For My Father-in-Law Pete…

I haven’t  been online for a week now. We made it home from South Dakota a week ago Wednesday around 6:00p.m., picked up Yoda from boarding at the veterinary, and came home to begin laundry… A typical coming home. The next morning we received the call that my father-in-love had passed away… 

Pete Chapman at our Texas house in July 2019. 

Pete about age 5 with his sister-in-law Dorrace Wilson Chapman ~ 
about 1945. Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Hockensmith.

So we finished the laundry, Charles packed the car, we made plans for Yoda to go back into boarding, and began the 1700+ mile drive on Friday to Northern California.

photograph courtesy Mary Ellen (Shull) Hockensmith ~ 
Pete is the baby right in front.

Charles R. “Pete” Chapman, Sr. was born on June 2nd, 1940. While we were home, my mother-in-love Gini wanted to have a birthday party for him. My SIL Jodi had planned a surprise 80th birthday party for him but with the pandemic she had to cancel that plan. He would have enjoyed the surprise!

Neighbors towards the rear, friend Debbie Carriker, nephew Corey on BBQ detail, and Gini Chapman visiting with neighbors and friends who came. We all social distanced but at this point everyone has been staying home so no one is sick.

Pete was five days short of turning 80 years… Here he is as a baby around 1941. So cute!

photo courtesy Mary Ellen Hockensmith ~ I see
our grandson Milo in Pete’s baby picture.

Pete was one of five children born into a farming family in Berryville, Virginia. He loved the car scene of the 1950’s and worked on cars himself for family and friends. He has a famous nephew Edd Shull who was head of the Republican party back in the 1970’s. Edd’s mother, Nellie, is Pete’s older sister by 20 years. Pete was born 15 years after his next oldest brother. He and Edd grew up together.

Clarke County High School – 1959 graduate

He played football in high school and his team went onto win their conference league, what we would now consider as winning the state meet. 

He looks sooo young in his high school portrait!

He was recruited by the Washington Redskins as a running back, but after talking with his father about the offer, his father convinced him that it wasn’t a solid career idea. Pete once told me that he would have earned $7000 playing for the Redskins. He went into the United States Air Force as a fireman shortly thereafter serving during the Korean War in Alaska and at Stead AFB, Reno, Nevada. He made $700 then, 1/10th what he would have made playing football. I forget if that was per month or per year. Hindsight… (Always the way, huh?) 

He never regretted it, though, because…

photo courtesy Gini Chapman

Pete met Gini at a USO dance in Reno as she had gone to high school in Truckee, California. She came with someone else but Pete stole her heart! They married 56 days later… 


My father-in-law finished up his 3 years with the USAF, my husband was born while they were in Reno. Then Pete and Gini moved back to Virginia where he had once worked as a gravedigger for  his older brother (Chapman Construction) in high school. Jodi was born two years later.

Gini told me a funny story that Pete once ran over a box of dynamite and a box of blasting caps with one of the company trucks! Somebody had left them in the wrong spot and luckily they weren’t attached to each other. He also had the brakes go out on a company dump truck and his brother blamed him for that though it was just faulty brakes.  

He worked for over 30 years as a manager for Morgan Tire Company when they moved to California. Gini’s family was from California and Pete’s brother worked at Mather AFB. Morgan Tire was in downtown Sacramento and my husband worked there for 6 years while in high school and college. 

When I met Pete, he and Gini owned their own coffeeshop in Rancho Cordova, California, called “The Back Burner.” They have lived in RC for 53 years now and were married 58 years.

Pete was a natural-born salesman and worked in his later years for Sam’s Club serving pizza and other product samples to customers before that all went private (their loss!). He then worked as an installer for a start-up coffee business putting machines and product in local AM/PM and gas stations ~ “Cappuccinos To Go.” Always willing to help a friend, he built fences, took older friends grocery shopping or out to eat. 

Bill Brown ~ Pete’s best friend

He was best friends with his neighbor of 56 years, Bill Brown, and his wife Mary before she passed from Alzheimer’s. Bill’s death last year while they were out visiting us hit Pete really hard. I think this was a deciding factor in Pete’s passing.

He and Gini cooked many meals for church members over the years, for the Odd Fellows and Rebekah pancake breakfasts which benefited local youth, and volunteered singing and playing guitar for Sunday worship services. Pete was always serving.

Something goofy like Pete would say…

He’d fix your washer or dryer (like mine) and always call and check up on you. I’ll miss him terribly…

Thank you for being my father-in-law,

10 thoughts on “For My Father-in-Law Pete…”

  1. Barb, I'm sorry for yours and Charles' loss. Pete sounds like he was, indeed, a fine man of great character. We share the same birthday. May he forever rest in peace.

  2. I'm so sorry, Barb. I love the tribute you wrote — he sounds like a remarkable and kind man. And I love the idea of the birthday party, too. I know he'll be terribly missed.

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