Charles R. Hackenberry

PORT MATILDA – Charles R. Hackenberry, 73, of rural Port Matilda, died unexpectedly on Dec. 28, 2012, at home.

He was born May 30, 1939, in Lewistown. As a child, he believed that the Memorial Day parades were in his honor.

He was the son of Charles R. and Bernice Wilcox Hackenberry. On Dec. 15, 1962, he married his college sweetheart, Barbara Boughner at St. Robert’s Catholic Church in Chester. She survives at home.

He graduated from Lewistown High School in 1957 and from Shippensburg State College, in 1962. In 1969 he earned a Master of Arts in theatre, and in 1979 a Ph.D. in English, both at Penn State.

He loved teaching and considered it his calling. He began his teaching career in York County at the Dallastown Area High School. After receiving his master’s degree he taught English and directed the plays at Chief Logan High School in Burnham. After receiving his Ph.D., he taught first at University Park, then at the Wilkes-Barre campus of Penn State, and at last found his true home at Penn State’s Altoona campus where he taught until his retirement in 2002. Many of his students from both high school and college became lifelong friends.

His main academic interests were the American Transcendentalists and African American Literature. In addition to writing journal articles on these subjects, he also edited Mandy Oxendine, an unpublished novel by early 20th-century black writer, Charles Chesnutt. The University of Illinois Press published his edition in 1997.

Charles was proudest, though, of his fiction writing. His first novel, “Friends,” won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best novel of 1993. It was followed in 1996 by “I Rode with Jesse James,” which was nominated for the Spur Award. Both were published by Harper-Collins. At the time of his death, he had finished another Western, “Beyond the Crazy Mountains,” and was working on a mainstream fiction novel.

He was possessed of a playful creativity and turned his hand to several arts and crafts. Charles, his wife, and a small group of friends founded the Stone Arch Players, Lewistown’s community theatre, in 1967. After his retirement, he renewed his interest in playing the guitar and taught himself to play the bass. He enjoyed local jams and played and sang in several small bluegrass groups. He made jewelry, a hobby that his wife and daughters encouraged with enthusiasm. From flea market finds he fashioned clocks that he gave to family members and friends, “whether,” in his words, “they wanted them or not.”

In addition to his wife, Barbara, he is survived by his daughters, Joan Ami (Jason) Cramer, of Camp Hill, and Emily Carey (Todd) Spencer, of Durango, Colo., and by his grandsons, Graham Charles Cramer and John Damian Cramer.

Charles had a generous heart. He was a compassionate and loyal friend. He was deeply loved and is greatly missed.

According to the wishes of the deceased, there will be no public visitation or funeral service.

Memorial contributions may be made to Centre Volunteers in Medicine, 2520 Green Tech Drive, State College, PA 16803, or the Food Bank of the State College Area Inc., 276 W. Hamilton Ave., State College, PA 16801.

Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College.

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