One in a series of occasional portraits of people COVID-19 has taken from us.

Charles Lake joined the Navy in 1959 and served as an electronics technician aboard the USS Chipola, an oiler.

He was stationed in Japan and Hawaii and was proud to have served at the atomic test sites on Christmas Island and Johnston Island in 1962.

Charlie Lake and Joan DeCastro on the day they met in 1960. Family photo

But it was a brief shore leave in Baltimore that changed the course of his life. The day before his ship was scheduled to return to Treasure Island in San Francisco, Lake and a friend helped two young women having car trouble. That chance encounter would lead to a 57-year marriage and five children.

Lake, who managed the former Navigator Motor Inn in Rockland and seemed to have friends wherever he went, died Sunday from complications of COVID-19 and dementia. He was 80.

Lake knew from the moment he met Joan DeCastro that he wanted to marry her. When his ship left for San Francisco, the lovebirds began writing letters to each other and planned to get married, which they did in 1961 in Reno, Nevada.


His daughter Debra Blum of Bath said Thursday that her father kept all of Joan’s letters during his time in the Navy. She also kept his.

Charlie Lake and his wife

“He was always her potato peeler,” Blum said. “He was always there. They were each other’s support. He called her ‘Jo Jo.’ They spent all their time together. He would be watching the news and my mom would be sitting there, knitting. … That was their peace. I know he missed her a lot.”

Lake’s wife died in January 2019. Blum said her father was devastated by her loss.

“It was difficult,” Blum said. “He would go to the Catholic church on Sunday morning and ask for my mother because he didn’t remember. … That was really hard. He thought about her all the time.”

Lake moved to Woodlands Memory Care of Rockland in the fall of 2019. He tested positive for COVID-19 around Thanksgiving and never recovered.

His daughter said he developed blood clots in his lungs and was in and out of Pen Bay Medical Center for treatment. He kept trying to get up and walk, even when he couldn’t.


“He would think that he was still good,” Blum said. “His body failed him, but his mind was like I’m going to walk a few miles more.”

Lake was remembered as a funny, active and sociable man who loved spending time with family. He held several jobs throughout his life, including work as a plumber, electrician, and serving as an agent for Met Life Insurance. For about 15 years, he was manager of the former Navigator Motor Inn in Rockland. Blum said her father worked the front desk and enjoyed greeting customers.

“He loved socializing with his friends as they were coming and going from the islands,” she said. “He really enjoyed talking to people. The girls there loved working with him. One time, my Mom, Dad and I visited my sister in Bloomington, Indiana. We went to this little winery and heard some woman say, ‘Hi, Charlie.’ We looked over and sure enough, there were people that knew my dad from the Navigator. We joke, wherever we went, he knew people there. He knew people everywhere.”

Charlie Lake and his daughter Debra Blum

Blum said Lake was a stern but devoted father who was always there for them.

“He was at every event us kids had. When you have five kids, that’s a lot,” his daughter said. “From spelling bees to baseball and softball games, to Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, he was there for everything. He wanted to be right there with his kids. That’s why he volunteered to coach so many things. It wasn’t just for his kids, sometimes we would play catch and the neighborhood kids would come over. He enjoyed that.”

Prior to COVID, Lake was active, walking several times each day. Blum said he always looked forward to visits from her and her husband, Mike. She said her father and husband were best friends. She said it was really hard not being able to see him during the pandemic. She said he died on her birthday.

“Mike and I would go visit him,” Blum said, recalling her father’s running joke. “Every time, he would say, ‘Oh, I’m happy to see you, but you brought this guy?’ It was totally opposite of how he felt and he always made sure we knew that. Mike and him had these jokes. … They were the same every time. That’s going to be missed a lot.”

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