HETTINGER — Dr. Charles (Charlie/Chuck/Doc) Frederick Uecker, D.V.M., 87, passed away peacefully Dec. 1, 2012, at Western Horizons Care Center, Hettinger, where he had lived for the past eight months. Though incapable of speaking during his last hours of life, he was able to have communion with his family before his death.
He was born Aug. 22, 1925, in Dickinson, to Theodore Sr. and Nanette Conner Uecker. Charles helped support his family during the depression by starting to work at the Coca Cola Bottling Plant in Dickinson at age 9. During the summers, he worked at various ranches including the HT Ranch south of Medora.
At age 17, Charles enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served as a private first class with the 5th Marine Division, Company D, Second Battalion, 27th Regiment, which was one of the units that spearheaded the invasion of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945, during World War II. Only 94 of the 248 men of his company survived the invasion. Charles was honorably discharged May 8, 1946, and received a Presidential Citation for his military service.
After Iwo Jima, he was assigned to help care for Japanese cavalry horses during the American occupation of Japan. There, Charles was influenced to become a veterinarian by a Japanese cavalry officer. Upon returning from the military, he attended undergraduate college at Dickinson State University and Montana State University and then went on to earn his doctorate of veterinary medicine from Colorado State University in 1954.
Charles married Edna L. Bentz on Feb. 19, 1950, in Dickinson and they moved to Hettinger, after graduation from Colorado State.
In 1961, he opened the West River Veterinary Clinic, which was the first accredited large animal veterinary clinic in North Dakota. He served on the North Dakota Board of Animal Health, the North Dakota State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and held all state offices of the North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association, including president. He served as a delegate to the American Veterinary Medical Association and was a lifetime honorary member of the Veterinary Medical Association. In 1985, Charles was chosen North Dakota Veterinarian of the Year. During his career, he published a number of articles in professional journals and was a guest speaker for topics related to large animal surgery and medicine at area/state and national professional meetings. After retiring from regular practice in 1993, Charles worked for the state of North Dakota as the State Veterinarian in 1995 and again in 1997.
Active in the Hettinger Lutheran Church, Charles served at times in most of the church offices and taught Sunday school several years. He was a Boy Scout Leader and was active with the Hettinger Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, American Legion and the Dickinson Elks.
Chuck led a very active life. He loved the outdoors, hunting pheasants, ducks and geese and would be out with his dogs and friends almost every day of the hunting season. He enjoyed reading, especially history. He built one of the largest model railroad lay outs in North Dakota in the basement of his home. He loved planting and gardening and was awarded the Outstanding Agriculturists Award from North Dakota State University in 1993.
He was a great father and devoted husband, still writing love notes to Edna several months before his death. Charles and Edna took care of their severely disabled daughter, Sherida, at home for 35 years. He will be remembered for trying to get the family interested in hunting, horseback riding, camping, gardening and cleaning the horse barn. He was also known for having lots of energy and drive, a great sense of humor, the gift of gab and screaming during horror movies to scare the kids.
Charles was preceded in death by his parents, Theodore Sr. and Nan Uecker; his sister, Betty Nan Watson; and one daughter, Sherida.
He is survived by his wife, Edna; one daughter, Korliss (Jerry Grossman); one son, Jonathan; three grandchildren, Elijah Uecker, Katya Grossman and Gabriel Uecker; two brothers, Ted (Nancy) and Jack (Clover); and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. MST Friday, Dec. 7, at Hettinger Lutheran Church with the Rev. Kathleen Dettmann officiating. Interment with full military honors will be at Hettinger Cemetery. After interment, his family invites all to the Lutheran Church basement to celebrate and remember his life.
Visitation will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. MST Thursday at Centennial Chapel (old Congregational Church), Hettinger.
Memorial gifts can be given to Hettinger Lutheran Church and the Dakota Buttes Museum, Hettinger.