Charles F. Bahde, known as ‘Mister Peninsula’ and one of the fathers of Ocean Beach Pier, dies at 91
Published - 06/09/17 - 02:23 PM | 15794 views | 0 0 comments | 614 614 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Charles (Chuck) F. Bahde
Charles (Chuck) F. Bahde
Charles (Chuck) F. Bahde, 91, Nov. 19, 1925 - May 13, 2017.

Decorated World War II veteran, industrial designer, builder, real estate investor/entrepreneur, world traveler, artist, philanthropist, devoted husband and family man.

Bahde was born in Milwaukee, Wis. His grandparents were German and Swiss immigrants. His father and mother were first generation Americans. His dad was an organ builder and piano tuner.

He became an Eagle Scout and when he was 16. He was an “all-city” running-guard on his Milwaukee high school football team. Bahde began taking flying lessons with the Civil Air Patrol, in the hope of becoming a fighter pilot. World War II was raging in the Pacific and Europe.

When he was 17 and still in high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an Air Cadet – only to learn afterwards that he had been offered an athletic scholarship for football and track at the University of Wisconsin.

He ended up training as a belly-gunner. Instead of being assigned to a bomber, he was sent on an invading convoy to Iwo Jima, a Japanese-held volcanic island where some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific took place.

It was unique for a member of the Air Force to wade ashore off a landing barge with Marines following the initial assault. On Iwo Jima, Bahde, a corporal and Armorer, was assigned to servicing and loading the .50 caliber guns on P-51 fighter planes.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and a Presidential Citation for pulling four survivors out of a burning B-29 bomber that had crash-landed on the field where he was working. He himself was badly burned. His honorary plaque is at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in La Jolla.

After the war, Bahde returned to Milwaukee and resumed his interrupted football career at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was majoring in business administration when a professor recognized the fact that he had artistic ability and should major in some kind of art.

Bahde transferred to the Chicago Institute of Design (now part of the Illinois Institute of Technology) where he studied Bauhaus principles.

After graduating in 1948, he joined the Merchandising Corp., a division of Fox Theaters, and became head of design. He designed unique concession stands with pitched display cases, animated popcorn machines and butter dispensers. He also designed the Swiss Chalet gift shop and dining room in the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago.

He gave up his job and headed to Geneva, Switzerland, where he joined Chuck Alexander International Public Relations as the company's head designer working on such accounts as Rolex, Esso Standard Oil and Trans World Airlines.

His future wife, Pilar (Swiss and Spanish), was working as an executive secretary in the company's Paris office where they met and fell in love. They returned to Milwaukee, and married there in 1951. He resumed his career working as an assistant advertising manager. He formed his own company in 1955 in Milwaukee, designing and building custom homes in the Midwest.

After securing employment at Convair, as a design engineer, the couple settled in Point Loma in 1959 to raise their two children. Bahde designed and built the family’s custom home on a Point Loma “problem” view lot. He loved coaching at Ocean Beach little league, becoming a father figure for many of his players.

For over four decades, he concentrated his extensive efforts on buying, redesigning, fixing up, and selling investment properties in Ocean Beach, Mission Hills, and Hillcrest.

Bahde was considered one of the fathers of the Ocean Beach Pier that was christened on July 2, 1966. He was the founding president of Peninsulans Inc., the local planning group that commissioned the pier. He and his group lobbied the City, State, and enlisted the help of his friend Congressman Bob Wilson, to secure government funding and approvals.

Bahde also led a Chamber of Commerce committee that secured private funding to build the southern arm of the pier. As a person instrumental in building the pier, he attended the 50th anniversary celebration July 2, 2016. He was a past-president of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and dubbed “Mister Peninsula.”

He moved Rancho Santa Fe 1974. After remodeling the house, he began concentrating on his art. The five-acre yard is an “art walk,” decorated with numerous sculptures. They are constructed from repurposed materials that include different colors of plastic sheeting, used copper solar panels, concrete, mosaics, broken tile. He also, has more than 100 smaller pieces in his gallery collection also made out of recycled material.

The work is called “Dimensionals.” The lucite and plastic sculptures can be seen in multi-dimensions, as they form shadows and silhouettes. They have architectural and abstract shapes.

Bahde and his wife had been very active in the work of the San Diego Humane Society and San Diego Zoo. In 1996, he funded the restoration and preservation of the Hippo Beach sand sculptures at the San Diego Zoo. He served on the Zoo president’s advisory committee.

Bahde had a life-long philanthropic commitment to the San Diego Campus for Animal Care. His 1998 gift launched the campaign to rebuild the county animal shelter. Gifts from Joan Kroc and Helen Copley followed.

Another gift in 2014, enabled SDHS to launch its first ever needs based affordable community spay and neuter program. A boulevard (wing) in the building is named in their honor. In early 2017, the couple, made another major (seven figure) financial donation to SDHS.

Bahde led a long, full, rich and rewarding life. He always put his family first over business and political activities. He was the type of person that could enter a room, flash a smile, reach out, and make instant new friends. Throughout his life, he had a passion for sports, automobiles, animals, and people, as reflected in his interests and philanthropic activities. He was an avid tennis player and car collector.

He is survived by wife, Pilar; children, Chuck E. Bahde (Kerrill) and Kim Forrester (Kevin), grandchildren, Courtney (Chuck) Coolidge and Cody (Amy) Forrester; great grandchild C.J. Forrester.

A private memorial service for immediate family to be held at Miramar National Cemetery in the near future. Contributions to the San Diego Humane Society are appreciated.
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