Cover photo for Charles Henry Gnerlich's Obituary
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1943 Capt. Charles H. Gnerlich, USN (Ret) 2024

Charles Henry Gnerlich

October 21, 1943 — May 10, 2024


Charles Henry Gnerlich, CAPT USN (Ret) passed away on May 10, 2024, at White Oak Estates.


Captain Gnerlich was a native of Closter, New Jersey, the son of Charles Otto Gnerlich and Dorothy Crowell Gnerlich.  Charles attended Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest, New Jersey, where he was active in student government and lettered in football and wrestling.  He attended the JB Speed College of Engineering at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky on a full NROTC scholarship.  The engineering curriculum was five years in length and included four quarters of co-op work in engineering positions in industry.  Two of Gnerlich’s summer co-op periods were done as US Navy training opportunities.  One summer, he trained as an enlisted man on the aircraft carrier USS Wasp; the second summer, as a junior officer aboard the nuclear-powered cruiser USS Long Beach in the Mediterranean Sea.  At U of L, Charles was active in student government and a member of Theta Tau, a National Professional engineering fraternity.  He graduated in June 1966, and was commissioned an Ensign, United States Navy.


Captain Gnerlich’s first assignment was aboard the USS Kaskaskia (AO-27) as Damage Control Assistant to the Chief Engineer.   Gnerlich was responsible for maintaining fuel quality and operating the system transferring fuels to other Navy vessels while operations were underway.  Following attendance at Destroyer Department Head School in Newport, RI, he was assigned as Weapons Department head aboard the USS Perry (DD 844) joining the ship in the Pacific supporting American efforts in Vietnam.  He participated in additional training and nine months of Vietnamese language training in Monterey, CA.  Gnerlich reported as Assistant Senior Advisor to the Vietnamese Training Center located in Cam Rahn Bay, South Vietnam.  This tour of duty was followed by assignment to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, where he graduated with a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree in June 1975.  Promoted to Lieutenant Commander, Gnerlich reported to USS Lawrence (DDG 4) as Chief Engineer, joining the ship in Norway and operating north of the Arctic Circle before returning to the ship’s homeport of Norfolk, VA.   Following deployment, Gnerlich led the ship’s Engineering Department through a complex nine-month overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.  Duties as a student at the joint-service Armed Forces Staff College followed.  In March 1978, he reported to Naval Recruiting District Philadelphia, as Executive Officer during the difficult transition from a military draft to the all-volunteer Navy.  While in Philadelphia, he continued his engineering education at Drexel University and was subsequently certified as a Registered Professional Engineer by the state of Pennsylvania and became a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers.  Returning to sea, Gnerlich’s next assignment was as Executive Officer of USS Cleveland (LPD 7) in San Diego, CA, a ship that was part of the amphibious forces operating in the Pacific including operations in Korea, Japan, Philippines, Hong Kong, Guam, and Okinawa.  Charles’ next assignment came in 1981, where he was on the staff of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Surface Warfare in the Pentagon as a member of the Ship Modernization Division.  Modernization programs included mechanical and weapons system upgrades, notably the introduction of vertical launch Tomahawk cruise missiles and the Global Positioning System into the fleet.  While assigned to the Pentagon, Gnerlich was selected for destroyer command.  In February of 1985, he assumed command of USS Coontz (DDG 40) operating in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the US Sixth Fleet.  During his time in command the ship also deployed to the Caribbean Sea and the Persian Gulf; earning the ship’s first ever Battle Efficiency Award “E” and celebrating the ship’s 25th year of commissioned service.  In July of 1987, following attendance at the Naval War College Integrated Warfare Course in Newport, RI, Captain Gnerlich reported to Commander, US Atlantic Fleet as Director, Fleet Operation Division and served simultaneously in a NATO position as Western Atlantic Operations Officer.   From February to September of 1985, he served as the first Operations and Plans Officer for Joint Task Force Four, now the Fourth Fleet, in the Caribbean, starting up the first joint military/law enforcement anti-drug operation based in Key West, FL.  His next assignment as Commanding Officer, Naval Station New York, was from September 1989 to November 1991.  During that time, he successfully completed several major construction projects; opening the Navy’s first new homeport since WWII and relocating New York Naval Operations from Brooklyn to Staten Island.   The most rewarding aspect of this assignment was hosting foreign Navy dignitaries and supporting the annual “Fleet Week” in New York.  Captain Gnerlich also served on the New York Desert Storm parade committee.  The New York Marathon begins every year on Staten Island at what is now the former Naval Base.  Hosting the runners and various officials was an enjoyable responsibility that created unforgettable memories.  It was while in New York that Captain Gnerlich married long-time girlfriend, Julie Ashcraft Merritt of Spartanburg, SC.


After completing over two years in New York, Captain Gnerlich was ordered to Charleston, SC to assume command of Destroyer Squadron Four.  Soon after reporting to Charleston, Captain Gnerlich was asked to assume duties of Commander, Destroyer Squadron Six and the Commander of the readiness Support Group in Charleston, discharging the responsibilities formerly held by three Navy Captains.  The total number of ships supported by the staff in Charleston was twenty-two.   After serving on the team planning for the closing of the Charleston Navy Base, Gnerlich relinquished command in February 1994.  He retired from active duty in Charleston on June 1, 1994.


Captain Gnerlich and Julie moved back to Spartanburg after retirement.  He was employed as a consultant at Converse College, serving as the interim director of the initial women’s leadership program, the South Carolina Institute of Leadership (SCIL) for Women at Converse.  Following his work at Converse, he became a Training Consultant with the Dale Carnegie Training programs, instructing in various courses offered both in public and private settings.  Charles worked for McMillan Smith and Partners, Architects, as Director of Operations, developing a project planning and tracking system.  He was also employed by Spencer Hines Properties as a Project Manager for several commercial real estate projects.  In April 2005, Gnerlich was asked to serve First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg as Business Administrator, a position he held until retirement in April 2009.


Charles was active in the Spartanburg community, serving as a member and facilitator for a working group of the “Share the Vision” project.  He was a member of the Executive Board of the Palmetto Council, Boy Scouts of America, and a member of the Spartanburg Public Safety Department’s Public Safety Committee.   He also supported various Chamber of Commerce activities locally and in Columbia, earning recognition for successful enrollment of numerous new chamber members.


He is survived by his wife, Julie Ashcraft Merritt Gnerlich; son, Jeff (Jen) of Louisville, KY.; daughter, Cheryl of Nashville, TN; two stepdaughters, Courtney King and Colee Wingo and two grandchildren, Grady King and Holden Wingo all of Bozeman, Mt.


Funeral services will be held at 11:00 am Friday, May 17, 2024, at the Episcopal Church of the Advent, 141 Advent Street, Spartanburg, SC 29302, conducted by the Rev. Paula Griffin and the Rev. Christie Walton. A private burial will follow in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.


In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Episcopal Church of the Advent Foundation, the Spartanburg Humane Society, 150 Dexter Road, Spartanburg, SC 29303 or Mobile Meals Service, PO Box 461, Spartanburg, SC 29304.


Floyd’s North Church Street Chapel


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Service Schedule

Past Services

Funeral Service

Friday, May 17, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

The Episcopal Church of The Advent

141 Advent St, Spartanburg, SC 29302

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Private Service

Greenlawn Memorial Gardens- Spartanburg

1300 Fernwood Glendale Rd, Spartanburg, SC 29307

Private Burial

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