Coeur d’Alene, ID – Charles “Chuck” Edward McCorkle, Jr, M.D., age 89, of Sagle, Idaho, passed away at 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, following a massive stroke the week before. During his final day, he was surrounded by loving family both in person and via telephone.
Born October 9, 1931, in Sidney, Ohio, Charles was the only son of the late Charles Edward McCorkle, Sr., and Mary Elizabeth (Young) McCorkle.
He is survived by his five sons and two daughters, Schuyler McCorkle of Chandler, AZ, Elizabeth “Beth” (Bruce) Gilbert of Round Rock, TX, Marilyn (Paul) Fowlé of Houston, TX, Charles Edward III of Sagle, ID, Mark (Angie) McCorkle of Sandpoint, ID, Matt McCorkle of Sandpoint, ID, and Jon McCorkle of Sandpoint, ID; twelve grandchildren, Alyssa (Will) Ehrlich of San Diego, CA, Gavin (Nina) McCorkle of San Diego, CA, Alexandra Cooper of Pflugerville, TX, Catherine Cooper of San Diego, CA, Andrea Fowlé of Lubbock, TX, William Fowlé of Lubbock TX, Setin McCorkle of Sandpoint, Idaho, Katelynn McCorkle of Lewiston, Idaho, Keegan Smith, of Ripley, MI, Hunter McCorkle of Sandpoint, ID, Arizona McCorkle of Sandpoint, ID, Luke McCorkle of Sagle, ID, and Estelle McCorkle of Philadelphia, PA; and five great-grandchildren, Ellis Ehrlich, Adair Ehrlich, Graham McCorkle, Hudson McCorkle and Setin McCorkle, Jr.
Charles was a graduate of Houston High School in Houston, Ohio, and was a precocious young farm boy with high hopes and big dreams. He started his freshman year at The Ohio State University one year before graduating high school. He lettered in track, setting the all-time indoor high jump record in 1950. In the top 5% of his class, he was inducted into and held top officer positions with the premedical honor society, Alpha Epsilon Beta.
He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force, following four years of serving in the university’s ROTC. The Korean War was raging. Split between serving his country and pursing his dream of being a medical doctor, he relinquished his commission for medical school. He later learned his entire squadron was shot down in Korea, with only one survivor. It was one of several near-death experiences in his lifetime.
With several choices of Ivy medical schools, Charles decided to stick close to his family farm to help his parents with chores on weekends. So, he chose the University of Cincinnati, where he graduated in 1956, and also met his first wife and fellow classmate, Marilyn (Rousey) Moore, M.D. of Round Rock, TX. Together, they interned at Highland Park Hospital, Detroit, MI, and completed their residency at the University of Cincinnati Hospital, where Charles was chief resident surgeon. During their continuing medical education trips, they met Ronald Reagan, when he ran for governor, and heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, who Charles ran into later when he moved to Arizona. He held certifications from the American Board of Surgery, the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and the American Board of Cardiac Surgery and fellowships from the American College of Chest Physicians (FACP) and the American College of Surgeons (FACS).
After a difficult divorce, he moved to Galveston, TX to become the chief of thoracic surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston. This was the most eventful time of his life: meeting Raquel Welch at a wealthy patient’s dinner party; having a serendipitous meeting at the Galveston Artillery Club with comedian Johnathan Winters who taught his oldest daughter to skeet shoot; and operating on several famous people, such as Don Blocker, the iconic “Hoss” from TV’s “Bonanza,” and a mysterious New York patient -- mob boss Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno.
He also faced another near-death experience. Heading to a late-night hospital call, he noticed a car approaching quickly behind him on the freeway, wanting him to pull over. He decided not to signal that his exit was fast approaching, taking the other car by surprise. He saw the car back up on the freeway, so he sped to the hospital. Shortly after, a Texas Ranger was brought in with a gaping gunshot wound. The Ranger saw the car back up and proceeded to approach the other car, when the two suspects shot him. The suspects later stated they targeted Charles to steal his car and kill him. After the trial, the Rangers made sure Charles was issued a concealed weapon permit and gifted him a new firearm and leather case.
One of the most seminal events, however, came when a colleague introduced him to Gene Parish, a one-eyed flight instructor and WWII vet. Charles always feared flying. Gene quickly eliminated that fear, and Charles earned his private pilot’s license, multi engine certification and an instrument rating. He was a lifetime member of the Flying Physicians Association, and took his parents and seven children on many trips (some internationally), saying that when he was flying, all the burdens of his practice and personal life fell away and he felt free. His love of flying was passed to two sons: Schuyler, who is a retired airline pilot with over 20 years of service in the US Air Force as a fighter pilot (and also taught by Gene); and Mark, who is a master airplane technician.
When his father died, Charles decided to be closer to his children, who lived with Marilyn in Mesa, AZ. He moved to Arizona and became chief of surgery for all three “Tri-City” hospitals: Desert Samaritan, Mesa Lutheran and Chandler. He also met up with Dr. Michael DeBakey again, who agreed to draw a line across the Phoenix area, designating Phoenix and due north for Michael’s new heart institute, and Charles taking the Tri-City area, to the southeast. Charles also created the Vascular Lab Institute and received several U.S. patents, including one for use of electro-stimulation instead of pain medicine during surgeries and a retrieval process to remove old pacemaker leads.
He loved owning his own two-prop airplane and fast or fancy cars (Porches and Lincolns) as a respite to a busy surgical schedule, ever-increasing care for his elderly mother and being a single father. But it wasn’t until he met a young, petite fireball who worked as a surgery scheduler at Mesa Lutheran that he met his match. Carolyn Sue (Barner) McCorkle, part Cherokee and part German, kept Charles on his toes. She became his second wife within the year and was instrumental in helping his career soar, while maintaining an impeccable household and raising not only his first four children by his first wife, but went on to have three sons with Charles.
Charles never stopped learning, taking architectural classes at Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright school. He first studied it as an undergraduate, using that knowledge to design his first medical office, an iconic design that took the Ohio farm community by surprise. When his marriage to Carol ended in divorce, he moved to Idaho, where he designed and built his dream home on a lake surrounded by national forest land, where he could have lots and lots of puppy dogs. The farm boy had come home to the country, something that gave him peace.
Nearly 35 years later when Carolyn moved to Idaho to be closer to their three sons and grandchildren, she agreed to manage Charles’ household, which included two sons and one grandson. She continued in this roll through his death, while juggling her own burgeoning real estate practice and housecleaning services.
Charles was a lifetime member of the Church of the Brethren with deep ties to the Pennsylvania Mennonites. He also researched genealogy, discovering his family’s connection to the McCorquodale and Gunn clans of Scotland, where he later felt blessed to visit. Deeply religious, he studied all the world religions and became introspective in the years before his death, concluding in his written memoirs: “[E]minent scientists such as Einstein, Hawkins and others have brought forth the conclusion and a scientific fact that ‘matter cannot be created or destroyed’. . . In life, man has a psyche which includes his thoughts, memories, and desires. In each individual, there is a life essence that is held within his psyche that distinguishes him from other individuals. The essence of life is sometimes referred to by some as the soul. It exists outside the physical although it can be queried in reality. . . [But] if scientific fact dictates that nothing can be created or destroyed then the existence of this life essence does not end at death. . . [It] may change or be modified into another dimension, it is not destroyed. Again, it becomes a part of the order of the universe at death. . . It is what occurs to each of us as we take the journey through time. After we have completed the journey, memories of us will be part of others’ lives. In the order of the universe: ‘Life always finds a way.’”
Funeral services will be held Saturday, March 20, 2021 at 11 AM at the Cromes-Edwards Funeral Home, 302 Main Street, Sidney, OH 45365, (937) 492-5101, with interment beside his late parents at the Fairview Cemetery, Short Road, Cynthia Township, OH. The family will receive friends on Saturday from 10 AM until the time of service.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Charles’ name to The Ohio State University, or the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.
To send flowers to Charles "Chuck" Edward McCorkle Jr. M.D.'s family, please visit our floral store.