In Memory of
Charles G. Berkemeyer
Historian, Museum Trustee, & Loyal Friend
June 7, 1938 - January 24, 2017
After a long battle with lung cancer, our good friend and Whippany Railway Museum trustee Charles G. Berkemeyer passed away Tuesday, January 24th at about 11:30AM.
Charlie has been cremated and his ashes will be laid alongside his beloved wife Cyndi during a private family ceremony. Charlie had missed Cyndi terribly after her passing in October 2004... her death just seemed to take all of the wind out of his sails. When he himself became ill some years ago, all he wanted to do was to be with Cyndi. Now, they are both together again.
Charlie was a great friend to all, and he was one of the most caring individuals anyone would ever meet. His knowledge on ALL things (not just railroads) was absolutely amazing. While he could be passionately opinionated on certain subjects (like politics !), he'd argue with you with a great wink and nod... always letting you know that all was still friendship, no matter the issues. He was ALWAYS quick with a hearty laugh, a grand smile, and a fatherly pat on the back.
Charlie's contributions to the Whippany Railway Museum are immeasurable. Always ready to share parts of his immense collection of memorabilia, many Museum exhibits over the years were enhanced by outstanding examples of Charlie's artifacts.
His carpentry skills were beyond compare. He was meticulous in simply everything he did. Many of us will remember his van, loaded down with tools of all shapes, sizes and vintage. The man was an absolute classic. We won't see his like again.
What many Museum members and visitors will remember about Charlie is his grand portrayal of Santa Claus during the WRyM Santa Claus Special trains. Charlie was our very first Santa in 1991... and if you ask ANYONE who came into contact with Charlie during those rides... he WAS Santa... there was NO doubt about it. Here was Santa in real life ! Charlie was an absolute HUGE hit with the crowds. He certainly looked the part and when he eventually grew in his own beard, he amazed the kids and adults alike. Every time you turned around, you could hear people say, "That guy is the REAL Santa Claus !" Charlie was always very proud of how much people enjoyed seeing him as Santa, and he put his heart and soul into each and every performance. Cyndi always made sure that "Santa" was well groomed and "watered" prior to each trip... she was just as an important part of the event as Charlie was.
Entering the later-1990's, Charlie began having health issues which ultimately prevented him from being our Santa any longer as the long days and great effort became extremely grueling for him. You could just see the sadness in Charlie's eyes when he could no longer don the Santa suit... but being the resourceful guy that he was, Charlie eventually came to the Museum site dressed as "Santa's Locomotive Engineer, Charlie Claus" and he would entertain the children as they awaited the arrival of their train.
It was Christmastime 2004... not very long after Cyndi had passed away. We took Charlie to see the newly-released movie, "The Polar Express". We figured it might brighten Charlie's spirits just a bit. As we sat in the darkened theater, we could tell that Charlie was enjoying the movie immensely. After the film ended and we walked back to the car to take Charlie home, he said, "I can still hear the bell..." If you've read the book or have seen the movie, you'll know exactly what Charlie meant when he uttered those words.
The time has now come for Charlie to be on his way to a better life... but the memories will always remain of a loyal friend and a kind and gentle soul.
Rest in Peace, Charlie... you were well loved.