The memories of their first meeting don’t match, but in other aspects of their nearly 47 years of marriage, Carol and Charles Drexel have set records for harmony.
The couple has been selected as this year’s Kenneth T. Norris Key to Our Heart nominees and will receive their award Sunday, Feb. 9, at the 24th annual Valentine Ball, which is sponsored annually by the Norris Center for the Performing Arts and this year will be held at the Harlyne Norris Pavilion.
In addition to honoring the Drexels and their long commitment to the Norris as Encore Circle members, this year’s gala is expected to toast the birth and development of the Center as it celebrates three decades on the Peninsula.
As for the couple’s first meeting, the attorney who just coincidentally was representing each of them in divorces from their first marriages arranged for them to meet for lunch.
“When I went home afterward,” Carol said, “I told a friend that I’d just met the man I was going to marry.”
“A few days after that lunch, I needed a date for a party my company was sponsoring, so I asked Carol,” said Charles, who prefers Chuck.
And so it was in 1966, four years after that life-changing introduction, they married at LaVenta Inn under the approving eyes of friends and children— her son and daughter and his three daughters.
Long before that seminal date, the couple grew up under different circumstances and in different parts of the country. Ultimately, of course, they reached California: Chuck who arrived for a waiting design engineer job at Lockheed, and Carol who arrived as a bride in 1950.
During an interview in the Academy Hill home where they’ve resided for the past 11 years, they said they’ve lived in all four cities during their marriage, some of them due to their financial circumstances or to the number of children still in residence, they explained.
Chuck then went on to obtain degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from the University of Colorado at 19, served the Navy as a lieutenant JG during World War II and after that launched eight companies: three in this country; three in Europe, one in Japan and one in Korea. Along the way, he obtained a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from UCLA when he was 47.
He also earned patents for high tech products in several fields. “One patent,” he said, “is credited with making the modern computer practical.” And one of the products of his curious mind was born in a Lunada Bay garage financed by $5,000 of his own money, he said with justifiable pride.
Although no longer among the 9-5 crowd, Chuck said he still shows up at his office in Torrance six days a week.
Carol’s entry into the workforce occurred after her divorce, she said. She spent nine years working for two different banks on the Peninsula, but her growing interest in talks of a theater in the area led her to join Joan Moe and the late Agnes Moss as they planned for the future. In fact, when Carol learned the fledging theatre needed a piano, she donated one, which is still in use today.
During their many years of volunteer service to the Norris, the Drexels have been honorary producers, members of Century Circle and the Encore Circle. Chuck is currently a member of the Board of Directors.
They also support the national organization Food for the Poor. “We are able to see the product of our contribution,” Carol explained, citing a home in Haiti as a recent example. “We know how our money is used.”
When asked to explain their salubrious marriage, a variety of reasons surfaced:
“I’ve always wanted my wife to be her own person, and Carol is her own person,” Chuck said. “She’s independent.”
“He’s my best friend,” said Carol. “We never argue about money or anything huge, and he never asks me the cost of anything.”
And of the combined five children and eight grandchildren that comprise the immediate family, Carol has this to say: “They’re all very attentive and will be with us at the gala.”
Before that date, however, they’ll celebrate their 47th anniversary Jan. 31.
With a big smile and unfailing conviction, Chuck adds, “We’re going to make it to our 50th.”
Who could ever doubt those big blue eyes?
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The event begins at 5pm and will feature auction items and opportunity drawings.
Tickets are $165 and can be obtained by calling the Norris Theatre box office at 310-544-0403 or in person at 27570 Norris Center Drive in Rolling Hills Estates or at the Harlyne J. Norris Pavilion, 501 Indian Peak Road, also in RHE. For more information, call Judy Getzin at 310-544-0403, Ext. 22. Valet parking, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, wine, live music and dancing are included in the gala plans.