in memoriam: An Appreciation of Charles John Maguire (July 13, 1938-October 27, 2020)
All those who knew Charles were deeply saddened to learn that he passed away last month after a long, happy and productive life, succumbing to a cancer he had fended off for more than two years.
In the mid-1990s, I was new to the Bank community, and sat in the Preston auditorium beside an elegant woman, resplendent in a gorgeous flowing outfit. I asked where she’d bought it, and was surprised, impressed and envious to learn her husband had brought it back from a mission as a gift. That was my first chat with WBFN volunteer extraordinaire, Vim Maguire, and we soon became friends.
Before long, I had also met Vim’s husband Charles, and came to appreciate that besides having perfect taste in clothing for his wife, and an endearing Irish lilt to his speech, Charles was among the kindest and most gentlemanly of men. Charles and Vim were true soulmates, having met young in London, and then went together to work in Zambia and Nigeria for the following six years. As an ethnically mixed couple in the 1960s, they initially encountered a lack of acceptance from some quarters. But their obvious devotion to one another, goodness, and huge capacity for fun which they shared with whatever company they found themselves in, won over all hearts.
The Maguires made their home base in McLean, VA and spent summers in Galway, in Charles’s native Ireland. Early in their marriage, Charles passed a stringent test of his affections set by Vim: when informed by a third party that Vim had been involved in a car accident, Charles (correctly!) asked first about her welfare, then about damage to the vehicle! No one who knew him would doubt that he would respond that way. They enjoyed 54 years of happy married life, their partnership enduring iron strong despite the stresses of mission life that can fracture families, and through Charles’s difficult terminal illness.
Charles had a PhD in agricultural economics, and spent most of his working life at the WBG, focusing on education, environmental sustainability, and responses to climate change. Work for the WBG and other international organizations took him all over the world, and retirement consulting also included a period for the Maguires at the FAO in Rome.
Vim had an early career as a science teacher. In their African assignments at that time this was a responsibility considered shockingly novel for a female. Once settled in DC, she immersed herself in many WBFN-related activities. Charles was rightly proud of Vim’s fund-raising and cultural endeavors, and encouraged and promoted her efforts. Of their charitable causes, the most notable beneficiaries have been MMEG, the Fistula Foundation, and Sri Lankan tsunami relief. As a native Sri Lankan, this last was especially close to Vim’s heart.
WBFN members’ lives have been enormously enlivened and enriched by the museum and gallery tours, restaurant visits, cooking demonstrations and fashion show fundraisers (for Fistula Foundation, Aschiana Foundation, WBFN Asia Group) among much else that Vim has organized. Charles often joined in, sharing as he did Vim’s interest and enthusiasm for food adventures and other cultural events.
The always welcoming Maguire home has been the venue for innumerable WBFN English and African Literature Group discussions and potlucks. Charles not only generously shared Vim’s time and energy with her enormous circle of friends, but he also pitched in with practical help to make these initiatives a success. He would uncomplainingly drive volunteers to and fro for the MMEG Fair, and would make any rearrangements necessary in their lovely home to accommodate mass invasions of Book Club guests, as well as setting up whatever electronic arrangements were needed for occasions where we spoke with authors via Skype, or viewed a book-related movie together.
Predating his relationship with Vim, soccer became a lifelong passion for Charles. He simply loved the game, playing and refereeing in his younger years. He had no allegiance to any particular team – he rooted for them all. He coached a few women’s teams – one in Minnesota, and he turned his DC team into champions. He would stay up to all hours to watch international games in real time.
Charles and Vim have been very generous with their attention, affection, and financial resources. In addition to above-mentioned causes, they have underwritten the education of many needy children, and have been a treasured extra set of parents to their many nieces and nephews. Charles also made a point of mentoring a new generation of colleagues with guidance and placements. His concern for the environment extended beyond his professional work - in whichever country they have lived, the Maguires have embarked on tree planting – hundreds of them - seeing trees as enduring, life-giving, nourishing, and ever more important to regulate our climate.
Above all else, Charles was known – or more correctly was notorious and beloved - for his sense of humor. Always concise, at once wickedly clever, and equally wickedly mischievous and playful, delighting his adult friends and youngsters alike, his sense of humor was constantly in full play - when he answered the home phone, around the dinner table with friends, or simply in casual encounters.
A friend recalls driving with Charles through one of our area’s most salubrious suburbs, past vast mansions, one day in November 2012. Without warning, Charles lowered his window, and yelled to no-one in particular “Romney lost!”. Charles passed away just before this year’s election. One can only imagine with what relish and relief he would have welcomed a new US administration that shared his concern for the existential environmental and climate challenges confronting us.
He is sorely missed.
An obituary can be found here.
Condolence messages can be posted there, and there is information for those wishing to honor Charles’s life with a memorial contribution, including an option to plant trees that is mediated through an environmental group. Donations in memory of Charles made directly through American Forests rather than via the funeral home, will result in very many more trees being planted for the same cost - one tree for every dollar. Details on the AmericanForests website.
Myra Jacobs, WBFN English Literature Group Co-coordinator