By: Curt Williams, Founder & Executive Director
It was 1987 and I, for some reason, was at Phil Arms Ministries in Pasadena. Youth-Reach was still in its infancy, and I was there to meet with Phil to share with him what I was doing on the streets of Montrose in Houston. While there I met two guys who were working on the video production team; two intelligent young guys who became lifelong friends, Billy Overton and Eugene Cowles.
I mentioned to Eugene, who later began to go by his first name “Charles”, that I wanted to develop a slide show (remember slides?) to share our work with those who were never going to venture into Montrose late at night like I was doing. Charles immediately said that he could do it. Now understand, at this point he was 17-years old, but already a genius and yet did not possess the common sense that would let him know that taking photos in a crime-infested area at night was foolhardy at best, and deadly at worst. So, with 400 speed film and a SLR camera hidden in a shoulder bag Charles followed me for weeks in and around gay bars, down dark alleys, and into abandoned houses where the street kids smoked crack. Only about one out of every fifty photos taken were used, but that slide show was a dramatic and vivid portrayal of the real-life experiences that we encountered almost every night.
Charles breezed through high school and later became a firefighter and EMT, where he developed a critical mind when it came to emergency scenarios and preparation. He continued to pursue his passion and his education and became a respected physician practicing anesthesiology as an associate professor of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Houston’s renowned MD Anderson Hospital.
Almost six years ago Charles joined the Board of Directors of Youth-Reach Houston, and brought to us not only his unique intellect and critical thinking, but also his strong love for Jesus and his belief that Christ’s teaching should be acted out each day.
Along with his wife Jennifer and their three young boys, they have participated in nearly every event that Youth-Reach has held. Earlier this year, Charles attended our first business luncheon in Friendswood and brought his pastor, Dr. Charles Redmond of First Baptist Pasadena, and this is now one of our treasured Sponsoring Churches.
On the 27th of December, we received word that Charles had lost his life in a tragic automobile accident. His wife Jennifer and the boys survived, but with serious injuries. Hearing this news, I went immediately into a place of denial. I have been friends with Charles for well over 30 years. I have watched him grow and mature into an astounding man of grace, humor and wisdom. There was just no way that he was gone. There was just no way that this could be true.
The accident took place in Arkansas, and after being stabilized, the family has been returned to Houston. Jennifer and one of the boys will require further surgeries and rehab, yet the lasting loss of Charles as a husband, father and friend will take much longer to reconcile. He had shared with me some of his life-goals, and for anyone else they we would be ridiculous, but for Charles they were all within reach. His loss is profound and crushing. Our board has lost a critical voice, and many of us have lost a dear friend and confidant.
Please keep Jennifer and her boys in your prayers.
I have often said that those who live large leave the biggest holes, and few have lived as large as Charles Cowles.