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Friday, January 26, 2024
2:00 - 3:00 pm (Central time)
Charles F. Sears was born May 28, 1927, in his parents’ home in Campbell, Nebraska. He was welcomed into the world by parents Ema (Specht) Sears, Frederick Sears, and sister Mary Jayne Sears. Chuck’s biological father and mother divorced during his toddler years. His mother married Burt Lyons, who was like a father to him. The family lived in Edgar, Nebraska, where Burt was a barber and Chuck’s grandfather owned a butcher shop.
Chuck died December 28, 2023 at his home in Hastings. Although he declined in recent months, he remained able to joke and visit with nurses, family, and friends.
Chuck’s first job was in Edgar, at a filling station. When he was about 15, the family moved to Hastings and he worked at Stein Brothers Store, first dusting and later assembling furniture. About a year later, he went to work for Dutton’s because the pay was a few cents an hour more. At Dutton’s he was a clerk at the front desk of the parts’ department. Chuck graduated from Hastings High School and then worked for Debus Bakery delivering bread to small towns around Hastings.
Chuck soon enlisted in the Air Force, where he served two tours – first in WWII, then in the Korean War. He was rejected from flight school because of a heart murmur. Instead, he was assigned as an air traffic controller. Most of his service was in California. Upon returning to Hastings, Chuck worked for Versaw Construction. He learned to operate a crane and was very good at it. Chuck recounted stories about working for Versaw for the rest of his life. It was his favorite job.
Chuck met Juanita Willey, the love of his life, soon after leaving the Air Force. They were introduced by a mutual friend. Juanita had a daughter, Tamerra, and Chuck embraced her as his own. Before long, they welcomed sons, Charles Scott and Gregory Kipp. Their lives together were filled with happy, exciting, and endearing love.
Unfortunately, the construction job was unpredictable. It often involved trips out of town and layoffs. And he liked the job so much, he sometimes donated his paycheck back to the general fund – for the good of the company.
At Juanita’s urging, Chuck took the civil service exam and applied for the job as fireman for the City of Hastings. There he collected many stories he would recount for years to come. He retired in the early 1980s with the rank of Captain.
On the side, Chuck had a small used car dealership. Although not monetarily successful, it modeled a spirit of altruism the family adopted. He was a generous soul who loved his family and pets – and liked about everyone else. He often loaned tools and sold spare auto parts at reduced prices. On occasion, his children witnessed him give entire automobiles to someone down on his luck.
When someone knocked on the door at the Sears house, it was hard to tell if it would be someone with $100 in his pocket needing a truck to get to work the next day or one of the millionaires who shared his passion for cars. He welcomed all visitors with the same kindness and dignity.
Juanita loved him for his generosity. If she had the check from the fire department, she could add it to her own income, and they lived a good life. The children remember wanting for nothing.
But it wasn’t for his jobs or career that Chuck was well known. It was for his daredevil activities. Race cars were his method of choice. He started racing when he was 16 – maybe 17 years old. He was a minor. Chuck drove under a false name, Bill Tague, because he didn’t want his mother to find out he was racing. He claimed she worried unnecessarily. A google search of Bill Tague brings up the name Chuck Sears yet today.
He completed nearly 500 events in eight different states in his career. In addition to local drivers, he spent time on the track with national stars Tiny Lund, Rex Mays, Roger McClusky, and Lee Petty. Those who raced against him considered him a fierce competitor and one of the best drivers to come out of Central Nebraska.
Chuck loved the speed and the challenge of racing. He was also interested in the mechanics of the automobile. Before computerized gadgets were added to cars he could often be found in his garage, hands covered with grease, working on an engine.
Chuck was a founding member of the Nebraska Hot Rod Racing Association. It was at a time when hot rod racing was dangerous and a popular form of entertainment. In later years, one of his fans described him as “the Fonz” of Hastings.
By the time of Chuck’s relationship with Juanita, he was racing stock cars. They belonged to a group of young people who traveled between small towns in Nebraska and Kansas and excited crowds at the racetrack. He raced car #2. It was known as the Deuce and owned by Jim Gessford. Chuck quit stock car racing in 1957. When asked why, he simply said he was done.
Drag racing was a popular activity in the 1960s. He raced for a while, but it never held his passion like hot rods and stock cars. Although he gave many of them away, the family still has trophies from all three eras.
He became seriously involved again in racing in the 1970s, when his son, Scott, began motocross racing. Chuck coached a group of Scott’s friends, and they did well on the track. They also formed a deep bond of friendship.
Chuck was inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003.
In their retirement, Chuck and Juanita traveled from Coast to Coast and Border to Border on his Honda Goldwing. South Dakota and Colorado were their favorite places to visit. It was a happy time in their lives.
Chuck was preceded in death by his wife, Juanita Willey Sears, in March of 2023. He mourned her loss deeply during his final months.
Also preceding him in death were his son, Charles Scott Sears, in 1983, and his grandson, Riley Adam Sears, in 2022. His parents and sister passed away some time ago.
Survivors include daughter, Tamerra Sears Pauley, and son, Greggory Kipp Sears. Grandchildren include William “Chip” Pauley IV, Elizabeth Pauley, Kayce Sears, and Shoni Sears. His great-grandchildren are Kylynn Sears and Everlynn Sears.
Services to celebrate Chuck’s life will take place Friday, January 26 at 2 p.m. at First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 7th and Burlington in Hastings with Pastor Joel Remmers officiating. Memorials may be given to First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hastings.