Charles Leland (Charlie) Nixon, 89, passed peacefully from this life on December 31, 2021, in his home in Vega, Texas, with his beloved family at his side.
Evening visitation for Charlie will be held on Thursday, January 6, 2021, at Boxwell Brothers Funeral Home in Amarillo, Texas, from 5:00 to 6:30 pm. Morning visitation will be held at First Baptist Church in Vega, Texas, at 10:00 am on Friday, January 7, 2021, followed by a Memorial Service at 11:00 am. Burial will be at Memorial Park Cemetery in Vega, TX. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd.
Charlie began his life on April 13, 1932, in Glenrio, New Mexico. He grew up in several small towns along Route 66, including Glenrio, Endee, San Jon, Porter, and Tucumcari. He was the second son of James “Ivan” Nixon and Rosa Lea Hackett Nixon. His family worked long hours in the cafes, service stations, bars/dance halls they managed and owned during these early years. The T. & N. Café and Bar in Glenrio was one of their businesses; the name stood for Texas and New Mexico, since it was on the state line. Later in his life, Charlie was interviewed by K.C. Keefer, Nancy Barlow, and Nick Gerlich for a documentary about Route 66, titled “Exit Zero Glenrio, Historic Route 66.” Charlie’s family and friends were thrilled at his newfound celebrity.
Fortunately, Charlie passed down many stories about his life. Very early, Charlie loved music and dancing, and seeing people have a good time. He remembered listening to live bands that came through town, listening to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams on the radio, and getting excited when the vendor who loaded tunes in the jukebox came by with the latest Bob Wills records. He also said he learned to play snooker and pool, as a boy, and was so little he had to put one leg up on the table and perch there to make a shot.
He and his older brother Edsel were born two years apart and were nicknamed “Nick and Little Nick.” They managed to get into a bit of orneriness from time to time. They would put their clothes on backwards and walk around town, just to get some laughs and attention. They would peek around the door of their room at the back of the dancehall when they were supposed to be in bed, and watch people dancing and enjoying themselves. They were quite the pair! Cousin Jimmy Don Voyles joined in the fun often, in the role of a third brother!
A knack for salesmanship showed itself early, when they would try to play pranks on tourists coming through on Highway 66. They gathered up a bunch of goat heads and cockleburs and told people they were porcupine eggs. Some folks actually bought them!
Route 66 came to be a lively place with a lot of happenings. The film crew that was producing Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” decided to film a portion along Route 66 in Glenrio. During filming, Charlie’s brother Edsel ran across the road and managed to be included in the scene. The movie was produced in 1940, so he was about 10 years old, and Charlie would have been eight. In real life, Charlie remembered seeing some of these destitute families trying to make it out West.
Throughout his life, everyone knew that music, dancing, playing cards and dominoes, listening to and telling stories, and generally just having fun were all very important to him. He was always teasing or making up something funny, smiling and kidding around. Some family and friends said that sometimes when he played games, he was known to make up his own rules. And sometimes he got away with it!
He spoke about going to the little church in town and the hymns his mother loved, including Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, I’ll Fly Away, and The Old Rugged Cross.
Trips along Route 66 with his father for supplies included Adrian, Vega, and Amarillo in Texas, where he met local residents and retained an impressive knowledge of the history of these towns.
Charlie remembered trips to the mountains around Red River, New Mexico, where his father would go fly fishing. He was very close to his hardworking family, but unfortunately, his father Ivan died when Charlie was just nine years old, of Bright’s Disease. Ivan’s last wish was that Cartis Gulledge, a close family friend, take care of Rosa and the boys. He did just that, and became a devoted stepdad to Charlie and his brother Edsel.
Cartis served as a Sergeant in the Army Field Artillery during World War II, in The Philippines and New Guinea. Stateside, he was stationed at Camp Maxey, Texas and Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. When Rosa went to visit Cartis at the base, Charlie and Edsel would stay with their aunt and uncle, Nona and Jim Voyles, or with family friends Cecil and Ethel Martin in Porter, NM. His cousin, Jimmy Don Voyles, was like a third brother to the pair. The boys worked hard, and Charlie told stories of shucking broom corn, taking care of livestock, and other chores. He also spent time out in the country near Endee with his maternal grandparents, Charles (whom he was named after) and his grandmother, Elizabeth Hackett.
Charlie attended schools in Endee, San Jon, and Tucumcari. He played basketball for San Jon, went to school, worked hard helping his family, flirted with the girls, and danced every chance he got. Sometimes the kids would all just ride around in their cars and get out on the highway to dance to a favorite tune! He told many great stories about having fun at dances with other young people from miles around on Saturday nights, including a few brawls that even re-routed traffic! Through this network of dances and fun, he met Dolores Sides from Vega. She said she was warned by several to “stay away from those Nixon boys” but they were just too much fun!
At the advanced age of 18, Charlie married Dolores who was just 15, and he became the proud daddy of the first of his three daughters, Carla Jo, the following year in 1951. The young family lived in Vega where they had extended family and friends, and also in Amarillo. Charlie worked as a ranch hand, service station attendant, and whatever other kind of work he could find around Vega. In Amarillo he worked for Bradford Auto Supply as a parts man, which would end up being his main profession during his working years. He became known for his big smile and great customer service at each of his jobs.
A few years later, they moved West on Route 66 to Southern California, in the early 50s. Charlie had made a road trip out there with his close friend Clyde Morris, and thought California was such a beautiful place, with oranges, sunshine, and opportunities for a new start. It was known as “the promised land” at that time, and it just so happened that Dolores’ mother, Ruby, lived there.
Charlie worked at several jobs during the early years in California, including selling watermelons and oranges on the back of a truck with his brother-in-law, Gerald Ray Sides. Later, he landed a job selling auto parts at H.M. Parker and Sons, and during this time he gained the nickname “Chuck” to differentiate him from another man named Charlie.
In 1956, their second daughter, Deborah Sue was born, and in 1961, a third daughter, Connie Faye. Charlie always joked that he didn’t have any boys in the house, just a male dog, Shaggy. Several more male dogs joined the family later, and he loved them all. Especially dear to him was his last dog, Duchess, who was a female.
Charlie loved those girls and was a fun-loving daddy. They lived in La Crescenta, and later moved to Tujunga, both pretty towns along the foothills of the Angeles Crest Forest. It was a totally different environment from where he grew up, but they enjoyed getting to know the area. The mountains, beaches, and desert were all within an hour or two of where they lived, and they could visit Dolores’ mother Ruby Sides Hardage, and uncle Joe Graham.
They missed their families back home, but they went back to Texas each summer, and family came out to visit them. When they came back, they enjoyed staying out at the Sneed Ranch near Dumas, where Cartis worked as a cowboy. It was a great chance for the “city girls” to learn about ranch life and living out in the country. They enjoyed seeing Edsel’s kids James, Kaila, Denise, and Joe Eddie at the ranch sometimes, as well as cousins Jamie and Eric Voyles. They also enjoyed staying with Gerald Ray and Jo Sides out in the country near Vega, and running around with their cousins Harold Ray, Danny, Tammy, and Gary. During the rest of the year, they visited back and forth with their close friends, The Clyde Morris Family from New Mexico, who lived in the California desert. They had many albums and singles, and they would share their music by taping the albums on reel-to-reel recorders, which held more songs and were easier to transport. Sometimes they would record singing with the old favorites. The kids were supposed to be asleep, but they remembered all of these late-night sessions, and developed their own love for these traditional songs.
As time passed, the music and the dancing continued. He taught the girls to dance as soon as they could walk, and they will tell you that music was playing all the time in the car and at home. Charlie loved country, western swing, bluegrass, gospel, jazz, blues, early rock ‘n roll, and later even liked a lot of the music his girls liked in their teen years. He danced every chance he could! Even just a catchy tune in passing would cause him to stop and do a little jig, wearing that big smile.
When he wasn’t working at the auto parts store, he was fixing the car, repairing things around the house, refinishing furniture, painting, working in the yard, or whatever needed to be done. He taught them to be patient and to do things the right way the first time, so they wouldn’t need to be done over.
Charlie also passionately enjoyed food. Growing up in a café in the 40’s, good homemade meals consisted of chicken fried steak, bacon and eggs and biscuits and gravy, apple pie, homemade doughnuts, the works! He was never a picky eater, and always thanked the cook for any food prepared for him. He would do a little cooking himself at times, often cooking breakfast on Sunday mornings or cooking some burgers on the grill. The man loved to eat!
He passed down the good manners taught to him by his parents, and he didn’t consider anything as being “women’s work” or “men’s work.” His daughters will tell you he would wash dishes, scrub the tub, bathe the kids, vacuum and dust, or cook a meal. He loved his family time and taught his daughters how to do most of the things that sons might be tasked to do. They enjoyed watching him work in the garage, and he taught them how to hammer a nail, use a screwdriver, saw and sand a board, wash the car, all of it! These lessons in work ethics served them well and the girls started working to earn their own money at an early age. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he was setting a pretty high standard for any future husbands!
Charlie loved John Wayne movies and other Westerns, but he also loved to watch variety shows on TV. He took his family to the drive-in movies often, and on picnics to the nearby mountains or beach when he had a day off. He always helped around the house and helped the kids with whatever they needed for school. He encouraged them to “work hard, be honest, be thankful and respectful, and said to always keep your chin up and strive to be or do whatever you want to be or do.”
In 1967, Charlie lost his brother Edsel at the young age of 37. They had been very close growing up, so this was a very difficult time for Charlie and his parents, as well as all of the kids. He tried to be a comfort to his nieces and nephews, as well as his mother Rosa and Cartis. He missed his brother all the rest of his days. He showed his love for his family in everything he did.
While living in California, Charlie bought his own auto parts store in Tujunga, California, and called it “Chuck’s Foothill Auto Supply.” Chuck became known for always having a big smile and providing courteous, efficient service for his customers. Most of them followed him whenever he moved to a different store, because they knew he would treat them right.
At that time, auto parts inventory numbers were listed in huge books on the parts counter, and he had the most common part numbers memorized without even looking them up, so he would just go back to the appropriate shelf and get the parts needed. He received numerous honors and awards for his sales and dedication to customer service, including trips to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and The Bahamas. His kids and grandkids would stop by whatever parts store he was working in, just to say hi and see that big smile, get a hug, and feel that warm welcome. He genuinely loved people, and it showed.
When some other folks from home, Dolores’ aunt Maxine Sides Brown, husband Jim Brown, and daughter Teresa moved to Tujunga near them, the two families enjoyed many hours of music and dancing at home. Always up for an adventure and a good deal, one time Charlie decided to buy an old city bus that had been converted into a camper, and they took a few trips together on weekends. He would often bring a generator so…you guessed it…he could play his reel-to-reel tape player.
There were always new sights to see in California when time permitted. Although Charlie didn’t get much time off, the family enjoyed Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Griffith Park Zoo and Observatory, and driving up the coast. They would spend some weekends up in Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, and Crestline once in a while to enjoy some snow and winter fun. They also enjoyed going to the horse races a few times at Santa Ana and Delmar and visiting San Diego. Charlie and his family spent about 15 years in California, where they broadened their horizons and enjoyed many adventures. His daughters have many fond memories of those times and friends they made there.
Charlie loved classic automobiles and over the years he owned quite a variety including Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Mercury, and Buick. He joked that he would feel successful if he had a pool table, jukebox, and a Cadillac. He never slighted his family, but he worked hard and was able to have all three for a while. He especially loved his silver 1961 Caddy.
Charlie was also particular about his clothes. He liked to wear the popular styles as a young man, and he never threw anything out. Consequently, he has vintage clothing from many years ago that his family would love to wear in his honor, but they are way too small for anyone else in the family to wear! Pearl snap Western shirts, levis, cowboy boots, and a hat were his favorites. He had a classic look that never went out of style. He also combed his hair in a particular way, with a wave on the top.
Time passed and the girls were getting older, California was getting more crowded, and Charlie and family made the decision to move back to the Amarillo area in 1970, where extended family were near. It was a big adjustment for everyone, with some happy and some sad results. He worked at several auto parts stores in Amarillo and also Dalhart. The family enjoyed being closer to their aunts, uncles, and grandparents during this time.
Lots of events happened in Charlie’s life during the 70’s. The first three grandchildren, Amy Renee, Jeremy Todd, and Brent Robert Rogers were born to Carla and Elvin Rogers. He was thrilled to have another little girl around, but when the first grandson, Jeremy arrived in 1977, Charlie was so excited he jumped up and clicked his heels in the hospital and said, “I finally got me a boy.” The second grandson, Brent, came along a couple of years later. They loved their grandpa and always had so much fun every time they were with him.
Also, during the 70’s, Charlie married Shirley Smith, and adopted a second family. Her daughters Donna Hendrickson and Sherry Phillips, and son Joe Edward Smith gained a stepdad. Their children Lisa Mulkey, Bobby and John Hendrickson, Michael and Bo Phillips, and Jennifer Reyna, Sami Clay, and Stephanie Taylor all gained a step-grandfather, “Grandpa Chuck.” He also became close to his brothers and sisters-in-law. The blended family shared many holidays and celebrations together over the years, and they remained in each other’s hearts.
Moving on to the 80’s, another granddaughter, Sara Michelle Groce, was born to Connie and Bill Groce, arriving in 1986, and another grandson, Shane Eric Warden was born in 1988 to Debbie and Kenny Warden. They all thought their Grandpa Charlie hung the moon! All of the grandchildren kept him busy with their sports, scouts, and church activities. He loved every minute of it, and he continued instilling the love of music in all of them.
Also, during these years, Charlie underwent bypass surgery and quit smoking. He later had more heart surgery and stents which allowed him to continue an active life. The family was very grateful that he was able to live a long life.
Time went by, grandchildren grew up, and the 90’s brought more changes. Amy went off to college and her brothers finished high school. The other grandchildren grew up as well. Somewhere during this time, Charlie entered into a side business, a snow cone stand, with fellow business owner Steve Smart. This provided a great work experience for the grandkids and was a booming business during the hot summer in Amarillo.
By the mid-90’s, Charlie found himself single and wanting to move to a smaller town. He ended up buying a house and going back to Vega, where life had a slower pace and yet he was not too far away from his family. He loved living in his home in Vega, which included some extra land around it. His grandson Shane enjoyed going out and riding his go-cart around on the extra lot. He took several fun trips with his kids and grandkids to visit his nieces and nephews, music concerts, and mountain vacations. He cut back his working hours at the part store until he retired, but he also did quite a bit of repair and remodeling work for some friends that owned rental property. He also continued to help his family any time they needed help repairing their vehicles or updating their homes. Charlie was known for his big heart and throughout his life he was always giving of himself and his money.
Carla remarried in 2001 to Gerald Rippy, who had three grown children, Melanie Hall, and Jason and Justin Rippy. Soon a little great-granddaughter was born to Melanie and Chad in 2002, Makenna Cheree; and in 2004, little brother Chase was born. Charlie always loved teasing and playing with the little kids, so his attitude with having additional extended family was, “the more the merrier.” His whole life, he always wanted everyone to get together and have a good time. His last words when talking on the phone or in person, were always “please come and see us any time” and he meant every word of it.
Also, during 2004, Charlie’s last grandchild, Gracie Kate Cook, was born to Connie Cook. Being so much younger than the other grandchildren, and having a single mother, she was around Grandpa Charlie a lot more than the others and became his pride and joy. She was close in age to Makenna and Chase, and they played together often.
In 2006, Sara gave birth to Charlie’s first great-grandchild, Jordan Rene Rios. They didn’t live nearby, but they went to see Grandpa Charlie often and always had a great time.
Charlie and his family attempted to see their favorite music legends over the years. As a young man in Amarillo, he got to go see Hank Williams and also Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys several times, and dancing to Western Swing was what he enjoyed the most. He could do the two-step, waltz, straight, Schottish, Polka, Cotton-Eyed Joe, and Jitterbug; whatever the music required. He could keep going for a long time after everyone else was ready to sit down and rest. He had so much fun. Other favorites that he managed to go and see perform were Merle Haggard, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Gene Watson, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Asleep at the Wheel, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charley Pride, along with many many others. Later in life, his grandson Brent Rogers met Charley Pride at a restaurant where he was working in Dallas. He told him what a fan his grandpa Charlie was, and Charley Pride autographed his photograph for Grandpa Charlie. He was so proud of that! In earlier years while in California, he saw some of these country favorites at the famous Palomino Club in North Hollywood.
He also loved Bluegrass, especially Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Mack Wiseman, Doc Watson, The Stanley Brothers, Osborne Brothers, Louvin Brothers, Allison Krauss, and on and on. He loved rockabilly and really enjoyed the “Rockabilly on the Route” music festivals in later years in Tucumcari, New Mexico. People in the crowd always admired his dancing skills, and couldn’t believe he was in his 80’s. He was always up for some parties and fun, especially if it included music and dancing.
Although he knew most everyone in Vega, by this time he was lonely living by himself. After Flora Lee Pernell became a widow, they spent some time together and she proceeded to “win his heart through his stomach” by cooking for him. She loved music and dancing too, and had a friendly smile and kind heart, so the next thing you know they decided to get married in 2008. Charlie gained another family in the process; stepsons Tony Pernell, and Billy Pernell and wife Sherri, along with step-granddaughter Chelsea and husband Taylor Ashworth, parents of new great granddaughters Avery and Braedyn. These little girls loved their new Grandpa Charlie and loved visiting when they had a chance.
Flora Lee and Charlie had a little wedding/party in Amarillo, with live music and dancing of course, and later went on a cruise with nephew James Nixon and wife Lydia.
The family continued to grow, and more great grandchildren arrived on the scene. Rowan Lane and Haven Elizabeth were born in 2011 and 2014, to Amy and Lance Towner. During the same week in 2014, Charlie’s namesake, Charles Warren Rogers, was born to Brent Rogers and Chelsea Brockhoff. Charlie was such a proud great grandpa!
As the kids got older and visited in Vega, he would take them for rides, pulling a little trailer behind the riding lawn mower. He showed them how to yank their arms to get the truckers on the highway to toot their horns as they drove by. Grandpa Charlie was just the best!
Charlie’s family meant the world to him. He was always bragging about his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and great-grandchildren. His face would light up and his eyes would sparkle when he saw them.
Charlie’s lifelong motto was “work hard and play hard and have a good life.” He was always sincerely grateful for whatever he had, no matter how little. He learned at an early age to make do with what he was given, and he was very creative and resourceful, recycling and repurposing almost everything he owned, rather than throwing things away and buying new ones. He was always willing to help his fellow man, and he followed The Golden Rule. On the other hand, he found it difficult to ask for or accept help from others. He never wanted to impose on anyone else, but he would give anyone the shirt off his back.
These attributes served him well, but tended to backfire in later years, when he refused to accept the physical limitations of growing older and needing assistance. His wife Flora Lee saw him perched on top of a ladder placed in the back of his pickup with a paintbrush attached to a long pole, in order to paint the trim of the house on the highest peak of the roofline. She was so frightened she had to go back inside the house and not watch him. After he thought about it, he got down and went inside and apologized for scaring her.
Charlie and Flora Lee spent 13 happy years together, loving the life they had created. They took care of each other and were very grateful for their time together. Although they both had many years of life before they met, they were like two peas in a pod. They held hands wherever they went, laughed, danced, and just enjoyed each other’s company. They traveled to Dallas and Houston to visit grandkids, but they loved going to the mountains in New Mexico and going to the horse races and casino. They always enjoyed having people come to visit. They loved dominoes and jigsaw puzzles, watching old TV Western shows and movies and game shows. Flora Lee said he was always so good to her, and said he was always joking around with her. At night when they would go to bed, he would sometimes lay there telling her jokes and the two of them would laugh sometimes for an hour.
Charlie continued to improve the house, and built a deck on the south side, where they spent many happy hours drinking coffee, talking, enjoying visitors, listening to music, drinking beer and often dancing. Their last party on the deck was in April 2021, when they celebrated Charlie’s 89th birthday. They danced and had fun with family and friends. Although Charlie was older and slowing down a bit, he still managed to dance with his wife, daughters, and granddaughter. He was smiling and cutting up the whole time.
Charlie was never one to complain about his aches and pains, but he started to slow down in late 2021, and had difficulty keeping his balance and walking steadily some days. Other days, he was fine and could do what he needed to do. In November, he and Flora Lee were able to attend the baby shower of his precious granddaughter, Gracie. He was excited that a new little great-granddaughter would be arriving soon.
The last month of the year, December 2021, he was struggling and started to lose his appetite. Family members were planning to visit at Christmas, and he was looking forward to seeing them. Unfortunately, he took a turn for the worse right before Christmas and was sent home from the hospital with Hospice Care.
The newest addition to Charlie’s family, Zariah Hope Brown, was born on December 19, 2021. Charlie was excited and anxious to meet her. Charlie’s family gathered in Vega for a last visit with him right after Christmas. Although he was getting weaker, he still managed to tease the nieces and nephews, kids and grandkids, and flirt with his nurse. Several times he asked about Gracie and the new baby.
Charlie’s family members sat with him and told him what was on their hearts, and said their goodbyes, as they played gospel favorites for him. Gracie came to see him on December 31, 2021. She sat by his bed that evening and laid his new baby great-granddaughter next to him. Soon after, while “I Saw the Light” was playing next to his bedside, he drew his last breath. As one life was ending, another was just beginning.
His first granddaughter, Amy, said “It is fitting for Grandpa to pass on tonight, (New Year’s Eve) since he’s always been the life of the party.
Rest in Peace, Charlie. May the Circle Be Unbroken.
Charlie was preceded in death by his father, James “Ivan” Nixon, his mother, Rosa Lea Hackett Nixon Gulledge, stepfather Cartis Gulledge, and brother James “Edsel” Nixon. Other family members that preceded him in death were his nephew, Nick Nixon, niece, Lexi Ann Nixon, and the mother of his children, Dolores Sides Nixon. Other blended family members who passed were Shirley Smith Nixon, stepson Joe Edward Smith, step-grandsons Bobby Hendrickson and Jason Rippy.
Charlie is survived by his wife, Flora Lee Nixon of the home, daughters Carla Rippy and husband Gerald, Debbie Warden, Connie Cook, stepsons Tony Pernell, Billy Pernell and wife Sherri, and stepdaughters Donna Hendrickson and Sherry Phillips and husband Joe. Grandchildren include Amy Towner and husband Lance, Jeremy Rogers, Brent Rogers, Sara Rodgers and husband Jon, Shane Warden and wife Lauren, and Gracie Cook; Step-grandchildren Melanie Rippy, Justin Rippy, Chelsea Ashworth and husband Tyler, John Hendrickson and wife Tosha, Lisa Mulkey, Michael Phillips and wife Jessica, Bo Phillips and wife LaShawn, Jennifer Reyna, Sami Clay and husband Travis, and Stephanie Taylor. Charlie’s great-grandchildren include Jordan Rios, Rowan and Haven Towner, Charlie Rogers, Jonathan Rodgers, Zariah Brown, Avery and Braedyn Ashworth. Numerous step-greats and great-greats, and numerous nieces and nephews.