Born in Norge, VA, in 1907 to Charles Edward Gary Sr. (1871-1929) and Georgia Parker Gary Randall (circa 1886-d.1958), Charles Edward Gary Jr. attended the James City County Training School, followed by the Hampton Institute. He graduated in 1931 with a degree in tailoring and dry-cleaning, having as well played on the baseball team from 1928 through 1931 and joined Phi Alpha Kappa. In 1933, he additionally completed a degree in mortuary science from Frelinghusen University in Washington DC.
A longtime resident of the Williamsburg area, Mr. Gary owned and operated the West End Valet Shop, a tailoring and dry-cleaning service, for decades. Mr. Gary opened his business in 1934 and worked as the Williamsburg Inn's first valet from 1937 to 1949. He was then responsible for pressing clothing and cleaning employee uniforms. The West End Valet Shop, long situated at 607 Prince George Street, remained in full operation until 1973. Mr. Gary also worked as a notary public for several years.
Mr. Gary actively participated in the civic life of the Williamsburg community and of baptist churches in the area. He was a member of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World (I.B.P.O.E.W.), an African American fraternal order, for more than seventy years, being especially involved in the Old Capitol Lodge no. 629. Mr. Gary once served as the lodge's Exalted Ruler. Among many others, organizations in which Mr. Gary served include the Williamsburg James City County Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Board of Elections, the Shiloh Baptist Church, the Colonial Youth Center, the boy scouts, and the Frontiers Club.
In May 1944, Mr. Gary married Zelda DeBerry (d. 2010), a native of North Carolina and daughter of Rev. William DeBerry and Fanny Hammond DeBerry. Mrs. Gary studied nursing at Augustine College in Raleigh, NC, and anesthetics at Cook County Graduate School of Medicine, IL. She worked in Williamsburg for the Blayton clinic and the Williamsburg-James City School System.Author: Eve Bourbeau-Allard