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Charles Thomas Cleary
January 5, 1954   -   July 31 , 2015

Obituary posted by : Sharmian White ,  child in common   
Person Description:
Charles Thomas Cleary (a.k.a. “brothercharles”) of Oak Hill and Chantilly, VA, passed on July 31, 2015, at the Capital Caring Halquist Memorial Intake Center hospice in Arlington, VA, surrounded by loving friends and family.

Charles is survived by his son, Andrew White Cleary, age 16 (with Sharmian L. White of Chantilly, VA); former spouse Diane Cleary; and siblings Patricia Cleary (Denver, CO); Linda Massey (Denver, CO); Bridget Cleary Karam (Austin, TX); Kevin Cleary (Beijing, China); Christine Meeker (Sugarland, TX); and Robin Deci (Sugarland, TX). He was pre-deceased by parents John Patrick Cleary and Astrid Linnea Ohlson, both of Denver, CO.

Charles was an artist, an activist, and a teacher, and was deeply inspired by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Charles created several conceptual collages around themes of peace, love, and race relations, and often used his artistic spirit and talents to teach children in art classes and to reach out to others in the world. One of Charles’ collages was exhibited at the Charles Sumner School Museum in Washington, D.C., one of three public schools built for black children after the Civil War, named after abolitionist U.S. Senator Charles Sumner. Charles also wrote numerous poems, among his favorites “Full Moon Revisited” and “Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” both of which are accessible on

Charles fought racial and economic injustice wherever he saw it, most recently participating in demonstrations against police brutality and racial profiling in Baltimore and D.C., even as he struggled with cancer. He mourned and marched after the killing of Trayvon Martin. He was a staunch supporter of increased gun control, and was a part of the Occupy DC movement. He had great admiration for President Obama, as well as for former Presidents Carter, Kennedy, and Lincoln.

Charles was an avid tennis player, professional tennis fan, and tennis teacher. In the years before his passing, he taught tennis at the International Country Club, Fairfax, VA, and was instrumental in starting and building the Chantilly Highlands Homeowners Association (CHHA) men’s tennis club, and in establishing a tennis instruction program for numerous children at the Chantilly Highlands Community Center in Oak Hill, VA.

Charles was also a devoted fan of coffee and conversation, and could be found at the Herndon Clocktower Starbucks just about every morning, until he could no longer physically make the trip. Two of his closest friends from Starbucks, Charlie Breiterman and Jack O’Neil visited him practically every day that he was hospitalized in the several weeks before his passing.

Notwithstanding all of his pursuits, Charles considered his greatest accomplishment and joy to be his son, Andrew, upon whom he doted. Starting as soon as Andrew could walk, Charles took his son to as many of D.C.’s museums, concerts, special events, and other activities as possible, as well as to peaceful protests and demonstrations. Andrew is featured prominently in several of Charles’ creative works. Though Charles and Sharmian split in 2001, they remained friends and enthusiastic parents, often traveling with Andrew to a host of beautiful and inspiring locales, favorites of which were Disneyland; Santa Fe; Laguna Beach; and Martha’s Vineyard. Charles was blessed to be able to say his goodbyes to Andrew, and Andrew helped select music to soothe his father’s passing, including favorites by James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel.

Service Information:
A celebration of Charles’ life will be held in Denver, CO on August 23, 2015; contact the family for details. A fundraiser has been established by Charles’ family and friends to assist with Andrew’s future education. Those wishing to do so may donate online at: Donations in Charles’ name may also be made to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violence in Atlanta, GA, at:
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