Charles Junior Osterndorf

NO. 17449  •  12 January 1927 – 16 November 1990

Died 16 November 1990 in San Antonio, Texas, aged 63 years
Interment: Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas


CHARLES JUNIOR OSTERNDORF was born in Platteville, Wisconsin on 12 January 1927 to Charles and Minna Osterndorf. In 1944, like many American families with no previous condition of military service, the Osterndorfs had two sons fighting in Europe and the Pacific. Chuck, only 17 at the time, sought to join them. He was inducted into the Army Reserve and assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) in engineering at the University of Wisconsin. At the conclusion of the academic year, Chuck was inducted into the Army and sent to Fort Robinson, Arkansas for basic training. He was offered the opportunity to continue in the ASTP and was sent to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute for additional schooling in civil engineering. He subsequently was accepted to Engineer Officer Candidate School at Fort Belvoir, where, about a month and a half into the program, his commanding officer, offering congratulations and a cigar, informed Chuck that he had been accepted to West Point.

Thus, Chuck was a little more worldly than most of his classmates when he joined the Long Gray Line that fine summer day, 1 July 1946. His experience notwithstanding, Chuck found Beast Barracks quite a challenge, one that he was sorely tempted to forego. However, a family with a newly established military heritage and a generations ‑ old tradition of never quitting, wouldn't hear of it. With firm resolve, Chuck applied himself to the task and graduated in the top 20 percent of his class on 6 June 1950 and was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers.

His post‑graduation leave was cut short, however, with the advent of the Korean War. Within months, Chuck found himself with the 62d Engineer Construction Battalion in Korea. This hazardous and demanding first assignment was the cornerstone of a distinguished career that found Chuck serving in a variety of demanding positions. Subsequent assignments included Resident Engineer on Baffin Island in the Aleutians, Assistant Resident Engineer in the Azores, a tour in the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Taiwan, and command of the 13th Engineer Battalion in Korea. West Point also beckoned, and in 1957, after obtaining a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering at MIT, Chuck returned to the shores of the Hudson to teach in the Department of Mechanics. Chuck's last several assignments  with the Corps of Engineers, Huntsville District, and with the New England Division, and finally with the Engineer School as Deputy Assistant Commandant, capped a distinguished career. He retired in 1977 and headed for Texas.

Chuck's love for the Army remained strong, but devotion to his family was his first priority. He had met Evelyn Kruschel in Milwaukee, and they married on 31 May 1952. Though Evelyn had never left Milwaukee before, she became his steadfast partner throughout the ensuing odyssey. They were joined by Brian in 1954 and Steve in 1956, and life became a series of Cub and Boy Scout meetings, Little League games and church activities. Chuck had always said that the only success that really counted was measured by and through the children. He was quite a champion.

Retirement from the Army brought an unaccustomed but welcomed stability. Chuck and Evelyn bought a house on a golf course in Austin, Texas and quickly came to enjoy life in the Hill Country. Chuck's work with the Texas State Department of Parks and Wildlife kept him busy, but he continued to pursue lifelong bobbies of golf and playing the piano. Happily, his enthusiasm for both avocations was never diminished by his inability to master either.

The happiness ended far too soon with the diagnosis in 1987 of the rare and incurable blood disease that led to Chuck's death. The physical toll of the disease, which robbed him of all his vigor and strength, could not daunt the spirit, and he faced the certain end with courage and composure. West Point lost one of its finest on 16 November 1990.

Chuck is survived by Evelyn, who now lives in San Antonio, Brian (USMA Class of 1976), Steve, Steve's son Daniel, whom Chuck greatly enjoyed, and Brian's daughter, Lydia, whom Chuck never had the chance to meet.