By Bruce Nelson
The greatest ďCar GuyĒ I ever met
Anyone who knows me at all knows Iím a car person. Iím obviously interested in cars, but not always the best when it comes to working with other people. Well, Iím here to tell you about a fellow car person, who was probably the finest citizen of this community I ever met. This amazing person was Charlie Settles. He was a friend to all. He was the force in starting the San Juan Cruisers, of which I have been a member since I moved here in 1996, and the founder of the Friday Harbor High School Drag Race Team.
Charlie didnít ask around town if any kids were interested in drag racing or even cars. Instead Charlie would see a young man or woman that looked like they had nothing promising to do, and tell them he had something for them to do. He took these kids around with him and taught them about cars. He got them interested enough to go out and scrounge around for an old car to make into a drag car. They went on trips to the racetrack in Mission B. C. They went on trips to recycle aluminum to get money to support the team. They went on trips to the mainland just to have fun. Charlie did all this without any pay from anyone. Nearly every weekend I would see Charlie on the ferry with a group of these kids going to somewhere or other. The kids who he worked with, for the most part, stayed out of trouble while he was involved with them. I can remember many times, going by the old shop building at the high school and seeing the door open. I would stop in to see what Charlie and his group was doing. They might have been working on the ElCamino race car, or any of the kidís cars, or something totally unrelated. But they were always having a good time.
Things werenít always easy. As time went on, the high school decided they did not want the affiliation with the Drag Race Club. They also lost the use of the high school shop building. But the loss that we couldnít get over was the tragic loss of Charlie. In a terrible accident, a fire took Charlie from us. I remember the memorial service; nearly the whole town was there. I canít remember ever going to a more touching service.
Cecil Dent stepped up to help with the Drag Racing team, and did a admirable job of trying to hold it together for a few years, But I donít believe Cecil, or myself, or anyone Iíve ever met, could fill the shoes that Charlie left for us in this community. Nobody I know would be able to find the time for these kids he did. He worked hard all day, but every evening and weekend was given to the kids of this community.
My greatest hope is that the ďcar peopleĒ and the rest of this community will always remember Charlie. I only knew him for a short time, but I cannot tell you how much
respect I have for him and his memory. Letís none of us ever forget Charlie Settles.
By Bruce Nelson
Last Update: 12/13/03