Obituary of Charles E. Trapp Jr.
Col. Charles E. Trapp Jr, USAF retired, 91, after living an out loud life and 46 years with his wife, Susie Trapp, quietly took his final flight on January 8th. He is also survived by his beloved daughters Linda Trapp (and Robert Shook) and Clare Trapp (and Kevin Klink), his first wife and mother of his 3 children, Georgia Conn, as well as a long list of family, close friends, and alumni of “Charlie School.” Charlie was preceded in death by his son, pilot 1st LT Scott Alan Trapp, USAF, who died in service in 1984.
Charlie followed in his father’s (CWO Charles Trapp) distinguished military footsteps by joining ROTC while at Oregon State University. Later, on active duty, he piloted 17 different fixed and rotary wing aircraft and held 7 commands during his 27-year military career, including 5 years assigned to the CIA at Area 51.
All those who knew him will remember his credo: “Know your job, do it well, and look good doing it-- always with a positive attitude.” His service records are filled with descriptions of how well his achievements exemplified that philosophy.
Among his many military awards are the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with 5 oak leaf clusters, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. All were received for his services in search and rescue operations for the Air Force. During 2 tours of duty in Southeast Asia and as operational commander of air rescue operations in SEA, he was significantly involved in the evacuation of Saigon, Phnom Penh, and the recovery of the SS Mayaguez. In total, Colonel Trapp was credited with (directly or as operations commander) saving 182 lives and evacuating over 14,000 people. He continued his leadership with search and rescue support at Mount St. Helens, Guyana, and other sites around the world until his retirement in 1982.
After retiring, Trapp continued his service, working for 13 years as a volunteer mentor primarily to elementary school children in Carmichael, CA. In 2012, he recorded his Vietnam experiences for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, which is available online. He participated in many sports throughout his active years, but golf was “his game.” He thoroughly enjoyed the competition and lively camaraderie with his golf buddies.
Charlie never missed an opportunity to make new friends or share his philosophy with anyone who crossed his path. One of his caregivers wrote, “the Charlie lessons that I have been a part of will remain with me and one day I will carry them on to my children, telling them about the great man that cared enough about me to take his time to teach me how to better myself and my life.”
Colonel Charles Trapp was a force of nature. As his cousin wrote, his big personality matched his stature—and his smile. He will be missed by many, most especially Susie, his cherished wife.
In lieu of flowers or donations, doing something to help others near you would best honor Charlie’s long life of service.