He was born in Rockville Centre on July 4, 1925, and eventually moved to Cutchogue, where he had summered on his boat for many years.
In 1949, Charles took on a small independent directory, which he grew and built by expanding coverage through startups, acquisitions and business acumen. He was a pioneer in the yellow page industry, building the oldest and largest independent publisher in the nation. He sold the company in 1986 but remained a consultant until his death. He considered this later period the “dessert of his career,” saying that, as boss, people had to come to him, but as an advisor, they did so because they wanted to.
His employees fondly remember how each morning Charles would walk through the building saying “good morning” to each person in every department, from mailroom to executives. Anyone — worker, advertiser or user offering a suggestion that made sense to Charles — would see their idea implemented promptly. Because of the vacations, benefits and atmosphere, it was rare for any employee to leave, and those who did would often stay in touch with Charles over the years. Working for Charles’ company was considered highly desirable and they had many job applicants. Often several members of a family worked for the company.
Charles was on the board of South Nassau Community Hospital in Oceanside for many years. He also served on the board of Luther E. Woodward School for Emotionally Disturbed Children in Freeport.
An avid power boater from the age of 15, he was Commodore of the Baldwin Harbor Yacht Club. At Boatsman’s Harbor in Cutchogue he and friends formed the North Fork Yacht Club, of which he was also Commodore.
Charles loved and collected tools, and could fix most things. As one service person commented, “He was a client who could always figure out how to get a job done.”
Charles is survived by his wife of 56 years, Alice (Giden) Levien, and his children, Thomas, of Newtown, Pa., Jane O’Brien and her husband, Gene, of Old Field, and John, of Cutchogue. He was also devoted to his five grandsons, David, Michael, Daniel, Nick and Andy; his beloved older brother, Lester, and his wife, Penny; and his nephews and cousins.
Arrangements were handled by Coster-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue.