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Local Educator and Founder of Chaparral High School & Excelsior Education Center Charles Gehrke Passed Away

PHOTO: Gehrke Family

Charles Gehrke • April 23, 1944 – June 3, 2021

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Charles was born in Detroit, Michigan, and the family moved to Anaheim for his senior year in high school. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and his Masters’s in Education from AZUSA Pacific. His first teaching job was at Hosler Junior High in Lynwood for 11 years.

Chuck/Charles met Jeanette Beshears while in college, and they married in 1973. Jeanette got a teaching position at Hook Jr. High in Victorville and prompted the move to the high desert where they would stay. When Serrano High School opened, she moved to Phelan, and Charles joined her a couple of years later.

Charles was hired at Serrano High School as a math teacher and a couple of years later became the founder and principal of Chaparral High School when Snowline Joint Unified School District was formed. In 1996, he established Excelsior Education Center in Victorville.
Excelsior opened with 50 students, and after many years it currently has 2200 students across eight school sites, including one in Phelan that opened in 2007. All total, Charles worked 40 years in the educational field. He was also on the Snowline School Board for a term.

Jeanette’s love of horses added experiences to Charles’s hobbies. He rode and drove various horses. They established a Horse Drawn Carriage Wedding business using Jubi, an Arabian horse. Charles also did some competitive distance riding, horse showing, parading in Arab costume, as well as driving. He even rode in The Pasadena Rose Parade one year.

Charles and Jeanette have two Children, Karl and Kari. As a family, they frequently traveled to Hawaii as Charles was on the Cliff’s Club Board on the island of Kaui. For California fun, each summer for years, the family traveled to Lake Mamie above Mammoth Lakes. For extra excitement, they competed in the Canoe Races at Horseshoe Lake, even winning a few races over the years. Family memories from these times are some of the best.

Charles was also actively involved with Victorville Rotary Club and then helped establish the Adelanto Rotary Club, where they provided a wide assortment of services to the local community. After retiring, Charles researched aspects of Mindfulness. He created a program with others who provided services to many schools throughout the High Desert. Tools for Success was another very successful program. He was a founding member of the local Toastmaster’s Club. He was very active in the local California Retired Teacher’s Association as a member and officer.

Throughout Charles’s life, he supported and helped many people as an educator, guide, loving husband and father, board member, and community member. His positive outlook will continue through his friends and family.

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