Charles Melvin Binford, 90, a long-time resident of Orcas Island, died Saturday, Feb. 17, at his home in Deer Harbor. A beloved son, brother, husband, father, grandfather (Poppy), friend, colleague and innkeeper, Charles has a forever place in the hearts of those he touched in life’s journey. Among those are his wife of 33 years Valerie Binford; his daughter Susan and daughter-in-law Lynne Wiggins; two grandchildren Maddison (Maddie) and Zachary (Zac); stepson Brad Megerle; brother Don Binford and sister-in-law Barbara Binford; along with nieces, nephews and many dear friends, including his four-legged Orcas pals – Max, Maggie, Baylen, Tochi, Coco, Bruno, Pasha and Hoshi.
Charles moved to Orcas in 1996, opening The Place at Cayou Cove bed and breakfast in Deer Harbor in 1997. Throughout its 18 years of operation, the inn played host to thousands of guests, garnering national recognition from such publications as Conde’ Nast, Sunset and Travel & Leisure. It was awarded the prestigious “Andre Harper Travel Bed and Breakfast of the Year” in 2005. Charles was an active member of the community throughout his 20-plus years as an island resident, serving as member and chairman of the Deer Harbor Plan Review Committee; chairman and member of the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce board of directors; member of the Orcas Family Health Center board of directors, and the Orcas Choral Society.
Charles was born in Hutchinson, KS, July 20, 1927, to parents Melvin and Doris Binford. Prior to moving to Wichita, KS in 1941, he lived in McPherson and Eldorado KS and Oklahoma City, OK. Upon graduation from East High School in Wichita in 1944, he enlisted in the US Navy where he was accepted and then rejected when his age was revealed. Finally, in 1945, he was accepted into the U.S. Coast Guard and served in both Atlantic and Pacific theatres on troop ships Breckinridge and Mayo. He married Jean Donley in 1948 and graduated from Wichita University with a BS degree in 1950. Shortly thereafter, he joined Hartford Accident & Indemnity in Wichita, leading to managerial positions in Hutchison and Sioux City, Iowa, the beginning of what was to be a highly successful career in insurance and risk management, including the co-authoring of a widely used textbook on OSHA. Charles whose life-long passion was music and singing, was active in many music ventures that brought him immense satisfaction during his years in Sioux City (1953 -1960). He was a member of the Sioux City Choral Society, board member of the Sioux City Symphony, organized the 100 plus member Sioux City Children’s Choir and produced and directed an Iowa touring company of “Music Man”.
In 1960, Charles relocated to Arizona with his family for health reasons and received his master’s degree from Arizona State University. From 1962 -1968, he managed multiple central Arizona insurance offices based in Coolidge, Arizona, where he organized a 110-voice performing children’s choir. He assumed a managerial role at Tucson Realty and Trust in 1969 and in 1974 opened the Johnson and Higgins (J&H) International Insurance Brokers office in Phoenix, where he served on the Phoenix Symphony and Chamber of Commerce board of directors. In 1980, Charles joined J&H’s Int’l Department, managing the Sydney, Australia office. As a Senior Vice President of J&H specializing in risk management and captive insurance companies, he was transferred to Tokyo in 1985 to run the company’s Pac Rim operation, managing Japan and South Korea operations. While in Japan, he served on the board of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and published its magazine. In 1993, Charles returned to the J&H headquarters in New York City, where he worked to develop new strategic practices with J&H European partners. Following this assignment, he officially retired from J&H and began an exciting new chapter in his life, ultimately choosing to relocate permanently to Orcas Island.
Charles was an avid, often rabid, sports participant, fan and coach his entire life. He loved to compete. He really loved to win. He was resident counselor, advisor and “mentor for all seasons.” He enjoyed fishing and sailing, entertaining and cooking, especially preparing breakfasts each morning for Cayou Cove guests, who returned year after year. A favorite past time was sharing in the adventures of Maddie and Zac whom he adored – and Poppy’s pancakes were truly the best! Charles loved the water, and none more than the waters of the San Juan Islands, especially Deer Harbor, his forever home.
The family members wish to convey their heart-felt thanks to his doctors and caregivers for their dedication, support and kindness over these past few months. They include: Dave Shinstrom, Molly Roberts, Tina Torri, Norm Cohen, Sophie Lappas, Virginia Moore and Barbara Griffin.
A celebration of Charles’ life is slated for summer, 2018.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation in Charles’ name to: Orcas Family Health Center, 1286 Mt. Baker Road, Unit B 102, Eastsound, WA 98245.