Charles Gilbert Rolles
Well known restaurateur Chuck Rolles passed away peacefully at his home October 3rd, 2018 surrounded and comforted by family. He was 84 years old. Chuck was born in Binghamton, New York where he grew up as part of a modest and close knit family. He was a gifted athlete who participated in a wide range of sports but it was basketball that began to shape his life path. (At 5’7” he was obviously a good shooter and playmaker!) Cornell University offered him a presidential scholarship which allowed Chuck to attend a prestigious Ivy League school that he would not otherwise been able to afford. It also worked out well for the University; he set numerous records, led Cornell to championships and was named to the All-American first team. Chuck chose to study in Cornell’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program where he met Jean Kelley from Honolulu. They eventually married and after a two- year stint in the navy as fighter pilot they moved to Hawaii and started a family. Shortly thereafter in 1959 Chuck opened the first Chuck’s Steak House restaurant in Waikiki. It was so immediately successful that one of his waiters approached Chuck with the idea of partnering up and opening a place on the mainland, preferably at a ski resort somewhere. Chuck told him to go find a place and he did, Aspen, Colorado. Chuck had to get an atlas off the shelf to figure out exactly where Aspen was but did decide to move the family to Colorado for a year and a half to open the iconic Steak Pit restaurant. Unfortunately, his original partner was drafted so Chuck called a boyhood friend from Binghamton who had just graduated from college and asked him to come to Colorado and be co-owner. Peter and Barbara Guy loved Aspen and the restaurant so much that at the end of the first year Peter approached Chuck and asked if he could buy him out. Peter and Barbara owned and operated The Steak Pit for over fifty more years.
The Rolles family moved back to Hawaii from Colorado in 1961 and Chuck’s restaurant business started to expand rapidly. Eventually there were more than fifty Chuck’s operating throughout the Hawaiian islands and across the country. It always meant a lot to Chuck that his restaurants provided so many jobs and opportunities to a large number of people. Over the years countless individuals have introduced themselves to Chuck to share that they had worked in this Chuck’s restaurant or that at some point in their life. Most of Chuck’s life-long business partners worked as a server or manager in a Chuck’s restaurant where they earned an ownership stake in the next one to open. This was an expansion system based on mutual loyalty and trust and those partners also became close friends. Those early days were fast-and-furious. The restaurant scene was full of wild and exciting characters and Chuck was one of them. He definitely played the charming and charismatic life-of-the-party guy from time to time.
Chuck relished his role of father to son Scott and daughter Kiki and quality family time was important. As the kids flourished they also grew up and moved out on their own. Fate steered Chuck back to Aspen and into the life of his present wife of 34 years, Maureen. Aspen was their home base but over the years they also spent a lot of time in the Palm Desert and Newport Beach, California where they made many meaningful friendships. Chuck and Maureen enjoyed a wonderful life together and they were so lucky to have had each other for so long.
Golf was always a big part of Chuck’s life. Anyone who ever tried to take a dollar or two from him on a golf course will attest to the fact that he was pretty darned good at it and was a fierce competitor. Chuck belonged to several noteworthy golf clubs and has open-champ or senior-champ plaques hanging on the walls of many of them. He was also a long-standing member of the US Seniors Team. The way Chuck carried himself on a golf course mirrored and exemplified who he was. He was very sharp and capable, calm but intently engaged and his witty sense of humor was never far from the surface. Chuck was solid; you could count on him and he made those around him better.
Chuck Rolles came from modest means and was a self-made success. He was a natural leader that led by example and he went through life with integrity and humility. He was genuinely liked and respected and was also respectful of others. Chuck touched a lot of lives and did a lot of things. He was very fortunate to live a long and meaningful life.
Chuck is survived by his wife Maureen, sister Diane, son Scott (Ingrid), daughter Kiki, grandchildren Cutter, Parker (Bridget), Madison and Makeely. He will be missed by them and many friends.
A celebration of life will be held with his immediate family.