Charles (Chuck) William Graham was a man with a multitude of talents. He was the kind of man who could start a computer company from scratch and make it into a successful international corporation. He could plan a family holiday trip to Hawaii and make sure no one missed out on a single adventure, whether it was hiking through a volcano, snorkeling in the ocean or going on a kayak excursion. He could juggle a houseful of guests and make an omelet they would never forget. He could pack up a carful of camping gear and take his wife Julie and daughters Kelli and Leah to explore some of North Carolina’s most beautiful outdoor vistas.
Chuck could do all these things because of a unique combination of brilliance, ingenuity and generosity of spirit. Together with his ability to connect so instantly and effectively with others, it brought him success and admiration in the business world and in his personal life.
Chuck moved to North Carolina in 1990 and was a co-founder of the Salem Automation computer company, based in Winston-Salem. On Monday (Nov. 8, 2010), at the young age of 49, Chuck succumbed to cancer after a hard-fought five-year battle with the disease. His death cut short a life filled with a multitude of accomplishments and plans for future endeavors.
Charles William Graham was born in Dayton, Ohio, and raised in Centerville, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. Early on, he exhibited an innate talent for science and computers. He invented a variety of contraptions, including a hurricane machine for the science fair and contraptions to keep his nosy sisters Kim and Janet out of his room.
Throughout his life, Chuck enjoyed being outdoors. He was an avid fisherman who delighted in hiking and camping. In the winter, he was always planning his next ski trip – a sport he enjoyed sharing with his daughters. Summers were filled with vacations to the beach, where Chuck enjoyed golfing, body surfing and time with family and friends. made complete by enjoying vacations.
At Archbishop Alter High School, he excelled in the classroom and on the wrestling team. He went on to college at Ohio State University, where he earned two degrees, one in Business Administration and the other in Computer Engineering. While at OSU, he joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and was an active member. He also met his future wife of 25 years, Julie Thompson, in a marketing class at Ohio State. She was a fellow Business student with many similar interests. Soon they were dating and Chuck and Julie were married in 1985.
Chuck’s time as an OSU student indoctrinated him as a die-hard Buckeyes fan who celebrated their victories, especially the national championship season in 2002. Each season, he and his daughters made the trip to Ohio to attend one game at Ohio Stadium.
Upon graduation, Chuck was hired by Pittsburgh Plate Glass. He later moved on to a small process control company, CRISP Automation, held by Square D Corporation. Transitioning into sales, Chuck moved his family to Charlotte, where he was the Southeast sales representative. After the company was bought by a French corporation, he took a buyout and invested in a small computer company with four other partners. That small company, Salem Automation, grew into an international success story with business interests nationwide and in Puerto Rico and other parts of the world.
While Chuck was succeeding in business, he and his wife, Julie, were tending to their growing family. Their first child, a daughter Kelli, was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1989. Soon after, the family moved to Charlotte, and in 1992, a second daughter, Leah, was born. Chuck was very active in his daughters’ lives. He encouraged them to be successful in school and made every effort to attend all their extracurricular activities such as music, dance and chorus recitals, Girl Scouts, as well as countless hours shuttling them to and from swim practice and a multitude of swim meets. He was very proud of Kelli and Leah and loved them dearly.
Shortly after moving to Charlotte, he joined St. Gabriel’s parish, where he and his family enjoyed being members.
In his spare time, Chuck enjoyed traveling and planning trips with his family. Whether it was camping with family and friends or planning an elaborate trip to the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, exploring a number of the national parks, as well as visits to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Boston to learn more of the country’s history. Chuck had many other trips he had planned for his family in the future.
Chuck had a particular love of the ocean and the beach, enjoying the Outer Banks, Kiawah Island, Charleston, Wild Dunes, and especially his beloved Hawaii, where he honeymooned and then returned several times with his family.
He was first diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in 2005. He immediately began treatment, which continued intermittently over the next five years. While battling his disease, he continued to run his company and had even begun work to launch several other businesses. He also maintained a busy home life and continued to pursue his many passions of golf, travel and spending time with family and friends.
Despite debilitating side effects from his treatment, Chuck always sustained his sense of humor and positive outlook. In his 49 years, he accomplished much and touched many. His spirit and legacy will never be forgotten.
He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Julie Thompson Graham, daughters Kelli and Leah, parents Charles and Evelyn Graham, sisters Kim Graham and Janet Graham.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Carolinas HealthCare Foundation at http://www.givechf.org. Specifically, please indicate the contribution is for The Rare and Complex Cancer Funds or Blumenthal Cancer Center Endowment in memory of Chuck Graham.