Charles Neil Lundgren, Sr. was born in Elgin, Texas on October 16th, 1928. He was born, at home, in a house that is still standing and is located on 2nd street. Welcoming him were members of the Oscar Lundgren, Oscar Davis, John Stenholm and Hugh Rankin families. His parents were Luther E. and Ora Davis Lundgren. He was also welcomed by his older brother, Wallace, a fighter pilot in World War II and forever Charles’ hero, and older sister, Mary Ann who was able to speak comforting words to Charles in his last days here on earth. They were doting siblings who always made sure their younger brother was okay. He was baptized at an early age at the First Baptist Church of Elgin. Growing up in a small town, enabled him to make life long friends who also became life long friends of his wife and children. He had a wonderful childhood, enjoying Sunday family dinners at the Stenholm & Lundgren farms in Kimbro and at the Davis farm on Old McDade Road, now the Davis Subdivision, and playing at the Rankin house located on Avenue F where he and his cousin, Curtis Ray, would pull twigs off the tree for Grandma Rankin to dip her snuff.
In high school he excelled in sports-football, baseball and track. He was an all-district halfback in 1946-a team he said had 12 or more Lundgrens playing on it. The Houston Post Newspaper compared him to the great football legend, Bobby Layne. A quote from the article said, “Anyway, not only from all accounts this Lundgren can hit a gnat in the eye with a football, he can put a mustache on that gnat too!” Charles made the 1946 Austin American All-Central Texas Team. His cousin, James Donald Dawson, a retired sports writer, said Charles was one of the best athletes of his era in Elgin and that he was a great baseball player-first base. Charles hit the first home run out of the new baseball field, which is now the site of the Elgin Recreation Center. After high school, Charles received a scholarship to Hardin-Simmons, a powerhouse football school in that era. At that time, college wasn’t for him. He said he hitchhiked home because he was homesick. In his haste, he left behind the new clothes his mother had mailed to his dorm room.
Charles married Elwanda McGee, also an Elginite. They were married 68 years. He said marrying our mother was the best decision he ever made. They had three children: Donna Gayle, Charles Neil Jr (Little Charlie) and Rhonda Jane.
He came from a long line of brick masons and he decided to learn this honorable trade. His grandfather, Oscar Davis, was a brick mason who did the brick work on 14 of the historic buildings and churches in downtown Elgin. He, Elwanda, Donna and Charlie moved to Corpus Christi in 1952 and he began working for his uncles Ben and Dale Davis, owners of Davis Construction. During this time, Charles built many schools, churches and orphanages in South Texas. Even so, he always instructed his grandsons not to touch his brick trowel because he didn’t want them to become brick masons like him. He said, “Treat it like a snake. Don’t touch it!” His third child, Rhonda, was born in Corpus. In 1961, they returned to Elgin, vowing to not leave Elgin again.
After retiring as a brick mason, his adult life in Elgin consisted of being a cattle rancher, eating lunch with his parents, and a golfer. Before there was a golf course close, he and many men of Elgin played on the nine hole golf course Buddy Prewitt built at Prewitt Brickyard. The young boys who lived at the brickyard would come out and caddy for the men, including Charles. They always yelled out, “ Let me caddy for you Mr. Charlie.” Some of those young boys ended up winning the state golf championship in the late 1950s. There was a time in his life, when he was playing golf daily. Because he felt a little guilty about enjoying life so much, he did his best to make sure it was not detected. We all knew, including our mother, but we didn’t let on that we knew. Let that be a lesson to us all, please take time to enjoy life by doing the things you love! He even herded his cattle with a golf club!
Many remember Lundgren’s Cafe - a well-known Elgin restaurant owned by Elwanda and Charles. It was open from 1965- 1985 and was know for its great chicken fried steaks, hamburgers, enchiladas and French fries. All three children worked at the cafe at one time or another, as did many other high school students.
Besides golf, he also enjoyed being a grandfather. He taught most of the grandchildren how to drive by taking them out to the farm in his pickup-one truck was named “cream pea” because of its color. Or, he would pick them up after school and go on rides around town and the countryside. At Christmas, he would buy hams for all of his tenants and enlist the help of grandkids to help him wrap the hams and deliver them. During this time, he often would sing. Some of the songs the kids remember are: Ernest Tubb - On my way to Italy from the Gulf of Mexico, Country Bumpkin, and some song he made up about the Xo Chi Minh Trail. His grandson, Gary, would cover his ears and say, “Don’t sing that song, Grandpa” and we would all laugh. He was a great grandfather who was witty and fun, but could get a little exasperated if one of them lost his TV remote. His grandchildren not only loved and respected him, but had great fun with him.
There was sadness in his life also. His son was born with Cystic Fibrosis. He and Elwanda made sure that Charlie had as normal life as he could. Because of their parenting and care, Charlie, who passed away in 1977, was able to live a longer than usual life as a CF patient. The death of grandson, Gary, in 1991was also a sad time in his life, and once again he had to face tragedy. When Elwanda became sick, he took as good of care of her as she always did of him during their entire married life.
In September of 2019, he was selected to be in the Elgin High School Hall of Honor. He rarely ever mentioned his high school athletic days except to brag on someone else, so this was a pleasant surprise to see him honored in this way. He was honored at a banquet and at the Friday night football game.
His latter days were spent shopping at HEB where he got to visit with a lot of people, taking care of rental property and cooking for himself and Elwanda. He was a good cook and later learned to cook his one cup of pinto beans in a crock pot so he wouldn’t burn them!
Rhonda and Donna’s friends all loved being around him just as they loved being with Elwanda. They were always included in parties and travel. They were young at heart and lots of fun. We will miss his sense of humor, his advice and just talking to him.
He is proceeded in death by his parents, his wife, Elwanda, his brother, Wallace, his son, Charles N Lundgren, Jr., his grandson Gary Snowden, Jr. and son in-law , Gary “Bubba” Snowden. He is also proceeded in death by brother in-laws, Leslie Lind and Howard “Buddy” McGee and sister in-law Rosie Lundgren, nieces, Sandy Lind and Melodie Lundgren Bolton.
He is survived by his daughters, Donna Snowden and Rhonda Moore (Ronnie). His grandchildren, Tracy Ortiz (Pascual) Jackie Moore (Brandon), Candace Amini (Amin), Leif Moore (Amber) and Jett Moore. His great-grandchildren, Ethan, Braylon, Charlie, Jalen, Paloma, Dylan, Abra, Alexander, Luma, and Leila.
The family would like to thank Gella Martinez, Jimmie Lewis, Marva Hunter and Lori Stifflemire for the love and care they gave to our father. They made it possible for him to continue to live in his home and have the wonderful quality of life he enjoyed up until the last three months. A special thank you to his Lundgren first cousin, Karin Barker and her husband, Bob, who for the last year delivered his dinner to his home once a week and stayed to visit with him and his Davis first cousin, James Dawson, who called regularly from Sacramento to check on Charles. Thank you to New Haven Assisted Living in Bastrop- the staff and facilities there were amazing. Thank you to Serenity Hospice, especially to nurse Amanda. We appreciate you all.
A viewing will be held 12:00-7:00 PM Friday, September 11, 2020, Providence-Jones Family Funeral Home. A Celebration of Charles’ Life will be held 11:00 AM Saturday, September 12, 2020, First Baptist Church, Elgin. He will be laid to rest in the Elgin Cemetery.
In memory of Charles may be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at 4550 Montgomery Ave. Suite 1100, N Bethesda, MD 20814
Arrangements are entrusted to Providence-Jones Family Funeral Home