His Life

Whittier College

Professor Charles "Chuck" Reeg was Professor of Physical and General Chemistry from 1971 to 2011. He received his B.A. from Dana College and his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. Professor Reeg served as faculty chair for three different terms that spanned three different decades. He advised and/or sponsored students in the following programs: the Whittier Scholars program, the pre-med advisory program, Rhodes Scholars mock interview program, the student ecology club, and the National Leadership Honors society Omicron Delta Kappa. In 2011 he was honored to receive the Richard B. Harvey Award from the Associated Students of Whittier College, awarded to faculty who have shown outstanding leadership in the classroom and/or exemplary administrative service to the college, going beyond the call of duty and showing a true belief in Whittier and its values. Less-senior faculty commented that Dr. Reeg served as a role model and mentor as they were developing as faculty members. Students appreciated his sense of humor and patience. When he received the Keys to the College Award he was described as "a most popular faculty member who is always available to students for consultation and assistance."
“I went through a car accident and Dr. Reeg walked into [Physical] Chem class and said, ‘I don’t want you carrying that book, it weighs 6.7 ounces, so Dr. Reeg carried two books that semester,” alumnus Stacee Karnya ‘02 said. “If it wasn’t for these professors and this school, I wouldn’t have graduated on time or be where I am now.”
His students and colleagues know Reeg as a great chemistry professor and jokester.
“The first real conversation I had with Professor Reeg was when I was walking down the hall one day and he called me over and asked me if I liked jokes,” senior Josh Smith said.
“It was around Christmas time, he pulls out a sheet of paper, green paper and it had Rudolph and there were the heads of reindeer on his office wall and a shotgun next to Rudolph.  On the bottom [of the paper] it said, ‘they used to call him Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.’  I knew we would have good times after that.”
According to the members of his party they will miss him greatly and his quotes including, “I don’t think I answered your question, but I wrote something on the board,” and, “I’m not ignoring your question, I’m just hoping you’ll forget it.”

Parents and Early Life

Chuck was born in Beatrice, Nebraska. His parents were Orville Reeg and Martha (Meyer) Reeg, both children of German immigrants who spoke German at home on the farm. Martha was a nurse before she married Orville. Despite deeply desiring to serve in World War II as a chaplain, Orville was not able to due to a tuberculosis scar on his lungs. Orville Reeg was a Lutheran minister, who had a gift for founding new churches. He would be sent to a new town every few years, knock on doors and recruiting people to join a new church. Once the church was established, he would move the family to a new town and start again. Consequently Chuck lived in several towns in the Midwest while growing up- Plymouth, Hebron, and Byron, Nebraska; Olathe, Kansas; and Englewood, Colorado.
Chuck was the oldest of four kids: Joyce, who was just a few years younger; Paul, and then Jan, who was born 10 years after Chuck. Joyce was quiet and kind, Paul was mischievous and inquisitive, and Jan was the baby who quickly developed a cute and funny personality. She liked to proclaim, "You can call me January!" when she'd meet people for the first time.
Chuck was greatly impressed and influenced by his dad, who was a deeply respected leader in the community. Orville Reeg had a beautiful singing voice and gave powerful sermons in both German and English. Chuck talked about the pressure the parishioners would put on him to act like a model preacher's kid, and to go into the ministry like his dad.
Orville Reeg also had a great sense of humor, and was an excellent story teller, mixing in humor with drama, sometimes with a moral at the end of the story. Chuck would go on long drives on gravel country roads with his dad, which undoubtedly led to his lifelong fascination with cars, maps, and the open road. Orville also had a huge amount of will power and fortitude. He quit smoking by one day just deciding to quit, but by leaving a pack of cigarettes on the top right corner of his desk, just to test his fortitude. 
Chuck was studious, wearing glasses from an early age, but also enjoyed playing basketball. He wished that his dad and mom had time to come to his basketball games, but they were often busy with church duties. He never learned to swim because the swimming pools closed down during the polio epidemic. Chuck remembered living in the parsonages of each church. More than once he got sick on Christmas Eve and couldn't attend the midnight church service. He remembered feeling sad, hearing the music coming from the church and being stuck in bed. Their family celebrated Christmas the German way, opening presents on Christmas Eve. 
Although Chuck never lived on a farm, he would spend summers on his grandparents' farm, which he remembered fondly. He enjoyed spending time with his grandparents, doing manual labor, and eating fresh food from the farm (maybe not in that order). Once after a full day of putting up hay with his mom's brothers, he ate 6 hamburgers, a fact that has always impressed his grandson Toby. No tomato or ear of corn could ever compare in freshness to Chuck's grandparents' tomatoes or corn, and Chuck would talk about the fresh dark German bread with butter churned at home from milk from their own cows.

High School and College

When Chuck was a teenager, the family moved to Englewood, CO, a suburb of Denver: quite a culture shock. Suddenly he was going to high school with "greasers" who sported the full ducktail hairdo and rolled up jeans, drove souped-up cars, and even smoked cigarettes! Chuck felt like a country bumpkin at first, but the move opened his horizons and allowed him to start exploring the mountains. He also got his first job, hauling trash, which allowed him to buy his first car, a white 1950 Chevy. Chuck first went to Wartburg College as a pre-theology major, but knew pretty quickly that he didn't want to follow in his father's footsteps and become a minister. He was really afraid that his dad would be angry and disappointed, so he decided to write his dad a long letter explaining how he felt. He was relieved when his dad told him he supported him, encouraged his interest in science, and enrolled him in Dana College, in Blair, Nebraska.
In grad school at the University of Colorado, when he was a teacher's assistant teaching labs, a certain "co-ed" kept engaging him in conversation after lab. After the semester was over, Chuck and Margo were dating. On one of their first dates, when Chuck showed up to pick Margo up, she was crying- she just learned that her grandma had died. On the second date he made her one of his favorite German dishes of slow cooked beef with vegetables.
Chuck and Margo married in 1965 at Margo's family's Episcopal church in Ames, Iowa. Margo shared that their honeymoon started out as an introduction to Chuck's extended family. She shares that Chuck's relatives invited them over to the farm for "lunch" served at 9pm, a tradition she had never heard of. The relatives surprised them with a late night "shivaree", banging pots and pans and singing off key, an old tradition from the 19th century. They continued their honeymoon in Minnesota, at Margo's parents' cabin on a lake, a place that remained special to them for the next 55 years. Margo's family had prepared their own surprise: a bucket of water was booby-trapped over the front door. In the bedroom they were welcomed by a short- sheeted bed that was lifted up to the rafters, with a fishing rod saying "Sorry Charlie".  

Whittier, California

Chuck interviewed at several colleges for his first job. He flew in a small plane during a snowstorm to rural New York state, with a dark, gray, long winter promised every year. His other choice was sunny Whittier, California. Chuck and Margo chose California, but were a little unsettled as they drove though Sylmar in 1971, looking up at the overpasses damaged from the recent earthquake. First off, they had to get a bigger car to start their family. While most people today would think "minivan," their bigger car was the Fiat 124 sport coupe, in the mod color of primary blue. It did have a back seat after all.  They liked everything about the house they bought, except the bright mint green and chocolate brown color scheme. Nothing some paint and wall paper couldn't fix!
Margo and Chuck loved being parents to their adorable first born who never caused them any grief. Kristin did cry quite a bit at night and didn't like to go to sleep at 7pm like a "normal" baby, so Margo had to spend quite a few late nights sleeping on the couch with me so Chuck could be fresh for biking to work and teaching a double load to fill in for a coworker. One of Kristin's earliest memories is the one day Chuck was running late for work and didn't kiss her goodbye. She remembers sitting in her high chair and crying and feeling like the world had ended and she'd been forgotten, until Chuck called from work to apologize and tell her that he would never forget to say goodbye again. And he never did. It was from that time and many other times that she learned that girls and women should be able to count on men to be good, trustworthy, and dependable. And, if you promise to do something, you need to follow through and be true to your word. 
Then Heidi arrived. She was an adorable baby with huge dark eyes, just staring at the world, and staring at Chuck every time he spoke, because he had such a deep and melodious voice. Chuck was overjoyed to have two daughters, and always involved them in whatever he was doing. They would "help" him fix the car, spend hours playing with his tools and his toolbox, do woodworking projects, and knew the difference between a Phillips and a slotted screwdriver as toddlers. They would even "help" him grade exams by putting them in alphabetical order. When Kristin and Heidi were older, Chuck would attend each and every ballet recital, band performance, and school event. He would always find the humor in the screeching violins and the endless groups of little girls clumsily tap dancing. Kristin and Heidi knew he'd rather be watching a football game, but the fact that he always came even though he was in no way a fan of ballet somehow made it more special.
We went on many family trips. We never flew anywhere, always road tripping. Mostly camping interspersed with stays at the Motel 6, or visiting friends from grad school who had fanned out across the U.S. from Akron to Merced. We always made a trip to visit family in the Midwest, and not just the grandparents and the aunts and uncles, but the second cousins as well. We'd always be greeted with a large "dinner" for lunch of roast beef and potatoes, accompanied by dark bread in the German style. And then my grandpa and the others would launch into their many family stories. 

Dad was devastated when his brother Paul died in 1987. It was a shock to get the call on Easter Sunday right after church. This started a sad chapter in Dad's life which caused him to enter into depression. Luckily, he got help and got better. Uncle Paul had always been the kids' favorite, playing games and making jokes with the kids instead of sitting with the adults. He also loved science and music- playing trombone in an ensemble at the college.
Dad's biggest source of community and purpose was teaching at Whittier College. Far from being a "publish or perish" kind of academic, he really loved teaching undergrads in the classroom. Students loved his jokes and his patient and dependable manner. He is mentioned in more than one college publication as being a "most popular" professor, and was given the ASWC student appreciation award, even though the subject he taught, Physical Chemistry, was often more dreaded than popular. He would invite the senior students over to the house for big, fun dinners of spaghetti and meatballs, with word games after dinner. He would always talk about his students: the funny ones, the ones with funny names (who could forget Female, whose name rhymed with Molly), the ones from interesting parts of the world, the ones who tried to cheat on tests, the ones who helped others, and the ones who liked his Farside cartoons.
His life at Whittier College was a part of my life growing up and I felt like the college was my second home, with a much bigger lawn to run around on, and a really big swimming pool. He met one of his idols, Carl Sagan, at a Whittier commencement, and Carl Sagan was kind enough not to mention that my dad had been mistakenly hit with a pie during the ceremony (long story- it was the 70s.) So many of our family friends are Whittier College friends- the Smiths, the Geigers, the Overturfs, the Fairbanks, Phil and Ann, and the list goes on. He was faculty chair three different times, and served on many different committees and as the advisor on the student environmental group and on a student honor society, . He loved Whittier College, so much so that after retiring from teaching after 40 years, he jumped back into teaching labs. He just couldn’t stay away. The knowledge he imparted to so many lives on in the many doctors and nurses who he trained in “P Chem”. My mom, sister, and I were comforted to learn that several of the doctors at the hospital where my dad was treated for COVID were former students, and at least one came to visit him on the COVID floor. 
My dad was extremely conscientious and took his work very seriously, to the point of worrying probably too much. I have many childhood memories of my dad falling asleep at his desk at 9pm, grading papers or preparing for a lecture after working all day, or working through the weekend at home. He was such a hard worker that he also taught night school to aspiring nurses at Rio Hondo College for a number of years. My sister and I would love to stay up until he came home at 9:30, to "surprise" him by jumping out from behind the curtains. He must have been so tired, but he always acted surprised and delighted. Never once did I get the feeling that we were bothering him or taking him away from his work or something more important. We were always the most important thing to him, and so he brought us into his working life in ways that made us feel included and important. Dinner conversations were often about something funny or challenging that had happened at Whittier that day. 

Relationship with his Grandson Toby

Toby gave Pop his name, while trying to pronounce "Grandpa" when he was 11 months old, and the name stuck. Toby and Pop had a special relationship from day one. As a baby, Toby loved being held by Chuck and listen to his deep voice. Many photos of Chuck show him getting down on the floor to play with Toby. When Toby got older, they loved to talk about and watch sports, as seen in the video. Chuck and Margo were fixtures at all of Toby's football, soccer, baseball, and basketball games. When Pop got older and started to get sick, Toby would patiently talk louder and slower to make sure that Pop could hear him. 

Chorale Bel Canto- Five Mystical Songs- Ralph Vaughn Williams

In the 90s, Chuck decided to audition for Chorale Bel Canto. He had a lovely deep voice and sang second bass with the Chorale for about 20 years. Singing with the Chorale gave him many new friends and allowed him to dive deep into his love of classical music. One of his most exciting memories was singing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl, with 1000 singers from choirs from as far as Japan and a close as the Hollywood Gay Men's chorus. 

A few of those performances were captured on video and are shared on this site. Chuck is usually in the top row on the right side.

Voices Raised

During COVID, Kristin started participating in making choir videos online with two choirs. Chuck was amazed by Zoom technology and enjoyed joining several sessions of Voices Raised led by Arnae Batson. Even when unable to sing, he never lost his ear, and supported Kristin as she recorded audio for a number of videos. Thanks so much to Voices Raised for dedicating the final video of 2020 to the Reeg family.

Alaska Trip

A short video of porpoises playing in the boat's wake- from our cruise on Resurrection Bay near Seward, Alaska. Chuck planned the family's trip to Alaska instead of a party to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Choral Bel Canto- Requiem Mass in D Minor by Mozart

Chuck is on the upper right.

Christmas Day

Family video- the last Christmas before Chuck's health started to decline.

Dad was evangelistic about whole house fans. He would always offer to install them in friends' homes. He would help anyone with their car. He was quite talented at fixing old cars, once fixing our Volvo when it couldn't get up the Grapevine, with nothing but a shoelace. My dad always knew the answers to any question, and he was always right. Or at least that's what I thought and continue to think to this day. Cure for hiccups? Of course, put a knife in a glass of water.