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By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published January 18, 2008
LARGO - Charlie Maak's great love was gone.
Mildred. She gave him soft little pats when his voice rose in public. He gave her kisses every morning and night. They loved each other from moment one.
He watched her slip away to Alzheimer's disease. In 2002, she died. But he didn't shut down - not just yet.
A talented artist, Mr. Maak would wake before the sun and start drawing on blank stationery. Santa Claus. Snow-dusted birds. Holly. He'd obsess, setting goals for himself, like 1,000 pieces by his wife's birthday.
He'd give the drawings to friends. They'd give money. He'd give it to Alzheimer's institutes.
He kept drawing, with her pictures nearby.
* * *
Everyone in Largo's Sugar Creek mobile home park knew him.
His home, No. 240, became "Club 240." Almost every day at 5 p.m., friends came for cocktails and conversation. If his car was gone, they knew the club was closed.
He cooked, mostly for neighbors, and wrote a cooking column in the Sugar Creek newsletter. He drove to the grocery store every day. Organizing and taking care of things was his way.
Mr. Maak grew up during the Depression. When he was a baby, his father died. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and funneled the money he made back to his mother. Later, he worked for 30 years with General Motors, hiring thousands of people.
But his wife was his biggest source of pride.
He met Mildred Chaney, a laid-back Southern lady, at a country club dance. Both had other dates, but they danced only with each other. A year later, they married.
"They had the most incredible love affair I've ever seen," said their niece, Carole Oliver. "I've never seen anything like it. They were totally and completely in love with each other."
They never had children, but they spoiled Oliver, now 63. She doesn't recall hearing a harsh word between them. For 60 years, they stayed passionate.
Mr. Maak never did draw a portrait of his wife.
"I didn't think I was good enough," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 2004. "How could someone like me do justice to an angel like her?"
* * *
Mr. Maak shut down after he lost the ability to drive, Oliver said. He entered a hospice a couple of months ago.
He made lots of friends there, and called everyone by name. He gave his Christmas illustrations to the workers - no charge.
On Tuesday, Mr. Maak died. He was 89. He had told his niece that he was looking forward, in death, to seeing his wife.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 893-8857.
Born: Feb. 13, 1918.
Died: Jan. 15, 2008.
Survivors: niece, Carole Oliver; many cousins and friends.
[Last modified January 18, 2008, 10:37:01]