Updated: Aug 1
by Brad Franklin
I first met Charlie in February 2021 through a mutual friend. I was a new public school math teacher, working in Kansas City Public Schools. I had been living next to Grandview high school since 2011 I thought, “Why not teach in my own community?” I wanted to hear what Charlie thought about life at GHS.
As we met over a cup of coffee on a brisk Saturday morning, Charlie and I exchanged stories of our lives and faith journeys. By the time we parted, I had decided to apply to join the Grandview Math department and work alongside Mr. Criniere. Even better, I had just met a man whose faith in Jesus Christ resonated with my own. Charlie’s love of Jesus shined brightly with an intense positive perspective and energy that challenged me and changed my understanding of what it looks like to follow Jesus.
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
I successfully landed at GHS, but the chance to work with Charlie proved elusive as he moved over to Martin City Middle School. Even so, I learned PLENTY about teaching just in that short meeting with Charlie. First off, I learned that I don’t teach math to students; I teach students to flourish in math. I also learned a lot from Charlie's former students: “Your explanations don’t make sense the way Mr. Criniere’s did” or “I understood things when Mr. Criniere taught them,” resounded through the room regularly during that first semester.
Charlie’s impact on my career and my life has been and will continue to be profound. The last time I saw Charlie was August 26th, during the first varsity football game of the season. He was there in the stands with his entire family, in his backwards baseball cap, and he gave me his trademark huge smile and hug.
The next morning, when I received the devastating news of Charlie’s tragic passing, I realized he and I had another thing in common: a love of cycling. As someone who didn't have a car until I was 30, I biked everywhere. This loss recalled the devastating loss of another cyclist friend and father who passed 5 years ago, struck by a DUI driver in Lincoln, Nebraska.
As I write this, I’m watching the Bulldogs football squad lose their home playoff game. The disappointment of this loss has to feel overwhelming, especially for the seniors. I’ve watched many Bulldog games in the decade I’ve lived next door to GHS, with plenty of highs and lows. But I’ve never seen anything like what I just saw on this gridiron! In a remarkably sweet gesture, the Carl’s Junction team, who drove 3 hours for this game, quieted down and muted their cheering in respect for what the opposing team is going through. Several of the crestfallen Grandview seniors were openly weeping and being consoled by teammates and even by members of the opposing team as they shook hands after the game. The tenderness and humility of the moment was a shining tribute to Charlie’s spirit!
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" Matthew 5:4
I am reminded of the eye-opening moment during Charlie’s memorial service when the former Grandview basketball coach credited Charlie as playing an integral role in helping the Bulldogs to win two consecutive state championships. Coach Reggie Morris cited that Charlie's consistent presence as the de-facto team chaplain brought passion and prayer to both practices and games. Coach Morris went on to say that Charlie brought a spirit of purpose, hope, and even expectation that the team’s efforts would be successful, and that this team and the community would prevail!
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13
Charlie had cleared his agenda of everything but the One who is the rewarder of those who seek Him. His single-minded focus on loving both the Lord Jesus Christ and his neighbor demonstrated his true identity as a faithful brother and family man. Charles truly was “salt" and “light," making an indelible and powerful impression on his many students, his colleagues, and the many like me who called him “friend” and “brother." Charlie, I miss you - your journey on earth is complete, but your spirit shines brighter than ever. We are comforted only by the knowledge you have been received home as a “good and faithful servant."
“Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
- Brad Franklin