The story of a lifetime


By Kelsey Gerhardt - [email protected]



A book could be written about Lee County resident Charlie Chadwell. His life experiences range from suffering from frostbite in Alaska to sharing a smile with the Queen of England and everything in between.

Chadwell was in the Army from 1969 until 1971 where he served in Fairbanks, Alaska during the Vietnam War. While there, he drove a bus which transported recently enlisted men to where they would be living.

Chadwell remembers this time as having ‘pretty rough winters’, especially one night that was record-breaking cold.

“The bus broke down and we were in the middle of nowhere — 20 miles from anything — and it was 72 below zero. I think that broke some records and I think I probably got frostbite then,” said Chadwell.

Chadwell would also drive a school bus for children on the military bases.

After leaving the military in 1971, he married his wife Alene.

He attended the Federal Law Enforcement Academy in Washington, D.C. He was a member of special events team which allowed him to travel to different National Parks and Monuments to work as law enforcement.

Chadwell remembers working special events with President Gerald Ford, President Jimmy Carter and President George H. W. Bush. He was also a member of a national incident management team which helped with relief during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where he coordinated distribution of clean water and supplies.

One of Chadwell’s fondest memories is when he worked law enforcement when the Queen of England visited America.

“I got to open the door for the Queen of England when she came here and that was neat. We smiled at each other. My wife jokes now that the Queen never smiles at anyone, but she smiled at me,” laughed Chadwell.

Chadwell was hired in 1997 as the first Chief Ranger at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Chadwell worked on various fire management programs and patrolled the back country on horseback. He retired in 2005.

Chadwell participated in several horseback riding competitions and now has five horses on his farm in Lee County.

He cuts firewood on his farm and delivers it to Cracker Barrel in Middlesboro.

In his spare time, Chadwell enjoys woodworking and makes cabinets and furniture, although he now focuses mainly on smaller wooden items.

The Chadwells have two sons living and two granddaughters living in Knoxville.

Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.

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By Kelsey Gerhardt

[email protected]

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