Charlotte Speck was born on November 18, 1931 in Heber Springs, AR, the third child of Cyrus Stark and Musetta Dunn Stark. Charlotte was the middle child of five siblings. The family moved from Arkansas to California in the early forties settling in Napa. Charlotte remembered traveling from Arkansas to California with her mother and her four siblings, on what she described as a troop train, to join her father who had previously come to California to find work.
Charlotte graduated from Napa High School in 1948 at the age of 16 and immediately entered nurses training. She graduated with the second class of the Permanente School of Nursing in Oakland in 1951 and began work in the operating room at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. Charlotte learned quickly and was soon in demand by the surgeons to assist in some of their more difficult operations. She was proud that after a couple of years she was chosen to teach operating room technique to the nursing school students at the hospital.
In the summer of 1951 she was introduced by a mutual friend to David Ralph Speck who was entering UC Berkeley as a graduate student and teaching assistant. After a few months of courtship they were married on Feb 2, 1952 and began residing at an apartment on Terrace Street in Oakland within walking distance of the hospital. Charlotte continued work as an operating room nurse and Ralph commuted to the UC Berkeley Campus. In the summer of 1956 Ralph started work at the then University of California Radiation Laboratory in Livermore and they moved to Walnut Creek. Charlotte worked in the operating room at the Kaiser Hospital there until a couple of months before their son Carl was born in January, 1957.
In late 1956 the couple bought their first home in Danville and after Carl was born Charlotte began the full-time task of mother and homemaker. In 1961 the family moved to Corwin Drive in Alamo where Charlotte resided until her death. During the years that Carl was in school Charlotte volunteered in the classroom and school library. As Carl grew older she supported his athletic activities seeing that he got to baseball and football practices and games. She very rarely missed watching a game in which he played.
Charlotte was a great cook and made sure her family had three square meals a day. She was especially adept at baking. She made the most fabulous apple and strawberry pies that were especially adored by Carl and his friends who ate them.
When not occupied with caring for her family, Charlotte would frequently play tennis at the Merrick’s court in the neighborhood or at Round Hill Country Club where for a few years she was a member of the club team.
After Carl left for college Charlotte’s life centered around her home and garden. She was always a reluctant traveler but she did travel with her husband on out of the area work assignments. These included a three-week trip to England in 1976, a three-month stay in San Diego in 1980, and the highlight, a three-month trip to Paris in 1985. She learned the Parisian way to shop, enjoyed the weekend trips to explore the countryside and the two-week long road trip to a conference in Rome. During her final months she talked fondly of this time.
During the nineties Charlotte acquired a Jack Russell puppy that she named Charley. Taking care of Charley became an important part of her life with daily walks and chats with anyone they encountered in the neighborhood. At age twelve Charley’s lifespan ran out and Charlotte grieved his death for some time. She had many fond memories of Charley.
In 2001 grandson Gavin arrived and became a center of her attention. Carl was moved to second place. She loved holding him when he was a baby and playing with him and hugging him when he was a toddler. She followed his progress through elementary school and on into high school and like with Carl she loved to watch his baseball games. In her later years Charlotte enjoyed her home and garden. She was always up early with a list of things for the gardener to do when he arrived on Wednesday mornings. She enjoyed watching the animals and especially the birds that visited her yard. She looked forward with delight to visits from Gavin and from Carl.
Charlotte was diagnosed with brain cancer in April of 2019. She stayed at home as she wished and entered hospice care. She was extremely appreciative of her family and the caregivers who provided her such great care in her final months. She died peacefully in her sleep on January 5, 2020.
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