Cover photo for Charles R. Barnett III's Obituary
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1960 Charles 2023

Charles R. Barnett III

June 11, 1960 — January 22, 2023

Davenport Crystal Lake

Charles Rayburn “Chuck” Barnett, III passed away peacefully on Sunday January 22, 2023 surrounded by his wife and children.

Chuck was a beloved son, brother, husband, and father. Chuck continues to be a beloved follower of God.

Although suddenly cut short, Chuck lived a full life.

Chuck ran cross country in high school, which was a “character builder.” Chuck often recalled how his cross-country coach simply would tell the team to “run east.” After 15 minutes of running east, Chuck, and the rest of the team, would be out in the middle of cornfields. It was hot—central Illinois hot. The corn was over Chuck’s head. There ostensibly wasn’t anyone else out there. Just when loneliness set in, Chuck and the team would round a corner to find their coach in a pick-up truck yelling out the time, “TWENTY ONE, TWENTY TWO.” That sure made Chuck run faster, on multiple occasions, too. Chuck proudly outlived his cross-country coach.

Before leaving for college, Chuck worked as a security guard at the Illinois State Fair and as line cook at a breakfast diner. His short stint as a line cook left a lasting impression on him. As such, cooking breakfast at the Barnett household was a science. Chuck was ever-refining the consistency of the pancake batter and using cookie cutters to make perfectly-shaped pancakes. Above all, Chuck imparted to his children, “the key to pancakes is flipping them once.”

After high school, Chuck attended two years at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was a proud member of the Air Force ROTC unit. Chuck attended his last two years of college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and bled orange and blue ever since. At Illinois, Chuck initially majored in computer science, which at the time, consisted of carrying around boxes of punch cards for the computer to read.

College was always a means to becoming an Air Force pilot for Chuck. So, on the same day Chuck learned that the two pilot slots in the ROTC unit were only for non-technical majors, Chuck walked across the street and changed his major to business. Switching majors so late in college required Chuck to take 21 credit hours a semester to graduate on time. Chuck did just that, saving a few minutes after class each day to play pinball at the student union and, of course, still carving out time to go to his favorite bar, Kams.

While at Illinois, Chuck became a brother of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, rising to the position of Vice President. One of Chuck’s favorite memories at the Kappa Sigma house was when the entire fraternity was saying grace before dinner, which is the quietest the house would ever get. In the middle of grace, Chuck heard the sound of the dining room window shattering. When he looked over, he saw a cantaloupe roll away from the window. The fraternity across the street had just launched a cantaloupe through the Kappa Sigma window. The two fraternities battled for weeks after.

At the Kappa Sigma fraternity, Chuck met Richard “RC” Cassin, who went on to become the godfather of Chuck’s son, Jackson Barnett. Chuck also met Bill Vespa, who went on to become Chuck’s best man. As of 2022, the Kappa Sigma house has not changed much since Chuck lived there, and still sits gracefully on the corner of Third and Daniel in Champaign. Kams, the bar, has since moved to the corner of First and Green in Champaign, but still smells like beer and urine.

Prior to starting pilot training, Chuck was a ditch-digger for a pool company and a water ski instructor.

In 1982, Chuck graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and commissioned in the United States Air Force. Chuck achieved the rank of Captain in the United States Air Force on August 9, 1986.

In the Air Force, Chuck started out flying the B-52, an aircraft that was still in use by the Air Force on the date of Chuck’s passing. While Chuck was flying the B-52, he was a member of the ACE program, which practically gave Chuck a carte blanche to fly a T-38 supersonic jet anywhere in the country. Once, Chuck flew over the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus in afterburner for 45 minutes before an early Saturday-morning football game. On several other occasions,  Chuck brought the T-38—and some wayward bomber pilots—to stay with Louise, his grandmother.

Chuck had the high honor of being selected for the initial cadre of the B-1 Bomber “The Bone,” which, at the time, was a classified, supersonic, nuclear bomber. Chuck was humbled to take on the responsibility of commanding an aircraft loaded with nukes pointed at the Soviets. Humility, however, did not stop Chuck from having fun in the B-1. The operating handbook of the B-1 prohibited full alerion rolls. Naturally, Chuck would roll the B-1 359° to the right, followed by a roll 359° back to the left. This is funny.

Chuck enjoyed additional highlights flying the B-1. First, Chuck had the honor of giving his dad, Charles Rayburn “Ray” Barnett, Jr., a ride in the B-1 while they taxied out to the runway—while the squadron commander watched, of course. Second, after the B-1 was declassified, Chuck flew the B-1 to the Springfield Air Show in Springfield, IL. The B-1 coming to Springfield made the front page of the local paper, which made Chuck’s parents—and the rest of Chuck’s hometown—proud.

Prior to leaving the Air Force, Chuck earned a Master of Aeronautical Science from Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University.

Chuck gained life-long friends from his time flying the B-1, including, but not limited to: John Gustafson, Tim Bailey, Chip Walton, Dave Zehr, Paul Down, Dave Bronson, and Ross “Uncle Ross” Younkin (deceased)—godfather to Chuck’s daughter, Sydney Barnett.

Flying was an integral part of Chuck’s identity. Chuck was a full-time Airline pilot at American Airlines for 31 years—that was a new record for him. At American Airlines, Chuck started out as a flight engineer on the 727 in May 1991. And that is where he met his first—and only—wife, Karen Lee Barnett. Back then, pilots and flight attendants flew as the same crew for an entire month at a time. Chuck and Karen had the same schedule for a month. The story wrote itself.

When Chuck was not flying the 727, he worked security at Wrigley Field—his bachelor’s and master’s degree left him still unqualified for his first-choice position, infield water hose operator. Nevertheless, as long as Chuck was inside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, he was happy. And, when he couldn’t be inside Wrigley, Chuck tried not to stray too far from it. Chuck rented an apartment overlooking the stadium. In fact, if he opened the window, he could hear the roar of the crowd during a good play.

Chuck’s stint as a bachelor in Chicago didn’t last long, as he became madly in love with Karen. Chuck and Karen eventually had their first son, Chaz. So, the three of them moved into a Greystone not too far west of Wrigley Field. Chuck looked back fondly on his time living so close to Wrigley, but the time soon came to move somewhere with more space for his growing family. Chuck and Karen eventually bought a house in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Chuck and Karen moved to Magnolia Lane, in Crystal Lake, Illinois. They became fast—and life-long—friends with their neighbors: Jim and Carol Dieterle, with their four boys, Patrick, Rob, Paul, and Chris; Jim and Charise Weil, with their four girls, Arienne, Kiara, Melina, and Reanne; John and Bonnie Plimpton, with their kids, Alex and Sarah. Carol Dieterle went on to become the godmother of Chuck’s second son, Jackson Barnett. Living in the same subdivision was a fellow American Airlines pilot and Air Force veteran, Ted Pounds. Chuck enjoyed exchanging flying stories with Ted on their near-daily runs. After Magnolia Lane, the Barnetts moved to Moorland Lane in Crystal Lake.

Back to flying.

After meeting Karen on the 727, Chuck became a first officer on the 767 and 757. A few years later, Chuck earned a type-rating on the 777. Chuck’s kids remember his time on the 777 well, as Chuck was home most nights. When Chuck did fly on the 777, it was to London, Tokyo, Narida, New Delhi, Shanghai, and Beijing. These destinations brought Chuck over the North Pole and let him see the Northern lights. These destinations also brought Chuck’s kids a lot of fun toys, as Chuck brought back cheap helicopters and purses from China.

While on the 777 Chuck earned a law degree and worked at Sears—for the employee discount on power tools. At Sears, Chuck met Jenny. Jenny became the babysitter to Chuck’s four kids while Chuck and Karen worked full-time at American Airlines.

Concurrent with his flying responsibilities, Chuck began litigating mass-casualty aviation accidents at a well-known personal injury law firm in Chicago. Later, Chuck worked as a founding partner for the law firm Barnett & Borth. Chuck founded Barnett Law Offices as sole attorney. Chuck helped over 1000 airmen in their pursuit of aviation, earning Chuck an esteemed reputation amongst the pilot community.

After 15 years on the 777, Chuck won a bid to be a captain on the 737 on April 7, 2014. Chuck flew to many destinations in the Caribbean and South America: some beautiful, some dangerous, and some both. Importantly, the 737 routes allowed Chuck more frequent opportunities to fly his family.

Each July, Chuck looked forward to taking his boys and Kamryn to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the annual EAA Airventure—affectionately and simply known as “Oshkosh.” Chuck and the gang would spend up to a week camping at Oshkosh. This sometimes entailed riding out severe thunderstorms in the middle of a central-Wisconsin field—relying on the nylon fabric of the tent to determine the difference between dry and wet. However, the severe thunderstorms were worth the experience. Oshkosh gave Chuck quality time with both his children and friends. At the end of each afternoon, Chuck and his kids stayed up late into the summer evenings around a campfire with the Gustafsons: John and Anita, and their boys, Sam, Grant, and Kyle. For Chuck’s kids, the Gustafsons felt like family.

Despite his many professional accomplishments, Chuck proudest accomplishment was his family. Chuck took great pride in fathering his children: Chaz, Sydney, Jackson, and Kamryn. Once, Chuck was asked how many kids he had. Chuck replied, “Four—that I know of.”

Chuck led a life devoted to God and continues to be a devout Catholic. Chuck attended daily mass, whether he was at his home in Crystal Lake or on the other side of the world. Chuck even attended mass with Pope Francis while on a pilgrimage to Rome in 2022. Back in Crystal Lake, Chuck taught one year of religious education “CCD” for each of his children. Chuck earned his popularity as a teacher by throwing out candy bars to students who correctly answered Catholic trivia. Over the years, Chuck became close with Father Jerome Koutnik. The two of them enjoyed a weekly private mass followed by breakfast, where Chuck was entertained by Father Koutnik’s animated stories.

Chuck Barnett succeeds his beloved mother, Anne Barnett, his beloved father, Charles Rayburn “Ray” Barnett, Jr., his beloved grandfather Charles Rayburn Barnett, Sr., and his beloved grandmother Louise Barnett. Chuck precedes his beloved sister, Sarah Beth Barnett. Chuck precedes his beloved first wife, Karen Lee Barnett, his beloved son, Charles Rayburn “Chaz” Barnett, IV, his beloved daughter, Sydney Ashton Barnett, his beloved son, Jackson Bernard Barnett, and his beloved daughter, Kamryn Lee Louise Barnett.

Cubs Fan. Illini. Supersonic.

Visitation will be Monday, February 6, 2023 from 4 PM until 8 PM at Davenport Family Funeral Home and Crematory, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave. (Rte. 176), Crystal Lake, IL 60014. Visitation resumes on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 at 9 AM at St. Mary Catholic Church, 10307 Dundee Road, Huntley, IL with a funeral mass following at 10 AM. Interment and military honors to follow at Rock Island National Cemetery, Moline, IL.

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