Written by Seaman Phylicia Miller.
One man got Tuesdays with Morrie, but at Station Fire Island the entire crew is fortunate enough to get Wednesdays with Charles Baack. Since 1976 Charles W. Baack has stood faithful to Station Fire Island as a communications watchstander and break-in trainer. What’s more amazing than that, is he is 97 years young and remains as sharp as a whip!
Baack is considered a fountain of knowledge around the station, someone who can be found reading any and everything and can recite pages from Bowditch and Chapman . All crew, from non-rate to officer-in-charge learn something from the simplest of conversations with Baack.
A question like, “How are you doing today Mr. Baack?” is often replied with, “I learned something today. It’s a good day. Every day you learn something is a good day.”
After leaving the Navy, many years would pass until his interest and love of the water prompted him back to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary. A decision that could be most comparable to adding polish to a fine piece of silver, Mr. Baack shines bright in his flotilla.
Living near and boating on the Great South Bay his entire life, it is safe to say no one knows these waters better. As an auxillarist he has acquired knowledge that has enabled him to be a vessel safety examiner as well as a teacher of numerous boater safety classes for youth and adults.
For the last 37 years, Baack has seen many Coast Guard members grow from disoriented non-rates on to great petty officers and chiefs. Specifically, the current executive petty officer at Station Fire Island, Chief Petty Officer Nathan Purinton, remembers Baack being here as he avanced from non-rate to petty officer 2nd class on his first tour with the Coast Guard.
The mere weekly presence of Baack brings a richness of history that crewmembers regard with admiration. When once asked what would be the one piece of advice he’d like to give the younger generation Baack said, “Stick to your moral convictions, everything else around you will change but that.”
At age 97, he lives his life better than most could ask for. The neighborhood children in his quaint cul-de-sac run freely in and out of his house for their one piece of candy a day, a bowl he leaves full in his living room for them. Over the summer you will hear talk of him leaving early to trim his hedges before the sun gets too hot. Baack remains an active member of his church and takes five-hour drives up to Maine to visit his son several times a year.
Many of his fellow auxillarist consider him a hero amongst them; a modest, humble and giving man. His dedication to Station Fire Island over these years holds true to Coast Guard core values and for that we honor him.