March 22 group: (L-R) Rick Waggener, Clayton Carver,
Ed Fleming, and Jenny Bennett. Photo by Mike Harrington.

In Memoriam:
Charlie Klabunde

"You Only Have To Go Right Up The Middle."

Charlie joined the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club in May, 1965. Over the next fifty years, he led many hiking outings for the Club. At various times, Charlie served the Club as vice-president, president, and director. He was our long-time newsletter and handbook editor. He coordinated our spring and fall photo contests.Charlie was a maintainer of the Llewellyn Branch section of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies. He was a renowned off-trail hiking enthusiast and a staunch conservation and wilderness advocate.

Up until late 2014, Charlie was still serving as a director for the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, a contributor to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and the treasurer of Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, a post he held for 42 years.

Charlie was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years prior to his death. He became seriously ill in November 2014 and moved into assisted living. His condition deteriorated rapidly in late January, 2015 and he died on February 7, 2015 at age 83.

Charlie will be missed greatly by the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and all those who knew him. What an extraordinary man, and an enduring inspiration to us all. We celebrate his life and honor his fifty years as a vital part of SMHC. He exemplified the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. Charlie's legacy will live on in our hearts and minds.

Rest in peace, old friend.

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Charles E. Klabunde was born in Champaign, llinois on October 28, 1931, the eldest child of the late Walter and Harriet Klabunde of Lewiston, NY. Charlie had a sister, the late Suzanne Cantor of Mahwah, NJ. He is survived by his brother Philip Klabunde of Wilmington, DE.

Charlie was graduated from Lehigh University, and earned a master's in physics from Illinois University. He was hired by Oak Ridge National Labs in 1956 to work as a nuclear physicist. Charlie retired with distinction in 1996, after 40 years with ORNL.

Charlie was an accomplished folk dancer who was a regular at Oak Ridge Folk Dancers and Knoxville Contra Dance at Jubilee Community Arts. He built and flew many radio-controlled airplanes over the years. He also was quite the audiophile, amassing a large collection of music. He had a lifelong interest in photography.

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On March 22, 2015, a small group of hikers including former Club presidents Mike Harrington and Ed Fleming descended into the headwaters of Lester Prong in the Smokies below the Appalachian Trail and the Jumpoff. The Lester Prong area was well-known to Charlie, who had led many Club outings out of Lester Prong. The group dispersed a portion of his cremains at what was named "Charlies Rock". The late Jenny Bennett organized the trip, but was not able to make the hike down into Lester due to her knee issue.

The SMHC held a memorial hike on the Porters Creek Trail on Saturday, May 17 with a dispersal of the remaining cremains near the old SMHC cabin. This was followed by a time of food and fellowship at Mynatt Park in Gatlinburg. Many of Charlie's friends, fellow hikers and Club members took part.

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Here is Charlie's obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/knoxnews/obituary.aspx… Through a recent bequest by a Club member and friend of Charlie's, the obituary guestbook will stay online permanently. There are many tributes to Charlie on the guestbook.

Here is the late Jenny Bennett's tribute to Charlie.