing to extend himself to help. He was also always right in helping me find the solution. I regret that we had not maintained contact and our friendship during the last many years since I left Jennings, but our paths took different directions after I left. I held him in the highest respect, and he was one of the people I looked forward to seeing when I went to work each day. I remember him fondly, and I hope that these shared comments will be of some solace in the difficult days to come. Best regards, George Damoose

George Damoose on December 04, 2017

Charles, I’m so sorry for your loss. While I did not get the pleasure of meeting your father, it is obvious that you were influenced in a very positive way by his example. Thank you for being a living legacy of a great man. Thank you also for sharing the obit information. It is helpful to remind ourselves of that great generation that provided us with what we have today. Thanks for sharing this bit of history. We cannot ever forget the costs and payment given by those who have gone before us. Sam

Sam Fenstermacher on December 01, 2017