Charles William Basham of Fort Collins died peacefully on Sunday, Nov. 24, at age 85.
Born in Ponca City to Frances and Orville Basham, he graduated from Ponca City High School in 1952 and did his undergraduate work at Oklahoma State University. He then received his PhD from the University of Maryland in horticulture. It was in Maryland that he met and married his beloved wife, Anita Sacchini Basham, in 1963. Charlie taught horticulture at Colorado State University for 30 years. Upon retirement from CSU, he leveraged his earlier experiences into an international consulting career. He loved his work.
Charlie actively supported fair treatment for women here and in other countries, including from the beginning at CSU, inviting women professionals to present their work in research and education at monthly seminars at a time when that was not common practice. He also actively worked with the university to ensure women had equal access to athletic and academic scholarships.
In his undergraduate days at Oklahoma State, an opportunity arose to help develop a school of agriculture in Ethiopia under the auspices of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie. Charlie interrupted his studies to undertake this contract. The exercise was successful: in the 1990s he was invited back to Addis Ababa to evaluate the school’s curriculum. Charlie and Anita happened to arrive in time for the graduation of a new class, to discover that the head of the school and several other prominent scientists and successful government officials had been among his first students. He was warmly welcomed and recognized.
In 1993-95 he served on loan from CSU to the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research following the first Gulf War, to help develop a long-range plan for redevelopment, “regreening” and vegetation development in the country. Because Kuwait is bordered on three sides by the sea, the first phase included developing desalination plants.
Charlie and Anita later spent four years in Armenia under a USDA contract, where Charlie’s quiet, winning smile and commitment to standards won him lifelong friends and a successful program.
He was in charge of helping agricultural growers develop marketable products for export, by developing skills in product planning, marketing, entrepreneurship, and export capabilities. As a representative of the USDA he awarded funding for projects in Armenia; his lifelong sense of fairness, unwavering integrity, and gracious yet resolute personality ensured projects were selected on merit and had the best chance of success.
His support for equal rights led him to hire and mentor an outstanding assistant (a woman) who recently contacted him to say she never could have found another man in Armenia to give her the confidence to be an independent professional woman, as Charlie did. Another recently told him, “Charlie Basham, you left a footprint in Armenia that still exists in the development of our country.”
Life in Fort Collins
An active member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church since 1965, Charlie served on the vestry and in other leadership roles for many terms. He also enjoyed the many years of fellowship of the CSU Men’s Science Club, and supported Anita in her many community projects.
Charlie was above all a well-loved and kind family man with an ever-present smile and dry, quick wit. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Anita; daughter Melanie Merton, son-in-law Dr. Andrew Merton, and favorite granddaughter Avery Merton, all of Fort Collins; his sister Sue Cunningham of Yukon, brother Marshall Basham of Ponca City and sister Joy Ratway of Denver, Colo.
Charlie’s family describes him as fiercely loyal and supportive to all he knew, with unshakable integrity and a strong sense of justice. He was kind, patient and loving; his dry humor was supplied in quick rejoiners. His granddaughter Avery says, “He was really funny. I don’t think he was appreciated enough for that.” He had the “sweetest smile, which he used all the time.” His friends and neighbors remember his graciousness and generosity and his quiet firmness when he needed to take a stand.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Food Bank for Larimer County.