Services to celebrate the life of Charles Earl Key will be 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 20, 2016, at North Park Trinity Baptist Church. He will be laid to rest at Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, OK under the direction of Rice Funeral Service. Family will receive visitors at the funeral home Tuesday evening from 6-8. Charles passed away with family by his side on Friday, April 15, 2016. He was 76.
Charles was born in the small rural community of Gregory, OK just outside of Inola on August 10, 1939. Charles spent his childhood with his brother and two sisters, nurtured by their parents Edward Fielder and Lova Mae (Nichols) Key. Following his graduation from Inola High School, Charles spent two years earning his certification in auto mechanics from OSU Okmulgee Tech. Though he always had that expertise, he never chose to use it as a work career. Instead, Charles chose to work as a truck driver for many years. When he retired from driving, he worked at Bama Pies and then Whirlpool. Because he had a strong work ethic he never planned on retirement and continued as a team leader for Whirlpool until he had to take a medical retirement just three years ago.
Charles enjoyed a life of love and commitment through his marriage to Bettie Jean (Hilbert) Key. This sweet relationship began when both were still teens, and Charles came with his parents to Bettie's house so that her father could build them a well. Though a few years younger, lovely young Bettie caught his attention. That well must have needed lots of Charles' effort, because he seemed to find himself routinely at the Hilbert home around supper time. And anyone there at that time got an invitation to share the evening meal. Since Bettie was the eldest daughter, she often helped with meal preparation. Now there was both her beauty and her ability to cook that kept Charles interested. Though the attraction wasn't mutual for some time, Charles was certain enough for both, and eventually Bettie came to know and love young Charles. The two married on her eighteenth birthday, July 6, 1961 in a Tahlequah wedding ceremony. They made Inola home the first years of their married lives and later moved to Claremore.
The couple shared the joy of their three children. And the four grandchildren that affectionately called Charles "Pa" have been an additional sweet blessing. Since Charles' constant smile and infectious laugh brought a happy and bright side to all, the children loved spending time with Pa. They did have to take some teasing, but that made those times even more fun.
Both Bettie and Charles enjoyed the local rodeo events — often saddling up their horses for the grand entries. Charles has spent many hours cheering on his St. Louis Cardinals when they were televised. And he loved going fishing — where ever they were biting was his favorite fishing spot.
Charles embraced life with joy and laughter. The warm memories of his broad smile will live through the legacy of family he leaves. They are his beloved wife Bettie of their home in Claremore; his three children, Charles Earl Key, Jr. "Chuck" of Catoosa, Lova Leona England "Lou" and her husband Bryan of Bixby and Walter William Key also of the home in Claremore; four grandchildren, Alexis, Elizabeth, Cody and Nathan and a sister, Betty Colbeck of Tulsa. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother Edward Key "Junior" and a sister, Vera Mae Key and a grandson, Stephen Tyler Key.
Published on April 19, 2016