Charles Luck, 77, and wife Liping “Rose” Tang-Luck, 51, were much more than just the bodies’ recovered late Friday evening when weather finally cleared from their Cessna 182 crash site on the Douglas Island rock cliffs high above Eaglecrest Ski Resort.
They died on July 24 when their Cessna 182 struck a mountain on Douglas near “The Wedding Bowl,” an area known for breathtaking scenic visuals of Alaska.
Charles was an outdoorsman who loved to fish, Rose a caring woman with a beautiful voice; and together a couple that lived to improve the lives of others.
“He was a pretty personable guy,” son Steve Luck, 52, said. “He has always been an outdoorsman, hunting and fishing.”
Steve Luck said his father was always interested in talking to people.
“He certainly enjoyed helping people,” Steve Luck said. “He touched a lot of people. He enjoyed the outdoors and loved life and lived it to the fullest. He loved fishing and he loved flying and the last couple things that he did were just that.”
Charles Luck had been flying since age 20 and was a commercial instrument rated pilot. He owned his Cessna 182 for 30 years and had GPS. Luck flew while he was obtaining an engineering degree from the University of Southern California and when starting his own company Sound COM Engineering.
He flew between cities in California after his first divorce from Verna Luck whom he married in 1957, to pick up his children on visitations.
“He really did love his kids,” son Ken Luck, 47, said. “He made quite an effort to see us. He would pick us up in Southern California and fly us up to visit him in Sacramento, every weekend. I have flown with him since I was eight years old.”
Ken visited Charles in Alaska in 2003, fishing in Kotzebue, Kenai, and Kodiak. Charles just visited Ken in April; one of his many visits during medical conferences.
Charles flew as scoutmaster, hunting guide, driver’s education teacher and other typical father activities to kids Steve, Ken, Cindy, now 51, and Daniel, now 43.
He flew with a church group and became involved with dentists and doctors flying private planes to Mexico. Hehelped build a medical-dental clinic and church for Oaxacan Indians in Rancho Piloto, Southern Baja. This led Charles to form an organization called Baja Wings of Mercy.
That experience prompted a career switch and in his late 50’s Luck applied and was accepted to the University of Southern California Physician Assistant masters program.
“We remember Chuck for his generosity of spirit, his kind and giving nature, and his willingness to put the welfare of others above himself,” wrote Janice Tramel, the associate director of clinical education in the USC PA program. Tramel recounted Charles collecting blankets for people in Mexico and another student wanted to donate a pair of shoes. Charles was hesitant. He explained that in order to offer shoes there needed to be an ongoing, long-term commitment to provide shoes, because feet grow. Ifthere are not enough shoes provided on a regular basis to keep up with the growth pace of the individual children, their feet become soft from short- term shoe wear which puts them in jeopardy of injury and infection.
“That made me aware of how knowledgeable and how committed he was to the well-being of those that are disadvantaged,” Tramel said. “To always provide the best that you can but be sure that best will work within the culture and circumstances of that, or those, individuals.”
Luck began his medical career with a brief stay in Sheridan, Ore, before working 11 years as a physician assistant in Alaska.
His first Alaska experience was at the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital in Barrow and then Adak. Charles Luck’s second divorce was with Jeanie Luck while working in Adak, where he was also elected mayor, keeping both the political and physical health of the town in tact.
For the next five years were at the Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue and then two years in orthopedics and emergency room/urgent care at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage before the move to Hoonah.
“He has flown in very austere conditions,” Steve Luck said. “That’s why it is interesting to me that he hit a mountain. The guy has flown and landed on dirt strips in no visibility and has been flying in Alaska since he has been up there.”
Steve Luck said he has flown to Mexico many times with his father and landed in the middle of Baja.
“He was always very safe,” Steve Luck said. “He checked things and was very thorough.”
Luck had just started working as a physicians assistant for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in June of 2011 at the Hoonah Health Center.
“He was really a very kind man,” SEARHC PA-C Jeff Chelmo said.” He was very outdoorsy and extremely personable. He made friends easily here. For Chuck the glass was always half full.”
In Hoonah the Lucks fit right in. Upon arrival, landlords Wes and Sue Tyler took him on a picnic.
“He asked if he could bring his fishing pole along,” Sue Tyler said. “And he caught a ton of dollies. He just took a great interest in our community and the people and had a great desire to help.”
Charles Luck was trying to get his wife, Liping, — known as “Rose” — to Juneau the day of the crash, Sunday July 24, so she could get an Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage. They had just returned from Anchorage that Saturday.
Rose was attending English as a Second Language classes at the University of Alaska, Anchorage with her 19-year-old son Sunny, and Charles was visiting his good friend Glen Welker, 52, and fishing on the Kenai.
“We were dip netting and each had about 20 fish before our bladders ran us off the river,” Welker laughed. ‘We always gave each other a hard time.”
Traffic snarled on the drive to Anchorage so the two pulled off the road and talked for hours.
The two had first met when both were working urgent care in Barrow and became fast friends.
“There was only seven miles of road,” Welker said. “Not a lot of driving to do so we hung out a lot.”
They would go out and see the polar bears or fly to Homer on fishing trips. They continued to get together no matter where either was working in Alaska. They deep sea fished for halibut in Seward and Homer, dip netted Salmon in Kenai, and fished Byers Creek on the way to Fairbanks.
“It was like having a dad up here,” Welker said. “We would talk and go fishing.”
Charles Luck even invited Welker to meet him in Hong Kong in 2004 to introduce him to Rose, who he had met online. When Rose tutored math, science and Chinese during the day, the two men would explore China with then 12-year-old Sunny or 14-year-old Henry as their guide.
“For 77 he had done a lot of stuff and seen a lot of places,” Welker said
Just prior to the crash Rose had just taken second place in a UAA music contest singing in Mandarin Chinese “Serenade of Green Island.” Rose wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and Sunny wants to be a pharmacist and learn languages.
“She loved to sing,” Sunny Chan-Luck, 19, said. “She liked fishing, too. After we fished we would give fish to every person we know. and he loves my mom. They were always happy. They liked studying and learning. My father, his first language was English, and he knew a little bit about Cantonese, so they liked learning from each other, it was really cool and they were patient to each other, too. He always liked to help people, even if he doesn’t know them, they both liked to help people.”
Charles and Rose married in Hong Kong in 2005. The family came to Kotzebue the next year and spent three years ice fishing, riding snowmobiles, four-wheelers and being a passenger in their plane. On family outings to Kenai they used the “motor house.”
Rose and Sunny shared a place in Anchorage during school the past nine months.
“This accident happened too sudden,” Sunny said. “I had not been to Hoonah yet. My father loved us a lot, he treated me like a real son.”
Sunny will take Rose’s ashes back to Hong Kong to be placed with his grandmothers in a family temple. Sunny’s brother Henry Chan-Luck, 19, is in the U.S. Army.
Charles Luck and Liping Rose Tang-Luck’s children include: Steve and Jennifer Luck (Avery, Jackson, Conor), Ken and Denise Luck (Lawrence, Briana, Micah), Cindy Luck-Sakamoto and Eddie (Cole, Kiana), Daniel and Noni Luck, Henry Chan-Luck and Sunny Chan-Luck.
The siblings have not met but they plan to spread Charles’ ashes in Alaska.
“He was doing what he loved,” Ken Luck said. “His passion was the outdoors. He loved to fly.”
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.