Charles Hayes, 82

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 7:15am
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Charles Elwyn Hayes, Jr. died peacefully in the presence of his family at his home in Lewes, Delaware, on Aug. 30, 2015. The cause of death was acute myeloid leukemia. Charles visited Block Island every summer beginning in 1952, first staying at hotels owned by the Mott family, and then at the home he built in 1978 on Andy’s Way with his wife, née Joan Venetia Rountree, whom he first met Freshman Week at Brown University in 1950. (Joan is granddaughter of Alton Mott and Clossie Ball, and daughter of John Rountree and Mildred Venetia Mott.) On island, Charles enjoyed tinkering at his workbench in the shed, pruning the brush on the property, and cutting the lawn with his tractor mower, waiting until late afternoon for a walk and a swim with Joan at Crescent Beach, then returning home for an outdoor shower and taking in the sunset with family and friends on the deck overlooking Great Salt Pond. 

Born Sept. 30, 1932, in Chicago, Charles was president of the Charles Elwyn Hayes Company founded by his father in that city in 1933. He resigned the firm’s last account, acquired in its inaugural year, just a month before he died. The advertising agency, headquartered in the tower of the Wrigley Building, among other locations, serviced savings and loans and industrial accounts. Charles joined the company in 1956 while selling classified advertising space for The Chicago Tribune, coming on fulltime in 1958 and taking over the helm when his father died in 1966. 

Charles attended Harvard School for Boys in Chicago, where he played varsity football, basketball, and baseball, graduating in 1950. At Brown he played linebacker on the football team and was also on the rowing squad. In 1954, he earned his B.A., majoring in classical studies, later that year marrying Joan in Long Beach, California, where her father served as a captain in the U.S. Coast Guard. Charles served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from the early 1950s to 1966, reaching the rank of lieutenant and doing tours of duty in Asia on the USS Ajax repair ship. He was married in his navy whites while the Ajax was moored in San Diego.  

In 1962 he earned an M.B.A. at Northwestern University, contributing to the success of the Charles Elwyn Hayes Company in one of the most competitive and colorful eras in advertising history. In a statement of conscience meant to focus attention on what he felt were matters of grave patriotic concern, he closed the company’s offices to protest the killings of demonstrators by the National Guard at Kent State in 1970. In the early 1980s, he spun off a satellite company, New Neighbor Marketing, which brokers newcomer lists, now run by his two sons. 

Charles and Joan had hoped to visit Block Island together this summer but the season was taken up with seeking treatment for his illness and the task of ensconcing the couple in Cadbury, a Quaker retirement community in Lewes. He is survived by Joan, his wife of over 60 years; his sons Charles Elwyn Hayes III (Helene) and John Rountree Hayes (Judith); his grandchildren Erin Hayes Willis (Hunter), Emily Hayes, Andrea Hayes, Jonas Hayes, and Natalia Hayes; and his great granddaughter Maybellene Willis. Graveside services were held at the Block Island Cemetery followed by a reception at the Hayes residence on Andy’s Way on Sept. 5, 2015. 

Donations in his memory may be made to the Block Island Conservancy or the Block Island Historical Society.