Losing ‘one of the good guys’ in Canadian County

Charles Brandley remembered as ‘amazing, honest, well-respected’

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Longtime Canadian County residents Cherri and Charles Brandley pose for a photo last December at their home in El Reno. Charles Brandley, who served eight years as Canadian County’s District 3 commissioner, died Friday, Feb. 4 at age 79. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Canadian County has lost “one of the good guys,” friends and family are saying this week.

Former Canadian County Commissioner Charles Brandley will be laid to rest this Friday, Feb. 11 in El Reno after a funeral service in Okarche.

Brandley, who served as District 3 county commissioner from 1991-99, died Feb. 4 at age 79 after an illness.

An El Reno native, he was a former crop duster, pilot, and farmer besides serving two, four-year terms as a county commissioner.

Brandley recalled fondly his life and career during an interview last December at the El Reno family farm homestead where he was raised and lived most his life.

“Canadian County has been very, very good to me,” he said. “I’ve never, ever wanted to be anyplace else.

“I just grew up on this farm. That’s part of being an old farm boy. You just kind of stay put.”

Current District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart, of Yukon, announced Brandley’s passing during the weekly commissioners’ meeting Feb. 7.

“He had a very good reputation,” Stewart said of Brandley. “A lot of the guys at my shop were hired on under Charles, and they really thought highly of him.”

Charles and his wife Cherri (Maass) – an Okarche native – celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in spring 2021. Cherri worked 33 years as a judge’s bailiff at the Canadian County Courthouse.

The 1990 campaign for Canadian County commissioner was Charles’ first run for political office. He ended up defeating District 3 incumbent Troy Denwalt.

“I had a lot of good help, and a lot of family support,” he said in the early December interview.

“I found out, a lot of the things that I had complained about to the commissioners most of my life were not their fault – how the money comes in and where it goes. I really enjoyed my time as county commissioner.”

Canadian County auctioneer Ken Reding on Nov. 13, 2021, conducted a sale at the Brandleys’ El Reno farm property, liquidating tractors, lawn mowers, equipment, trailers, and tools.

Charles enjoyed visiting with many longtime friends and acquaintances who stopped by as Reding sold a “40-year accumulation of stuff” in the barn.

“I was on my feet all day long and I talked until I was getting hoarse,” he noted.

Ken Reding

Reding, who also was born and raised in El Reno, said Charles “was one of the good guys” and will be sorely missed in Canadian County.

“You couldn’t find a better man, as far as being trustworthy, loyal and an upstanding citizen,” Reding said. “Charles would do anything for you. He was well respected in this community, I guarantee you.

“Charles was a good friend; somebody you liked to be around. He always treated me right.”

More than 700 people showed up for last fall’s auction, creating a “sea of pickups” parked in the pasture.

“It worked really well and the prices that everything brought were above-average,” said Reding, who’s been in the auction business for 37 years. “When you have an auction like that, it goes to show you who all of your really good friends, relatives and neighbors are.

“And they showed up that day for Charles.”

Cherri and Charles Brandley during a November 2021 auction sale at his El Reno property, conducted by auctioneer longtime Canadian County auctioneer Ken Reding. Charles and Cherri celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last spring. (Photo provided)

WORKING ON THE PLAYGROUND

Among Commissioner Brandley’s accomplishments in office were buying property for a juvenile detention center on Highway 66 in El Reno and bringing 911 service to rural Canadian County.

Charles was especially proud to help an all-volunteer committee build the Freedom Trail Playground in the mid-‘90s near Mulvey’s Pond.

He had attended a Yukon community meeting in 1993 when plans were first proposed for the new accessible playground at Yukon City Park, 2100 S Holly.

The county commissioner volunteered his services and tools while Yukon banker Clarence Wright made the first donation of $1,000 to support the effort.

“They both got behind us, and that propelled the project forward,” said Yukon’s Diana Hale, who chaired the Freedom Trail committee.

Charles served on the committee with Hale, Debbie Cain, Melody Thomason, Carole Garner, Dee Blose, and Bob Schwaninger. They raised money and recruited other volunteers to build the playground.

“Charles really gave us credibility when he joined our team,” Hale recalled. “He was an amazing person, honest and highly respected.

“Charles and Cherri were just the best people.”

Early in the playground construction project, Commissioner Brandley helped oversee the prep work.

“Charles called me one day and said, ‘We need to bring some dirt in, and I don’t know where we’re going to get dirt’,” Hale related. “I told him, ‘God’s going to take care of it’.”

Within 30 minutes, Brandley received a call about a large quantity of leftover dirt from a new business construction project on Garth Brooks Boulevard.

“They asked if the county needed the dirt anywhere,” Hale shared. “He told them, ‘Just bring it down the street to Freedom Trail’. That just shows how God’s hand was in the playground project.”

The City of Yukon plans to hire a contractor to tear down the existing Freedom Trail structures and build a new all-inclusive playground and splash pad in its place.

While a Canadian County commissioner in the mid-‘90s, Charles Brandley was an integral part of an all-volunteer committee that built the Freedom Trail accessible playground at Yukon City Park. Here, he participates in a 1994 ground-breaking ceremony: From left, J.W. Parker (Chisholm Trail historian), Diana Hale, Debbie Cain, Melody Thomason, Brandley, Carole Garner, and Dee Blose. (Photo provided)

RETIRED IN 2007

After deciding in 1999 not to seek another term as county commissioner, Charles Brandley sold metal buildings and worked for an auto body shop.

He officially retired in 2007 but continued to farm a little.

“I guess that was always in my blood, to be a farmer,” Charles said.

El Reno Mayor Matt White got to know Charles well personally and professionally, both as elected officials and in business.

Matt White

“Charles Brandley was a wonderful man; he would do anything for anybody,” White said. “Working with Charles was just a delight. Everybody liked him and everybody trusted him and his wife, both.

“He did such a great job and was just a calming force for the county in doing the work of the people and trying to do the right thing every time.”

Besides being on the El Reno City Council, White owned an Oklahoma City asphalt company.

“I did a lot of work for Charles and worked closely with him on grant projects in Calumet,” he said. “When he went to sell metal buildings with Doug Von Tungeln and did the big GW & Son Auto Body building, I did all the parking lot. He used all local people.

“I worked with Charles at every level – you’re not going to find anybody better than him.”

The service for Charles Brandley will be 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Okarche with graveside following at the El Reno Cemetery (see obituary). Arrangements are by Huber-Benson Funeral Home, El Reno.

Charles Brandley gets ready to take flight last fall in a T-28 U.S. Navy training jet at the El Reno Airport. He told his friend Ronnie Duncan he’d like to go flying one more time as a 79th birthday present. Duncan’s grandson Emerson Warren is helping Charles prepare for take-off. (Photo provided)
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