Charles Buertram Fralick was born January 21, 1921, to Mabel (Mollenkopf) and Walter Fralick, in Bucyrus, Ohio, the second of four children, into a strict Seventh Day Adventist family. After graduating high school in Lima, Ohio in 1939, he became a largely self-trained commercial photographer and equipment salesman, a profession he followed until December 1941 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 2, 1942, and was assigned to Wright Patterson, Dayton, Ohio, the home of the U.S. Army Air Force. He served in Photo Reconnaissance there and in England, leaving the service in 1946 with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, the highest enlisted grade. Upon his return to the United States he married his longtime sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth Thomas (1918 - 2000). Their son Eric was born in 1950.
He continued as a professional photographer until the outbreak of the Korean War, when he reenlisted in the Air Force as a supply specialist with the rank of First Lieutenant. His service at the large Wiesbaden base in West Germany was followed by stints on Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases in Altus, Oklahoma and Shreveport, Louisiana, where he headed the cross-country installation team for the first Air Force Supply computer system. His graduation from Air Force Command and Staff School preceded a year at Dharain, Saudi Arabia, then tours at Zaragoza, Spain and RAF Alconbury, England, followed by service at the Pentagon at Washington, D.C. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam at the height of that war, and served both there and in Thailand, followed by a tour at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, and Edwards AFB, California, home of the Space Shuttle, from where he retired as Vice Commander in 1978 with the rank of Full Colonel. His record made him one of the few military men to serve at the time of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as well as one of the few to enlist as a Buck Private and retire a Full Colonel. A photograph of him comforting a small child during the Vietnamese Babylift of 1975 appeared on the cover of the Air Force Times, becoming an iconic portrait of military volunteerism.
Upon retirement, he and his wife “Betty” settled at Fort Clark, Texas, a Cavalry fort dating from the 1850s, next to Brackettville and not far from Del Rio. He and Betty were one of the original residents of the Fort Clark Springs community and active in the Homeowner’s Association. He served two terms on the Municipal Utility District (MUD) Board, taking a major hand in shaping the development of Fort Clark Springs into the successful gated recreational and retirement community it is today. At his death he was probably the longest continual, and oldest resident, of Fort Clark Springs.
Whenever they could they traveled, with and without their son, touring Western Europe, the United States from coast to coast, as far north as Alaska and south into Mexico, as well as Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia, collecting antiques and artworks across the world.
His art exhibit at the Firehouse Art Gallery in Del Rio in January of 2007, featuring photographs he took on two continents from the ‘30s to the ‘50s, was the first to be held over for a second month in the history of the gallery.
Wherever he went, he touched people’s lives, and when he could, made a difference to how they lived. He is survived by his son, many friends and a lifetime of accomplishments and good memories. He turned 99 two days before he died. He enjoyed the party.
Interment was held at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Wednesday, February 5 at 10 a.m. A Memorial Service will be held at Cox Funeral Home, 114 Fletcher Dr., Del Rio, Wednesday, February 12 at 1 p.m. You are invited to sign the guestbook a www.porterloring.com
Arrangements with Porter Loring Mortuary, 1101 McCullough Ave., San Antonio, Texas 210-227-8221