Charlotte Giles Rountree

March 14, 1942 – May 2, 2023

Growing Up:  Charlotte Anne Giles was born on March 14, 1942, in Baltimore, Maryland to Elizabeth “Bess” Osborne Giles and Carl Ernest Giles.  Her parents told her and all the relatives back home that she was born on November 14 (you can guess why). Her half-sister, Nancy, 11 years older, had to keep the secret. At age 2, a pot of boiling water spilled on her, causing severe burns to her abdomen. Probably she was curious and pulled the pot handle. But her parents couldn’t rule out the possibility that Nancy, who was babysitting her at the time, could have burned her on purpose. Nancy was sent to boarding school and the relationship between the two sisters, while cordial, remained tense for the rest of their lives.

Charlotte grew up in the small town of Oxford, GA. Her house sat between her paternal grandparents’ house and the junior high school where she would eventually teach. She was well-liked and generally well-behaved, with a hint of mischief. This included sometimes sneaking the occasional cigarette! Often a “C” student, she was smart but didn’t try hard in school. Once, after a friend asked her to study with her for a test, the teacher accused Charlotte of cheating after she got an “A.” She would have loved becoming more involved in extracurricular activities, but Oxford was too small to support a high school, and she had to bus to and from school in the neighboring town of Covington.

Charlotte graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Georgia. There was a black woman in her program who eventually became an anchor on CNN, and Charlotte witnessed protests of the integration from her dorm room window. She had roommates who became life-long friends, particularly her friend Jean. They went together to see Robert Kennedy speak in the days before security for celebrities was a concern.  People rushed around Kennedy as he was leaving, and the crowd plastered her against Kennedy, unable to move for some time. After graduating, she returned home and taught English at the school next door. She would wake up at first bell and walk in the back way to her classroom right before the students entered.

Military Life:  Charlotte met Cadet Rance Rountree when a fellow teacher, Rance’s aunt Jenny-Lynn, suggested they meet. She attended his graduation from West Point Military Academy with her parents in June of 1965. In January 1966, they were married in the historic Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Oxford. When Lt. Rountree was sent to Vietnam, Charlotte went back to teaching at her old school for another year. Later, they were stationed at Fort Polk and then Fort Bragg. They bought their first house in nearby Fayetteville for $22,000 and were so house poor that they looked for change in the sofa cushions by the end of the month. Their only child Leigh, a daughter, was born in November of 1969.

Further assignments were Atlanta 1972-1973 (Captain Rountree went back to get a Master’s degree at Georgia Tech); Fort Ord, California 1973-1977; Mannheim, Germany 1977-1980; Fort Monroe, Virginia 1980-1983; Seoul, Korea 1983-1985; and finally the Seattle Corps of Engineers 1985-1989.  Rance, now a lieutenant colonel, retired in 1989 and the couple remained in their home on Mercer Island until their amicable divorce in 1994.

Life as a military wife meant leaving friends and community every three years. Luckily, Charlotte was good at making friends, often through clubs such as the local officers’ wives club and bridge groups. She was the perfect example of Southern charm and hospitality, but she knew how to deliver a well-timed zinger or jibe, to the shock and delight of friends. She was a loving mother, and the tight-knit family of three went on many vacations together. Living in California meant trips to Hawaii, Mexico, Lake Tahoe, and the Pacific Northwest. Living in Germany meant trips to England, The Netherlands, France, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Living in Korea meant trips to the demilitarized zone, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Thailand.

Crafts were always a part of her life. As a young woman she sewed most of her own clothes.  She also did toll painting and stained glass and taught some stained-glass classes. She decorated cakes for her daughter’s birthdays. With no formal training, Charlotte had an innate sense of design, including color, form, and proportion, and her homes were always tastefully decorated and updated.  Likewise, her outfits were always well put together. She knew how to integrate long-lasting, high-quality items with second-hand finds. She also learned to ski and play tennis. In her forties she became a serious doubles player, mostly winning in “C” level leagues and mostly losing in “B” level leagues. In her later years she sewed small house wares such as table runners, wallets, microwave bowls, and bags of many kinds.

She returned to work when Leigh was in high school. In Korea, she worked for the television guide magazine for the one American channel (run by the military). Then she became the public relations manager for the Seoul Sheraton Walker Hill Hotel.  Simultaneously, she wrote the text for (and helped publish) her friend’s art book: “Seoul Sketches, A Visual Narrative of Yi Dynasty Architecture.” Later, she would work at the Washington Society of CPAs in Bellevue, WA, organizing their continuing education programs.

Life as Grandma:  After her divorce, Dave Livingston, a family friend who had divorced some time before, helped occasionally with small jobs around the house. Soon they started dating, around the same time her daughter started dating her future husband. Though never officially married, they became a loving and supportive couple. Once Leigh’s kids came along, they became “Grandma” and “Grandpa Dave.” When the grandkids were young, they would babysit every week. Each Christmas, even when the grandkids were older, they would all build a gingerbread house together. They traveled together on cruises, to their time-share, a trip to Ireland and Scotland, to school reunions, and to trips visiting relatives, including Charlotte’s informal cousin reunions. They participated in several bridge groups together. Each week or so they enjoyed a strictly budgeted trip to the casino. They would split meals in restaurants. And in her final illness, Dave was by her side every day.

She also maintained relationships with many friends such as those from her bridge groups, her tennis group (which eventually became a poker group), and her G.R.I.T.S. group (Girls Raised In The South).

Charlotte Giles Rountree died on May 2, 2023, from kidney failure. Charlotte’s kidney stone removal surgery on March 3 led to severe infection, causing a cascade of medical issues. She surprised herself by living to the age of 81 after having high blood pressure for basically all her adult life, developing genetically predisposed diabetes in her forties, and surviving triple-bypass surgery in her late sixties. She was grateful for a good, long life. She knew her kidney function had been declining for some time and was at peace with death.

Charlotte is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Leigh and David Bangs, her grandchildren Rowen and Laurel, her partner Dave Livingston, his children Shay and Chad, their spouses, and Dave’s grandson.


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