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Obituary of Charles B. Rayner, Sr.
Charles B. “Charlie” Rayner Sr. passed away on August 7 following complications from a stroke. He was a very young-at-heart 94 years old. Charles Beverly Rayner was born in Hartford in 1927. A few years after the tragic death of his mother, he was placed in an orphanage at the age of five, along with his three older brothers. At the orphanage, Charlie was given his own little piece of land to garden, and this was where his lifelong love of gardening began. In 1938, after five years at the orphanage, all four boys were taken in by Bill and Jenny Johnson of Chester, who gave them a wonderful, loving home. As a 16-year-old during World War II, Charlie wanted to join in the war effort, but since he was too young to join the branches of the military in which his three brothers were serving, he joined the Merchant Marines. During his deployment in military supply flotillas, he traveled to many far-off places, including Morocco, Malta, England, France, Spain and Italy. Charlie met his lifelong sweetheart, Mary Miezejeski, on the picket line at a strike at the Pratt-Read factory in 1947. She was just about to turn 17, and he was almost 20. They married in 1948 and had the first of their eight children the next year. Before long they settled into a beautiful spot in Deep River, where they remained for the rest of their nearly 74 years of marriage. He loved his family deeply, above all else, protecting them fiercely and guiding them with love, understanding and, at times, much-needed advice. He made the best oatmeal cookies and stuffed shrimp dinners. Family occasions at the Rayner house were always shared with as many friends as possible around the table. Charlie was a gentle man and the embodiment of sweetness, love, kindness and generosity. He believed in being good and doing good. He was always there to help anyone who needed a leg up, and he held his heart and his mind open to everyone he encountered. He never disliked anyone (unless they really, truly deserved it). He had a strong sense of fairness and fumed at what he saw as wrong in politics and in the world. He set an example for everyone by simply being who he was. With an inventive spirit, resourcefulness and can-do attitude, Charlie could build or fix just about anything, often resurrecting castoffs from the town dump to their original luster. Most famously, he spent years restoring his 1933 Ford pickup truck to showroom condition after years of packing the kids in the back to go camping and using it as a work truck. To this day Charlie’s truck still wins first place in every car show in which it is entered. Charlie cared about his community, and he served on the zoning board of appeals in Deep River for many years. In his younger years he was an avid member of the Deep River horseshoe league and various bowling leagues. In later years, he and Mary found a supportive community in the Deep River Congregational Church. He loved to travel with his family, sharing with them all kinds of wonderful opportunities to explore new places and cultures, taking trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Honduras, the Bahamas, and Europe in addition to exploring countless destinations all over the United States mainland and Hawaii. Baseball was Charlie’s favorite sport. He grew up an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but later became a lifelong Red Sox fan when the Dodgers moved to LA. He was a Little League coach and loved to teach his kids how to hit and catch a baseball. Always a generous and patient mentor, Charlie delighted in passing along his broad and detailed know-how to all of his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and countless other people, young and old, teaching them how to turn a wrench, hammer a nail, grow a garden and a million other useful things. Charlie really knew how to recognize and celebrate the beauty and joy of life, and he helped those around him do the same. He was full of curiosity and wonder, with a keen sense of observation. He so often found something interesting or funny in things that most people hardly noticed, and he delighted in sharing these discoveries with others. Perhaps what was most delightful about Charlie was his wonderfully playful personality and quick wit. He had absolutely the best sense of humor! He was always cracking jokes and trying to make people smile with some cleverly observed, humorous take on things, often taking people by surprise with his understated delivery. He made everyone laugh. He just loved children so much, and they loved him and his decidedly silly sense of humor. In Charlie’s hands, a simple object could be re-imagined in the most delightfully entertaining ways. A banana became a rocking chair or a carrot turned into a race car, complete with seat, steering wheel and tires held on with toothpicks. He could always get kids to giggle and laugh at his imaginative and silly antics. Charlie is survived by his wife, Mary (Miezejeski) Rayner; his children Charlie Jr., Janet, Beverly, Bob, Leslie and Mark; and his 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter, Linda and his son, Michael, and his 3 brothers, Bruce, Beryl and Bob Rayner. A private memorial service for Charlie will be held on August 13, 2022. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Habitat for Humanity, 34 Shunpike Rd., Cromwell, CT 06416.