Charles Madary Sr., 91, press officer to Eisenhower during World War II

February 29, 2000|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Charles Read Madary Sr., a decorated Army officer who briefed war correspondents on some of history's momentous events, working side by side with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ernie Pyle and Ernest Hemingway, died Wednesday of a heart attack at his Eastern Shore farm. He was 91.

As a press officer for Eisenhower's European command during World War II, Mr. Madary was a liaison between the military and the press for historic moments such as D-Day, the liberation of the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, the German surrender at Rheims and the Nuremberg war crimes trial.

He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel -- and, he liked to tell friends and family, he was with General Eisenhower in a hotel as the Germans were about to surrender. "He said [General Eisenhower] was quiet, nervous and pacing," recalled his son C. Read Madary Jr.

Mr. Madary said his father was a fount of war stories, from encounters with Nazi leader Hermann Goering in a cell at Nuremberg to rambunctious times with writer Ernest Hemingway.

He said his father recalled Goering as charming and witty: "If you didn't know what he had done, you would have liked him."

Hemingway was remembered for insisting on carrying a sidearm.

"My father from time to time would have to apprehend [Hemingway], bring him in, confiscate his gun and send him on his way," Mr. Madary said. But the confrontations were more theater than discipline. In reality, they were buddies who stayed in touch long after the war.

"He told me one of his biggest challenges was to keep [Hemingway] out of trouble," said C. Boyd Madary, his other son.

Mr. Madary also said that he was friends with Ernie Pyle, and saw the famed war correspondent off on a ship to Asia, where he would be killed.

Among the artifacts of war that Mr. Madary brought home to Maryland was a picture taken as he stood near a burned German tank in Cologne. Moments after the photo was taken, soldiers beseeched him to take cover from enemy fire, he told his family.

He also brought home armbands worn by Jews interred at concentration camps. On that experience, Mr. Madary said little, according to his son, Read.

"His summation of that portion of his life was just, `It was mind-boggling, beyond comprehension,' " he said.

Mr. Madary was born in Baltimore in 1908. He grew up in the Hamilton area of the city, and graduated from City College and the Eastern School of Commerce and Law.

After a brief stint in the Navy Reserve, he decided to make a career of the Army. After World War II, however, he received a medical discharge after suffering a heart attack.

About that time, he divorced his wife of 15 years, the former Margaret Boyd. He later married Dorothy Buckmeister. In 1947, he purchased a farm near Easton, and spent his weekends there, growing tomatoes and other vegetables. He also raised Hereford cattle.

He joined White and McCurdy Insurance Agency in Baltimore, and later became president of the company. He retired in 1980, allowing him to live full time at his Solomon Farm, a 200-acre spread on the Miles River.

Mr. Madary leased some of the land for corn and soybean farming. He raised birds -- including pigeons, Canada geese, ducks and peacocks -- in the yard behind his restored farmhouse, and enjoyed exhibiting them in pens at Easton's annual Waterfowl Festival. He apparently was feeding the animals when he collapsed and died.

Mr. Madary attended St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Easton. A recipient of the Bronze Star, he was a member of the E. E. Streets Memorial Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars No. 5118, in Easton. He was a 32nd-degree Mason and a member of Edgewater Yacht Club and the Izaak Walton League.

After his second wife died in the mid-1980s, he married Sophronia Anne Pillsbury. She died in 1992.

A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 11 at St. Mark's United Methodist Church. Burial will be private.

Besides his sons, Mr. Madary is survived by five grandsons and four great-granddaughters.

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