An extraordinary man just died. Charles Webb, father of four and miraculous counselor of thousands of children, died after a long and most difficult existence following two strokes.
I met Charles in 1978 when we both began our counseling work at New Horizons Ranch, a residential treatment center for abused, neglected children. We were hired only two weeks apart. Previously, we had both worked, unknown to each other, at the State School (for incarcerated kids) for a year or two. Both of us were city boys, me from the San Francisco Bay Area, and Charles from Port Arthur. Way out in the country, we were introduced to occasional snakes, foot-long centipedes and me, unfortunately, to a brown recluse spider.
In 1980, as I lay dangerously ill from my spider bite, the only co-worker to come see me was Charles. When he came in my hospital room, due to his size, he had to wear a gown on his left side and another on his right. Although I was racked with pain, the giant yellow combination accented by a silly looking surgical mask had me doubled over in laughter and love for my friend.
I left the Ranch in 1982 and began counseling different populations and different ages. For twenty-something years, Charles worked only with the most severely abused of children. The Ranch owner, knowing the power and beauty of Charles’s magnificent voice, asked him to create a children’s choir. He created one of the most beautiful and amazing choirs in the state. They toured numerous cities, calling attention to not only the needs of children in residential treatment, but also the joy and wonder of magically performed music.
He finally retired, but was always drawn to the aid of children. He was hired by the local MHMR, but the stroke of the previous year disabled him too much. He finished his long and illustrious career with me as a therapist in my office. I felt then, as I do now, that our final opportunity to work together was our gift from God. Shortly thereafter, he was felled by the second stroke. He lay in the nursing home, with occasional trips to the hospital for a year and a half. He was immobilized and his already weakened voice became inaudible. His caretaker and love, Jane Cadena, was by his side throughout the terrible ordeal. I’m certain his final months were made so much more bearable by being cared for by Jane’s nursing abilities and her great and loyal love of Charles.
Charles once told me that he was at Wal-Mart when a twenty-four year old man shouted out for everyone to hear, “There’s Charles Webb! He’s the man that raised me! He’s the man that saved my life!” Although embarrassed, he was thrilled to the bottom of his heart to have succeeded in saving this young man’s life with his wondrous counseling. I wonder what the other thousand grown children would say.
It is likely that Charles Webb’s work with kids was some of the most gifted and blessed of all men. We have lost a great man. God bless you, my loving friend. I will miss you for the rest of my life.