Remembering Charlie Wisecup


Note: This is the first in a two-part series honoring the late Charlie Wisecup. The second will be published in next week’s Missouri Valley Times-News.

A family man

Charlie Wisecup was born and raised in Missouri Valley, and he grew up where the Wisecup Farm Museum sits today.

Hogs, cattle, chickens and an orchard were all part of his family’s farm. Growing up as the only boy with four sisters, Charlie spent much of his time working.

That ethic is something he carried down when he had a family of his own.

“He didn’t give you a choice,” said Lee Wisecup, Charlie’s son, with a laugh. “You just had to do it.”

Most importantly, if Charlie was doing something, he wanted his family along with him. That’s part of the reason that his relatives are so involved in many things going on in and around Missouri Valley today.

“Everything he did, he made sure his family was involved, too,” said Arthur Wisecup, Charlie’s grandson. “It’s not new to us; it’s just how we were brought up.”

With several grandkids who didn’t go to school in Missouri Valley, Charlie and his wife Julie traveled many miles to catch their various sporting events and extracurricular activities.

Julie mentioned one instance where they drove to Doane University to see their grandchild run in an 11-second race, and that’s just one out of several examples.

“They’d go to everything,” said Sue Honnor, Charlie’s daughter. “They’d come down and watch the kids sing for three minutes.”

With a condo at the Lake of the Ozarks, family reunions were held there for several years. A caravan of over 50 people would go down together, and the family came to be known as the “Orange Hat Gang” because Charlie would always sport an orange cowboy hat everywhere he went. Going down since the 70s, Charlie was often approached by people who recognized the family’s jet skis and his orange hat.

Because of the quality time spent together, the Wisecup family is a tight knit one. For Charlie’s funeral, there will be relatives traveling from California, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Philadelphia, South Dakota and Texas.

“He was very family oriented. Everybody was invited to come, including (extended family),” Julie said of the Wisecups' trips to the lake.

For Charlie’s relatives, every day was a story. With all kinds of projects he’d often enamor himself with, Charlie would find a way to get the help he needed.

“There’d be a lot of times you’d just show up and be like, ‘What the hell are you doing right now?’” said Garth Brown, Charlie’s grandson. “Grandpa had this elaborate plan of what he was doing and how he was doing it.”

“Then he conned you into it,” Arthur responded.

“‘I only need you for a minute!’” Lee quoted.

He just didn’t stop’

With Charlie Wisecup, it’s easier to lay out the things he wasn’t a part of than the things he was.

Part of the Harrison County REC board, Modale Co-Op board, Wilson Subdrainage Committee, County Pork Producers board, a 4-H leader, Sunday School teacher and superintendent and a veteran, Charlie found time for all of his involvements. It’s quite possible some of those involvements are missing here.

“That’s the problem: he was involved in so much crap that you can’t remember,” Garth said.

Farming on his own for nearly 50 years, the idea for the Wisecup Farm museum first started with one tractor that Charlie’s aunt gave him in the 80s. After a couple good friends began to help him, his hobby “became out of control,” Julie said.

But Charlie didn’t just pursue his own interests. He would answer calls from members of city council and give his thoughts on anything they threw his way. The Wisecups also sold land to McDonald’s and Texaco to help bring business to town.

Arthur described his grandfather as an “icon” of town, noting that the museum being the first landmark before you get into town made Charlie feel inclined to make his town better.

How people around the area felt about Charlie can be summed up in one story from Julie.

There was someone in town who was helping to beautify Missouri Valley, and they had people write down who they thought was a leader of the community who would assist with the project. Unsurprisingly, Charlie got a lot of names on those papers.

“He said, ‘Now why are they writing me down? I’m no entrepreneur.’ He did not think he was, but he totally was,” Julie said. “He just thought he was doing things that should be done.”

Always on the move and up to something, Lee said many people couldn’t believe it when they found out Charlie had passed.

“He just didn’t slow down,” Garth said. “Up to 86 (years old) he was crawling around on the ground, working on stuff, he was in and out of the shops in town. He just didn’t stop.”

You got what you got’

Everyone in the Wisecup family agrees that, with Charlie, “you got what you got.”

The same guy around everyone, he’d often pay for the meals of people that stopped at the filling station when they were traveling and needed help. Julie recalls one time that there was a family with four boys, and the boys were so well behaved in the restaurant that Charlie bought their food for them.

“I just remember growing up, if there were people with some kind of need, like a financial need, Dad was more than willing to give them a job for them to help out,” said Tammy Wisecup, Charlie’s daughter.

Her sister Sue agreed.

“He helped so many people,” she said. “People in the church, people in the community. It didn’t matter what walk of life you came from, he accepted everybody for who they were.”

At the 4-H bake sale at the county fair, Charlie would often feel sorry for the little boys that would bake muffins. He had a deal with the auctioneer, and Charlie would bid back and forth to keep the price going up. Imagine the cost when his own granddaughter participated.

That’s not to say that Charlie never got into trouble. The thing is, Charlie had a tendency to get out of that trouble due to his good nature.

These instances often revolved around one of Charlie’s latest bright ideas, like how to load up and transport equipment for the museum.

“He’d always have some way, and he’d figure out how to do it,” Arthur said.

Julie recalls a time where an old building that was no longer in use at DeSoto Bend caught Charlie’s eye, and he thought he could use it for something. Lee noted that he and his father tried not to take the building down Highway 30 and went six miles around, but then were unable to fit through a bridge.

“Here they are moving it down Highway 30,” Julie said. “He got stopped (by law enforcement), and they said, ‘Oh, it’s just Charlie.’”

Arthur shared a similar experience when, in one of the family’s old cars, Charlie was convinced to squeal the tires. Unfortunately, he did so right in front of an unmarked state trooper.

“We got pulled over, he doesn’t have his phone on him, doesn’t have his license on him, has his pocket knife on him, and it was a big one,” Arthur said. “I look at him and I’m like, ‘If that’s me I’m going to jail! For you, see you later.’”

Each year, Charlie would have a holiday party for all the people he did business with. He would also put on a two-day music festival, and people from around the country came. After Charlie’s passing, Julie even received a thoughtful email from a lady in Ireland who was once at the festival.

With so many lives touched by Charlie and his impact on the community, those thoughtful messages and visits have been constant for the Wisecup family since Charlie’s passing.

“Getting cards from all sorts of people, and just listening to different stories from people that worked with Grandpa that I didn’t know worked with him over the years, hearing the funny stories those people had with him, that brings a lot of comfort and laughs in times of sadness,” Garth said. “Hearing how ornery he was or how generous he was, that’s really helped me.”

To Charlie’s relatives, the wild days with their husband, father or grandfather were normal. What seems so interesting to people on the outside looking in was just part of the day-to-day, which is part of what made Charlie so special.

“We just lived it,” Lee said.

A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, April 2 at Wishing Hills Barn from 1 to 5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials will be designated by the family at a later time. All are welcome to come with a memory of Charlie to write down in the family’s memory book.