Retirement… it sneaks up on us all at different stages of life. Some of us handle it better than others. While we all look back at our lives at different points and analyze where we are or where we wanted to be… the truth is we all get to the stage of life known as retirement sooner or later. Some have a plan and others wait till retirement plans us. Some of us have said with resentment and frustration, I’ll never be able to retire. Only a few are able to embrace retirement with courage, boldness and bravado.
Recently I had the pleasure to attend a small and casual retirement party of sorts here in central Indiana. The invitation encouraged a small and exclusive group of Pike high school class mates to a lunch hosted at the beautiful home of Chuck and Peggy Stuart. If you the reader don’t know the name Chuck Stuart then you are perhaps living and reading this blog outside of the Indianapolis area.
Chuck Stuart is a 1960 graduate of Pike High School which is located on the North West corner of Marion County, Indianapolis, Indiana. Next, Chuck was off to Indiana University, Bloomington, for his formal education. After college Chuck focused on the family automobile business. Chuck and his father Charlie realizing the family dealership location at 16th and Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis was becoming… shall we say… passé. The writing was on the wall, people were fleeing to the suburbs and it was time to keep pace with the changing demographics. Charlie, always thinking ahead was and had been purchasing real estate all over Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. The decision was finally made to move the dealership to property owned by Charlie just north of the Greenwood area on highway thirty one. Once the dealership was built and officially moved to the south side of Indianapolis Charlie would place the operation in the hands of his son, Chuck.
CHARLES STUART – October 15, 1918 – April 30, 2010
Chuck’s dad, Charlie… was a gentleman’s gentleman. Charlie was a wiz at business, finance, insurance and real estate plus a dynamic civic leader as well as being connected in Indianapolis. It was Charlie’s persuasion to enjoy a cocktail at the Columbia Club at the end of the day with a group of other auto dealers and businessmen in Indianapolis. One would never know who would stroll into the Columbia Club each afternoon. When the Baltimore Colts came to town and settled into Indianapolis it was not uncommon for Robert Irsay, the owner of the Colts, to be in the company of Stuart and other city rollers and shakers.
Mark Phillips worked at the Keystone Grill which was located at Keystone at the Crossing where Charlie was also a regular guest. Mark says, Charlie was admired by all. Charlie had a table reserved for him every day. (Table number 806) The table could not be used unless we knew Charlie would not be coming in that day. Mark reiterates that Charlie was a man respected by all. Mark says, “I will never forget sitting down with Charlie and talking about life during lunch, I learned a great deal. He was my friend.”
Charlie was also compassionate and generous to his friends and employees. Charlie had hired a salesman who wanted to start his own dealership. Charlie liked Bob. So, with a robust push from Charlie Bob Catterson was off and running with his own dealership. Catterson’s television commercials were priceless. Catterson would stand in front of or sit on the edge of his desk and look straight into the television camera. With a cigarette in his hand and with a deep deliberate whiskey and nicotine flavored voice, Bob Catterson would voice, Nobody… but nobody… will sell you a new Buick for less money than Bob Catterson Buick! … No body! Of course the “No Body” was drawn out as long as possible. The commercials were so successful Catterson sold himself to other dealerships around the country. Catterson then branched into other television commercial dealership tag lines. “If you don’t have a Chuck Callahan Ford price, (rips a contract in half) then you really… don’t have a price.” Catterson sold his dealership to his son in law, Dave Mason and voiced another classis television tag line. “Old Dave needs the money!”
Tom O’Brien has been quoted saying the following about Charlie Stuart. “There are not enough adjectives to describe Charlie. Charlie was caring, generous, smartest, wisest, unselfish, happiest, optimistic, etc. It was a privilege to know him. He was always so respected by his peers, and they all listened to his advice. He was a shining star in our automotive business.”
Another man walked into Charlie Stuart life. He was what is commonly referred to as a wholesaler and he was out of Owensboro, Kentucky. He sold used cars and needed a steady supply of used cars every week. In the car business most consumers trade their old or used vehicle in on a new car. The old or traded car has got to go someplace. There simply isn’t enough room on the dealer’s lot for every used car that is traded. Wholesalers approach all the dealerships and ask to bid or buy their used cars. They buy the used vehicle form the dealership and then turn around and clean them up and sell them at an auction or sell them to a used car dealer. The theory behind the wholesaler is to buy lots of cars fast and sell lots of cars fast. Normally there is only a razor thin profit margin.
The young wholesaler’s name that became friends with Charlie Stuart was Ray Skillman. In 1979, Skillman moved to Indianapolis. Skillman had been buying used cars from Charlie Stuart for years. Stuart would let Skillman pay his bill after Skillman sold the used vehicle. Not common at all. Even more generously, Stuart helped his son Chuck partner with Skillman and borrowed the money to establish their own dealership just north of Greenwood on U.S. highway thirty one. Skillman bought out Chuck in 1987. In an interview with the IBJ Ray Skillman acknowledges the obvious. “There’s no such thing as a self-made business or a self-made entrepreneur,” Skillman said. “He or she has had some help along the way, a tremendous amount of help.”
After the buyout, Chuck then focused his energy on building a state of the art collision center. After many years in the body repair business Chuck sold his collision business to the Hubler Group. Chuck then retired at a relatively young age… Chuck himself professed that he wanted to be retired by the age of 45. I’m not aware if Chuck met his goal but I would assume if he didn’t he wasn’t that far off. Chuck then decided to tackle the real estate business, just like his father, Chuck had a plan, and was looking for an opportunity.
SOUTH ON HIGHWAY 37 – TURN EAST ON TEETERS ROAD, TURN SOUTH INTO LONG DRIVEWAY.
ESTATE IS ON THE BOTTOM RIGHT OF THE PHOTOGRAPH
Chuck found a beautiful piece of rolling ground south of Indianapolis. Some might clinch their teeth together, mimic an English accent and refer to the property as… undulating terra firma. The property was soon to be established as Stuart Manor Estates. The property was about 200 acres in size, 21 miles south of Indianapolis east of highway thirty seven, about a mile. Always the businessman, just like his father Chuck decided to live on the property for a period of time and then had plans to divide the property into 12 home estates. The first step in the process was to build a home that would set the benchmark for the rest of the home sites that would follow later.
LEFT IS THE POOL / RIGHT IS THE ENTRANCE / BOTTOM IS THE GARAGE
BOTTOM OF PHOTOGRAPH IS THE FRONT ENTRANCE AND THE TOP OF THE PHOTOGRAPH IS THE BACK YARD
STUART MANOR ESTATES
THE FRONT OF THE ESTATE
THE ENTRANCE TO THE ESTATE
A CLOSER LOOK
THE REAR VIEW OF THE ESTATE BY THE POOL
THE BACK PORCH OVER LOOKING THE POOL
THE FRONT OF THE ESTATE
Chuck and Peggy had seen a stair case in another home and fell in love with the design. They wanted to duplicate that stair case as the center piece of their home. Chuck discovered the stair case builder only builds 12 stair cases a year. The stair case is not pinned or attached to the walls of the home. It has three pivot points to hold it in place. The stair case looks a little like a horse shoe. Each leg of the stair case has a foot and the very top of the stair case is the third connection, most unusual for a stair case this size. The Stuarts consulted with the stair case builder and asked what the scale of the home entrance should be in order for the entrance to compliment a stair case this size.
With measurement in hand that would allow the stair case to be in its most dramatic setting, the rest of the home was drawn to scale in order to compliment the exquisite entrance to the home. And what a beautiful piece of architecture it is to see in person. The plans for the home were drawn and finalized on paper to be a family friendly 16,000 square foot home.
Now with the plans finished and every detail carefully thought out… it was time to build. Ground was broken and the building process began. With the home at the about 75 percent complete Chuck received a chilling phone call that there was a problem at the home site. The home had caught on fire and had burned to the ground. It was unclear how the fire started and for a short time the insurance company was looking at Chuck with a bit of jaundice eye… an attitude that is characterized by cynical hostility, resentment, or suspicion on the part of the insurance company.
Chuck made no bones about his attitude about insurance. All his life he has insured, perhaps over insured his life and belongings. This home and project was no exception. Chuck admits this is one time the insurance coverage paid off. The cause of the fire was never determined. But the closest guess that anybody can come up with ponders that maybe an electrical problem caused a spark and a gas line that had been recently added to the house only a short time before fueled the fire. The gas line did not have cut off valve installed a safe distance from the home. Once the fire was underway there was no way to turn off the gas feeding the fire. The fire was so hot that it melted the steel beams in the lower level.
Starting over, the mess was hauled away, the foundation was removed and the project started from scratch. One very important piece of art that had not been transported to the home before the fire was the dramatic walnut stair case. It was only a few weeks away from being transported and installed into the home before the fire.
The home was finally finished in the early 90’s and the Stuart family settled into their dream home and allowed themselves to take a deep breath and enjoy the completed project. As I am want to say… Chuck and Peggy were Livin Large on the BLVD.
If Chuck has retired as he likes to call himself, it’s hard to recognize. For he has more irons in the fire (so to speak) than a one armed paper hanger. I am not at liberty to discuss his other projects but let’s just say, when Chuck tells you he is retired, you need to simply smile and say… “Sure you are… Chuck.”
The lunch hosted by the Stuarts was elegant and comfortable. It was a very warm day in central Indiana with temperatures running at or close to 100 degrees. So the air conditioned home in Stuart Manor Estates was as comfortable as the conversations with the attending guests.
Over the years Chuck has received numerous compliments and inquiries from visitors about his staircases. The double Circular Stairs were built by a small firm in Michigan, Ted Goff, Stair Specialists, Inc. Battle Creek, MI, utilizing Old World Craftsmanship. The stairs are made out of solid walnut. The staircases are of course, knock-your-socks-off gorgeous walnut – and right in the entry. Chuck says, “ We continue to experienced pride of ownership not just from compliments but also from enjoying them on a daily basis. We have a back stairway that is very convenient for our living areas however, we use our front stairway every day – we do not refrain from using it “saving it for company” or for formal occasions. It makes us feel elegant, warm and fuzzy to walk down those stairs and through the front foyer to make the morning coffee or at other times to read a book in front of a fire in the library then ascend the stairs to go to bed at night.”
Chuck continues, “The entry and staircase were original and deliberate focal points in the design or our house. We were only interested in installing quality products therefore we spent a great deal of time investigating firms and products. Many staircase builders either couldn’t build a free-standing staircase or a curved staircase or were more interested in volume than quality or material. After talking with the owners we were convinced that we had found a firm that would not only build a true free-standing curved staircase but also had the old world craftsmanship that we were looking for. Limited production is truly a testament of dedication to quality over quantity. Our staircases are works of art. Does one praise the art or the artist? I never imagined that I would be praising almost poetically an ode or a paean to an architectural feature, but our staircases have added a joy and satisfaction to our lifestyle that we had not anticipated.”
WELCOME TO MY HOME… “GLAD TO BE OUT OF THE HEAT” SACKS (62) / ALEXANDER (62) / ETCHISON (62) / STUART (60)
BEATY ‘BROOKS’ WORLEY – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
BOB LATIMER – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
ROBERT KENNETH “BOB” MASON – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1962
PEGGY STUART – CHUCK STUART’S WIFE
CHUCK STUART – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
CHUCK STUART (60) – DOTTI JOYCE ROBERTS – PEGGY STUART
COTTY ‘GOSS’ NEWMAN – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
DANIEL RAY “DAN” SACKS – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1962
DAVE COZAD – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
DAVE AND THEA COZAD – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
DAVID STRAUGHN – HUSBAND OF JOYCE ‘FITZER’ STRAUGHN
JOYCE ‘FITZER’ STRAUGHN – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960 / JUDY WALKER
DONNA DECALLIER – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1963
DORIS ‘TERNET’ NELSON – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1961
DOTTI ‘JOYCE’ ROBERTS
JANE ‘SLOAN’ SHARPE – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1961
JIM BEHRMAN – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
JOAN BEHRMAN – WIFE OF JIM BEHRMAN
JOANNE ‘TERNET’ WEST – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1961 / CHUCK STUART – (1960)
JOHN CROSS ETCHISON – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1962
JOHN JEFFERSON – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
MARY JEFFERSON – WIFE OF JOHN JEFFERSON
JOHN KISSLING – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1963
JUDY ‘BRITTON’ONG – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1963 / CHUCK STUART (1960)
JUDY ‘LOVELL’HOBAN – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1962
JIM HOBAN – HUSBAND OF JUDY ‘LOVELL’HOBAN
SISTERS – JUDY ‘LOVELL’ HOBAN (1962) / MILLIE JO ‘LOVELL’ MOTT (1960)
JUDY ‘LOVELL’ HOBAN (62) / CHUCK STUART (60) / MILLIE JO ‘LOVELL’ MOTT (60)
LEONARD STEVE ALEXANDER – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1962
LARRY BERGSMAN / LINDA ‘STUART’ BERGSMAN – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1963 / DONNA DECALLIER (1963)
MICHAEL DOYLE BRINKMAN – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1962
MIKE WALKER – PIKE HIGH CLASS OF 1960
JUDY WALKER – WIFE OF MIKE WALKER
MILLIE JO “LOVELL’MOTT – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960
SUSAN KAY ‘ESTELLE’ MOORE – PIKE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1962
WORK OUT ROOM
DEN OR LIBRARY
DEN OR LIBRARY
COTTY ‘GOSS’ NEWMAN (1960) / CHUCK STUART (1960) / JUDY ‘LOVELL’ HOBAN (1962)
FAR END OF LIVING ROOM
GIRL TALK IN THE KITCHEN
MASTER BED ROOM
FAR END OF TV ROOM
TIME TO SAY GOOD-BY – BOB AND SUE MASON (1962)