Charlie Brakebill is Vice President for Development Emeritus at the University of Tennessee.  Following service in WWII, he graduated from UT in 1948, taught Vocational Agriculture in high school, and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.  He then worked as sales manager for Bacon Ice Cream Company.  He joined the TN Air National Guard and was again called to active duty when the Guard was deployed to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany during the Berlin Crisis.  While in Germany he served as Executive Officer for the 450 Guardsmen called to duty.  In 1962 he was recruited by UT President Dr. Andy Holt to help build the newly formed fundraising program at the University of Tennessee.  He worked for the UT system from 1962 until his retirement in 1996.  Working with Dr. Ed Boling and Dr. Joe Johnson, he helped develop UT's fundraising programs statewide and on each campus, built a successful deferred giving program, and helped guide a number of successful campaigns.  Throughout his career he emphasized, by example, the importance of building relationships in order to secure major gifts.  He and his wife Joyce had been married 62 years when she passed away in 2009.  They have two children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


Charlie and Anthelmette’s relationship was uniquely special.  A small town, farm boy from Tennessee who grew up with no electricity and running water, and a young French woman, determined to become a pharmacist. 


It was the qualities of these two that brought them together when Charlie helped her family lift a piano into their home.  As an engineer rebuilding Rennes, still considered a battle zone, Anthelmette took Charlie’s mind off the ugliness of war…and for Anthelmette, with her family and country trying to keep hope, this big-hearted GI was a Godsend. 


After the initial meeting around the piano, Charlie would be invited over to dinners, and for the next eight months, he and Anthelmette strolled the botanical gardens of Thabor Park during weekends; often walking miles just to deliver each other a note.


After Hitler’s surrender, Charlie’s Captain alerted his unit they would be involved in the Japan invasion.  Fearing certain death, Charlie left France without telling Anthelmette it was the end.  During their last night together, when Charlie’s buddies came by her home to pick him up, Charlie asked them to go ahead, that he would walk home so he could spend a few extra hours with her.


Charlie returned stateside, and after the bombs were dropped on Japan he remained stateside through the war’s end.   Charlie and Anthelmette continued to write, but knew they belonged in their home-countries and would need to move on.  They each married in 1948, each had two kids, and each always held a place in their hearts for their WWII sweetheart. 


In 2013, with the help of a French professor and her Aunt, a journalist in France, Charlie was reconnected to Anthelmette’s family.  Anthelmette passed away in 2007, but Charlie flew over to meet her family, and placed flowers on her grave…finally saying goodbye.


© 2018 The Piano Love Affair