Charles N. Bacigalupi
1924 – 2013
Charlie Bacigalupi had the good sense to be born in Sonoma County in California’s scenic Russian River Valley in 1924. Except for the demands of the Navy in WWII and for the encouragement of his sailing buddies, he had the wisdom to live his life in that same County. He initially practiced dentistry and later spent 57 years in the vineyard business in Healdsburg. He seemed indestructible on land and at sea. Into his late 80s he was up at dawn driving his tractor and cultivating his prize winning grapes. He was a beloved sailing companion, a consummate chef and inveterate joke teller. Alas, just as this year’s grape harvest was complete, his 89 year-old body succumbed to the ravages of cancer and Charlie sailed his final voyage on October 27.
Charlie was born on September 9, 1924 and raised in Santa Rosa, CA. During WWII he served as a pharmacist mate and later as a dentist’s assistant in the Navy Seabees. He was a graduate of the University of California Medical Center School of Dentistry and practiced dentistry for 39 years in Healdsburg. In 1956 Charlie and his wife Helen started in the vineyard business near the same picturesque town. Later they were joined by his son John and his wife Pam and even later his two granddaughters participated in the business.
His first taste of the sea came as a boy when he vacationed in nearby Bodega Bay. There he sailed a skiff and joined the Sea Scouts where he graduated with honors. Charlie joined CCA in 1991 and was an active participant in the San Francisco Station. On his Canadian-built 40 foot yawl Keewaydin, Charlie attended many of our station gams. During the time he was cruise chairman, we always enjoyed a sampling of his rare wines.
In 1961, Charlie joined the crew of CCA member Jim Wilhite on Athene which won a race to Tahiti. During that trip Charlie was the chef and his dentistry services were called upon by an ailing crew member. He shipped on several other voyages as chef on Athene including one to Mazatlan. We were able to pull Charlie away from his vineyard duties to join the CCA Cruises in the Windwards in 1997, New Zealand in 1999 and the Grenadines in 2004. On all those cruises, Charlie brought vintage wines for lunch and dinner and served as chef and chief jokester. Years later when his sailing friends had a reunion in the Napa Valley, Charlie Bacigalupi was true to form and brought us vintage reds and whites from his cellar to create a memorable high spirited, festive trip on the Wine Train up to Calistoga.
John E. Sanford