Listen to this post
MEEKER I If someone had reason to be bitter, it might be Charles Devereaux.
After all, growing up as an African-American in Meeker, he was one of the few blacks in a town that was overwhelmingly white.
“His family were the only ones (African-Americans) in Meeker for a long time,” said Devereaux’s wife, Muriel.
But, now in his 80s, Charles is anything but angry. And the town he has called home for his entire life has embraced him.
Charles, a World War II veteran, participated in the May 31 Memorial Day services. He served in the U.S. Army toward the end of the war.
“It was when the war was winding down,” Muriel said. “He was in the army of occupation in France.”
Meeker VFW Post 5843 awarded Charles the honor of throwing a wreath in the White River as well as laying a wreath at the veterans memorial at Highland Cemetery during the town’s traditional Memorial Day services.
“I really thought that was something,” Charles said. “That really was. I couldn’t believe it. I was really surprised.”
“But you deserved it, honey, every bit,” Muriel said.
Bestowing the Memorial Day honor on Charles came as no surprise to Jean Gianinetti, director of the Walbridge Wing long-term care facility, where Charles is a resident.
“When I take him out to community events, everyone comes over to visit with him,” Gianinetti said. “Charles, he is a wonderful man. I think we all love Charles. He is truly a gentlemen.”
Not only was Charles a black man living in a predominately white town, but he married a white woman.
“I can’t imagine how he and Muriel rocked this town when they got married,” Gianinetti said.
Being an interracial couple did raise eyebrows, Muriel said.
“Oh, yes, when we’d go to Grand Junction or Denver, we would have people stop at the sidewalk and turn around and stare at us,” she said. “We got accustomed to it. There were hardly any Negro men married to white women. I consider myself Negro, too.
“That’s right, lovie,” Muriel said, looking at Charles. “I’m just like you. I guess that seems strange, but that’s all right. I’m no different from my baby.”
Muriel still lives in the house the couple shared for many years — the former Episcopal Church parsonage, which was moved to Seventh Street — and visits Charles regularly at the Walbridge Wing.
“Charles hates being away from her and he worries about not being there to care for her. Muriel visits him almost everyday,” said Wing director Gianinetti.
Charles and Muriel have been together for 53 years.
“We knew when we got together it was going to be for always, and we knew that God had put us together,” Muriel said.
Muriel and Charles never had any children of their own, but Muriel had five children from a previous marriage.
“He took them under his wing like his own and raised them,” Muriel said. “He’s been a wonderful husband and father.”
Muriel moved to Meeker when she was in high school. Charles was born and raised in Meeker, but he didn’t finish high school.
“He started high school, but the teachers were not very kind to him,” Muriel said. “There was a lot more prejudice then than there is now.”
So, Charles went to work.
“I worked ever since I was old enough to work,” he said.
For many years, Charles was a heavy-equipment operator.
He grew up around machinery.
“He was raised doing that, running heavy equipment,” Muriel said.
When he was older, Charles and his brothers John, Jim and Lawrence had their own business. Later, Charles went out on his own.
“We did a lot of work for ranchers. We did a lot of work for everybody. We built roads, reservoirs, you name it, we done it. Those was the good old days,” said Charles, who is hard of hearing after years of operating heavy equipment and not wearing earplugs.
“They didn’t do that back then,” Muriel said.
So, during conversations between visitors and her husband, Muriel helps fill in the gaps when Charles’ memory or hearing fails him.
Muriel, 83, still dotes over Charles, who is 84.
“Keep it down, will you?” he said when she told his age.
Charles and Muriel hold hands throughout the interview. The years obviously haven’t dimmed the couple’s affection for each other.
“Yes, they are still very much in love,” Gianinetti said.
“We’ve always been lovers,” Muriel said.
“We sure have,” Charles agreed.