Cover photo for Charles Karnes's Obituary
Charles Karnes Profile Photo
1934 Charles 2019

Charles Karnes

October 26, 1934 — October 2, 2019

Charles Henry Karnes died Oct. 2, 2019 in Durango, Colo., at the age of 84.

Charles was born Oct. 26, 1934, in Denton, Texas, to John Wesley Karnes and Emma Elizabeth Bryant Karnes. The youngest of nine children, Charles' early years were spent on a farm in Denton. Shortly after a fire destroyed the farmhouse and the family moved, his mother died. He was 7.

His father was a contractor, and Charles helped him build homes and other structures as he grew up. He sometimes lived with older married siblings and moved several times during his childhood before returning to Denton for Junior High and Senior High.

At Denton Senior High School, he started dating his future wife, Ann Pemberton. The two married June 30, 1956.

Charles received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas in Austin in 1958. He then pursued his master's degree and doctorate in engineering at UT, teaching classes in the engineering department. He loved to tell Aggie jokes, especially to the family members and friends who attended Texas A&M.

In 1963, Charles began working at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M. Over a 34-year career at Sandia, he worked in many different capacities, from testing explosives in the desert and deep sea research to management and a temporary assignment to Washington, D.C., where he served as a scientific advisor for the Department of Energy.

While he had a thriving career, his biggest priority was to stay involved in the lives of his three children. Charles didn't just take his kids to activities. He became an ice skating judge (after learning the requirements) for daughter Cindy and served as a Boy Scout master, taking son Reagan and other scouts on backpacking trips several times a year. He and Ann both were active volunteers in the Albuquerque Youth Symphony when daughter Sarah played violin in the group. For each child, he figured out ways to be involved in what they wanted to do. Many of his children’s friends, even well into adulthood, felt he was a dad to them in one way or another, too.

Charles was a life-long photographer. He enjoyed shooting landscape photos and macro shots in nature, but he also photographed weddings and other events for those he loved. He had a passion for the outdoors, especially backpacking and skiing. He skied until he was 80.

Charles enjoyed introducing his grandkids to hiking and skiing. With one grandson, he took a “bucket list” trip to Alaska – camera at the ready – with the National Geographic Society.

In retirement, he supervised the construction of his and Ann's dream house in Albuquerque, inspired by the memory of building homes with his father. In 2010, Charles and Ann followed their daughters to Durango.

Everyone who met Charles knew he had high standards, but those who knew him best could count on him whenever there was a need. The iron will cloaked a marshmallow center. He will be missed by his many friends and family members.

Charles is survived by his sister Runelle Karnes Bowman of St. Petersburg, Fla.; his wife of 63 years, Ann Pemberton Karnes of Durango, Colo.; son Charles Reagan Karnes of Texas, daughter Cynthia Karnes Cathcart and husband Greg Cathcart of Durango, and daughter Sarah Karnes of Durango; six grandchildren, four great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
Charles was cremated wrapped in a quilt made by his mother.

In the spring, his ashes will be buried next to his parents in the Karnes' family plot at the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Denton.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Karnes/Bryant Centennial Scholarship at the University of North Texas, which Charles' brother Ray established to honor their parents and goes to science and engineering students Donations may also be made to Hospice of Mercy in Durango.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Charles Karnes, please visit our flower store.


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