Charles W. Oriel, 95

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 3:00pm

Charles W. Oriel passed away peacefully on Jan. 18, 2014, in Cromwell, Conn, at the age of 95, with the same sense of dignity and propriety with which he lived his life. Born on April 17, 1918 in East Orange, N.J., Charles William Oriel grew up there and in Lanoka Harbor, N.J. He was the son of Elizabeth Ann Gawley Oriel and Charles Richardson Oriel. He was Charlie to many, Cha to his family, and Dad to us. He met his sweetheart, Ruth Eleanor Schliemann, in East Orange, N.J. They married in 1947 and lived in Union at first, then Westfield, and Bernardsville, N.J., for many years before moving to Block Island in 1978. They have been members of the Covenant Village of Cromwell since 1986.

Charlie, the youngest of eight children, graduated in 1941 from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, where he became an electrical engineer. His father and brother had been electrical contractors during the early part of the 20th century. Charlie’s career was in the public utility sector, working for Public Service Electric & Gas of New Jersey and then for Ebasco International Corp and American Foreign Power in New York City in the 1950s. He was an engineering consultant to the company’s Chilean and Argentine electric companies. He traveled extensively there, visiting existing conventional and hydroelectric power plants and substations, as well as new construction sites, meeting and socializing with many interesting people, but always happy to get back home to his family. Ruth was able to join him on one trip to Guatemala. Representatives of these South American companies came to the U.S. and met him at work and at their homes in New Jersey. Later, he continued with Public Service Electric & Gas, helping to oversee construction of the power grid from power plants in New Jersey and elsewhere. He retired as Principal Engineer in 1978.

After summer vacations on, and having fallen in love with, Block Island, the Oriels bought a small piece of land near Fresh Pond, called the “School Forest.” Combined with two other small homestead parcels, they began building their home in 1974. They then retired to Block Island where they lived for almost 10 years fulltime and later parttime. During their retirement years they were very active in church and municipal affairs, as well as enjoying new friends and old friends, family visits, their gardens and the natural beauty of the island. Charlie continued to go to Block Island even after Ruth’s passing, up until recently. They were members of the Harbor Baptist Church and the Rocky Hill Congregational Church in Connecticut.

Charlie cared beautifully for Ruth, at home and in her later years, at Pilgrim Manor at Covenant Village and on Block Island, where they received kind help from Mary Donnelly and others. Ruth passed away in 2005.

Charlie was known for his sense of humor (which he had through his last days), his love of pie (especially cherry), ice cream, and requests for extra gravy!

A special thank you to the nurses and staff at Pilgrim Manor and the Rehabilitation Department for Charlie’s care.

Charlie is survived by his two sons and their families, Charles R. Oriel (Rick) and his wife Kay Parent of Newport, R.I., and her 3 children: Betsy Atkins of Ipswich Mass., John Atkins and his wife Liz, and their children Marietta and Patrick of Topsfield Mass., and Patty Atkins and her husband, Tom Brightman, and their son Kemper of Tucson Arizona; Kenneth J. Oriel and his wife Elsie of Clifton Park, New York, their son Sean, and their daughter Meghan Oriel Wallas and her husband, John Paul, and their children Brody and Macey of Watervliet New York; and many nieces, nephews, as well as friends, including the Rev. Bob Watson, and others from the Village, the Devine Table, Block Island, and elsewhere.

A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. at Pilgrim Manor Chapel at Covenant Village in Cromwell.

There will be no calling hours and in lieu of flowers, donations in Charlie’s memory can be made to the Harbor Baptist Church or the Block Island Historical Society.

Messages of condolence may be sent to the family at