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Life Story / Obituary
Eugene “Gene” Charest, 83, of Suttons Bay died Friday, April 14, 2023. He was born June 15, 1939, in the upstairs bedroom of his grandparents house in Detroit, the son of the late Eugene and Mildred (Sowa) Charest. There are many streets in Detroit named after relatives of Gene such as Joseph Campeau and Rosalie Chene. Gene’s great-grandfather was very successful and respected in financial circles and had the largest vessel on the Great Lakes until the government seized it for use in WWI. Gene’s family moved to Traverse City when he was around 12 years old. He graduated from Traverse City Central High School.
After graduation he moved closer to family on his mothers side in California to further his education at Pasadena City College to study pre-med and also worked in the morgue at Pasadena Memorial Hospital. When he returned to Traverse City he worked at Schuler's Restaurant where he met Emily. He and Emily married at 21 years old and had two children Beth and Eric. Eventually Gene and Emily were divorced in 1977. He married Cynthia Martinson-Charest on December 15, 1986 and were together as a couple for over 50 years.
Gene was a self-employed entrepreneur and was an owner and builder of many restaurants. He built his first restaurant Chateau Charest at Schuss Mountain. He was part owner of The Leland Lodge and Schluers which became The Beef Tree. He also built another new Beef Tree in Traverse City which was known for its live music and excellent dining. In Interlochen, he owned Barnaby’s Good Time Emporium. He even imported two English double-decker buses to be used for tours of Traverse City. Gene also started a used car dealership. He spent 30 plus years as an entrepreneur in the greater Grand Traverse Area. He was a Funeral Counselor/Director for over 25 years where he was popular due to his kind and empathetic stance on his approach to helping a family who lost a loved one.
Gene donated a lot of his time to the seniors of Leelanau County. He was a member of The Regional Advisory Board of N.E. Senior Resources, Area Agency on Aging, now the COA, for over 25 years. He was a member of the Suttons Bay Village for several terms.
He had many interests. He enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren. Other interests of Gene were Alpine Skiing, skeet and target practice, flying (he held his pilot license), tennis, fishing (both freshwater and saltwater), boating, playing miniature golf at Pirates Cove, walking on their beaches, music, walking his dogs, and loving his cat. He was also an accomplished gourmand and loved to cook. He liked taking boat trips to the many islands around like Mackinac, Beaver, Manitous, and even Gull Islands. He enjoyed cars very much and even purchased a 1969 Jaguar E-Type convertible. Gene also enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life. Gene was a great storyteller and loved to recite the many adventures he had that were funny, amazing, and frightening all at the same time.
A story from Cynthia.
When we bought our last boat, a Four Winns Bow Rider, it was already early November. We just had to try it out even though there was a light rain/snow mix with Suttons Bay being quite choppy. We launched it at the Suttons Bay Marina. We “opened” her up and crossed the bay and were getting bounced around and wet at the same time. What a lot of fun. We laughed at how crazy we were. I can still remember how happy he was. Yes, we had it winterized right after this adventure.
A story from Bev.
Bev (Charest) Bodary was born on the 14th day of June, one day before her brother Gene’s 3rd birthday. Gene was my guardian, play mate, and mentor. Early on he taught me how to fish, water ski, snow ski, tying flies for fly fishing, skinning wild game, shooting guns, and how to drive a stick shift. The only pay was shining his shoes. God gave me the best and left me boundless memories.
Some more stories from Cynthia.
One of the neat things about being together for a long period is that Gene and I (thought) communicated. We would often answer each other’s questions before words were even spoken out loud. We always laughed when this happened.
Gene was a kind and compassionate man. He always had the most beautiful smile for everyone. He fought a strong battle to overcome his illnesses and always had a smile for his nurses, nurses’ aides, and doctors. Let us remember him with a smile.
Gene is survived by his wife, Cynthia Martinson-Charest; his children, Beth Ann Charest and Eric E. Charest; his grandchildren, Noah, Paige, Madison, Shyah, and Staley; his nephew, Jon Bodary; his niece, Cher Charest; and his sisters, Rocquel (Jim) Morrison and Beverly (Daniel) Bodary.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Eugene and Mildred Charest.
Memorial Contributions may be made out to a Senior Service Agency of your choosing or a local Humane Society.
An informal gathering will be held from 2pm to 5pm Thursday, June 15, 2023, at Life Story Funeral Home in Traverse City. There will be a Eulogy at 3pm and a light luncheon at 4pm. Please visit www.lifestorytc.com to share your thoughts and more.
A limb has fallen from the family tree.
I keep hearing a voice that says, “grieve not for me”.
Remember the best times, the laughter, the song.
The good life I lived while I was strong.
Continue my heritage, I’m counting on you.
Keep smiling and surely the sun will shine through.
My mind is at ease, my soul at rest.
Remembering all, how I truly was blessed.
Continue traditions, no matter how small.
Go on with your life, don’t worry about a fall.
The wish for my family and friends I hold dear,
Is live life to the fullest, do good while you’re here.
In Our Hearts Forever