Remembering Charlie Alsheimer: A legend who left behind a forever-legacy
When I received a text from Dan Schmidt, editor-in-chief for Deer & Deer Hunting, in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, letting me know that Charlie Alsheimer – renowned whitetail behaviorist, photographer, writer, and speaker – had unexpectedly passed away over the weekend, like many others, I was stunned. And just plain sad.
I’ve been good friends with “Schmidt,” as I call him, for a very long time. He has taught me more than even I probably know. Since the beginning of our friendship, I’ve never kept my desire to talk deer hunting with Charlie a secret from Schmidt, who has known him for almost 30 years. He hunted with him, interviewed him, and held many conversations with him (I so wish that I could have been a fly on the wall for some of those. I can only imagine the knowledge I might have gleaned). Most of all, though, Schmidt and Charlie were exceptionally close friends who spoke regularly about faith, family, baseball and, of course, deer hunting.
I’ll never forget the day in 2012, just a few days before my birthday, when I received a now treasured package in the mail. The return label told me that the contents had come from none other than Charles J. Alsheimer himself. How did he know my name, much less my address? Ripping it open, I found a copy of Charlie’s book, The Rites of Autumn. Other than his great admiration for the amazing whitetail, my favorite thing about Charlie had always been his faith and the fact that he was never shy or ashamed about it, nor about sharing his beliefs with his audiences. It didn’t surprise me when I opened the book cover to find a personal inscription that included a passage of scripture from Proverbs 3:5-6.
Of course, I immediately called Schmidt with squeals of gratitude and proceeded to beg him to give me Charlie’s email address so I could thank him personally. He kindly obliged.
A couple years later, I was scheduled for a phone interview with Charlie for an article I was writing. Prior to that first conversation, I was a nervous wreck. I’m pretty sure that as soon as I heard his voice on the other line I was babbling incessantly. If I was, though, Charlie never let on. In fact, when I told him how thrilled and honored I was to speak with him and thankful that he had taken time out of his day to chat deer with me, he simply said, “Ahh, I’m nothing special.” It was probably the only statement he ever spoke or wrote that I disagreed with – and still do.
Just before the end of that conversation, Charlie said that he would be adding my contact info to his “Rolodex.” Not only could I barely focus enough to end the call in a normal tone of voice, but for some reason, the image of Charlie’s Rolodex, and the fact that he still used one, impressed me even more – if that was possible. Because something told me that Charlie’s Rolodex was the old-school type.
Over the years, I was privileged to have a few more conversations via telephone and email, but they were always far too brief for my liking. I could have sat for hours listening to him tell his stories and share his expertise.
It’s difficult not to focus solely on the tremendous loss of Charlie’s passing, because that’s what it is. He was a true icon for thousands of people, including myself. Although I never had an opportunity to meet him in person, in an indirect sort of way I considered Charlie as one of my personal mentors. I know of very few who are respected and revered as much as he was. But, they say that rather than focus on one’s death, we should remember the way a person lived their life, and how their life impacted others.
I’m not as fortunate as Schmidt to have so many tremendous memories and personal accounts of Charlie Alsheimer. I do, however, have him to thank for the few small ones that I do have. I never got the opportunity to gather at a roundtable with Charlie, Schmidt, and the like and listen to their compilation of stories, anecdotes and wisdom. But that doesn’t matter to me. Charlie is a legend whose work will always be an inspiration, and his legacy will forever be as epic as the whitetail he admired. I, for one, am grateful to have been just a white notecard in his Rolodex.
Read more about Alsheimer in the Jan. 12 issue of Illinois Outdoor News.