LARC operations director, veteran dies at 80

Charles "Chuck" Sturkey was the director of operations at LARC Ranch, an organization whose mission is to support those with developmental disabilities, for 15 years. Courtesy of SchlickArt

Charles “Chuck” Sturkey died suddenly Jan. 1 at the age of 80.

Though he’d previously retired, Sturkey then served for 15 years as director of operations at LARC Ranch, an organization whose mission is to support those with developmental disabilities.

“He made me laugh because he was having a darn good time being retired,” said Kathy Sturkey, his wife and the executive director at LARC, which provides residential and day programs for developmentally disabled adults.

Yet, when the position opened up, Sturkey was happy to take it, as not only did he love working with LARC, but also it was the perfect fit with his prior experience at Rockwell as a facility engineer.

“We have a philosophy that we try and make (something) better than when we started with it, and he did that (at LARC),” Kathy added.

Chris Bratzel, executive officer at LARC, agreed, adding: “He was wonderful. He had a lot of experience and brought a lot of knowledge to the position and to LARC.”

While making sure the 65-acre Bouquet Canyon property with 13 homes and nine support buildings ran smoothly was no easy task, Sturkey gave it his all, according to both Bratzel and Kathy.

“He’s irreplaceable — it’s going to be tough,” Bratzel added. “He’s definitely already missed.”

Even before being hired as director of operations, Sturkey worked part-time on Apple Street, a LARC home in Newhall, for several years starting in June 1992.

Sturkey and Kathy had been together for more than 40 years, a romance that Kathy said continued to blossom more and more as time passed.

“He was a very caring, very patient, thoughtful, loving man,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain how fortunate I was to be married to such a wonderful man.”

She and Sturkey had a large, blended family of five children, where everyone was considered family.

“Chuck took great pride in his ‘tribe’ as he called them, especially since he was an only child,” Kathy wrote, adding that now, they have 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

While growing up, Sturkey worked many part-time jobs to help his family, as his father had died when he was just 8 years old, but by 16, he knew he wanted to go into the military.

Sturkey served in the Navy for 10 years, and he was in Vietnam before it was even considered a war, according to Kathy.

Among other things, Sturkey was also known for his “Words of Sturkey” Facebook posts, in which he shared some of life’s most important lessons, which Kathy said was very important to him.

“As we grow older, our burdens become heavier,” a post on Sept. 16, 2019, read. “Not only do we have the challenges of advancing life, we still manage to still carry some of the past with us. If it was ‘said,’ it cannot be retracted. If it was ‘done,’ it can no longer be undone. What is behind, will always remain there in the past that no matter how hard we try, it will forever remain the same. The road of life is a one-way path that extends from birth to our eventual death. Why waste time on yesterday, look at today as history and tomorrow is the future. One cannot change ‘what was,’ only ‘what is to be.’”

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made in Sturkey’s name to LARC Ranch.

Sturkey’s celebration of life is scheduled to begin with mass at 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, located at 23233 Lyons Ave. in Newhall, immediately followed by a reception at LARC Ranch Hoffman Auditorium, located at 29890 Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus.

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