“Hey, how ya doin’?” Charlie Runge
greeted everyone with a smile, genuine attention, and a real interest in knowing the answer to his question. He really wanted
to know how we were doing.
I first met Charlie in about 1991 when he was a young administrator at the Milwaukee County Medical Complex and I was a young physician on the hospital Cancer Committee. It was a time of great transition and a particularly tough time for the County Hospital. The institution was hemorrhaging money and county government was looking for a way to get out of the health care business. Charlie was a young junior-level administrator thrown into the midst of upheaval.
He was almost too good to be true. Charlie apparently never took the class in graduate school where he should have learned that hospital administrators and physicians are natural-born enemies. He was level-headed, pleasant, and a great listener. He was opinionated and honest, yet he knew how to convey his opinions in ways that always respected his listeners.
No one was surprised when he joined the team as Froedtert purchased the County Hospital in 1995. He helped blend diverse sets of programs, facilities and staff. Although I observed the process from a distance, Charlie was part of a strong, dedicated group that made many, many innovative and difficult decisions. The hospital in which we work today is partly his legacy.
Over the years, Charlie always took time to chat when our paths crossed. Despite his growing stature in the organization, he gave the impression he had plenty of time. Although he picked up a hint of gray over the years, his hair and his suit remained impeccable.
At all points in his career, Charlie was a person of character who lived his values. He was a friend, a husband, a parent, and a role model, fulfilling all of his roles with understated brilliance.
As poet Bessie Stanley wrote: To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Needless to say, Charlie was a success in every way. He weathered some difficult transitions over the years. I will miss knowing that he is helping to guide us through the transitions yet to come. And I will miss those moments in the hallway where he listened and nodded as we spoke about our lives in the community. If you would like to make a donation in Charlie's memory, click here for the Froedtert Foundation or here for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin where Charlie was a board member.
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Beautifully written, perfectly said.
- Kathy Myers