'Dancing Chuck' Franzke, WWII veteran from Waukesha, passes away

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A World War II veteran from Waukesha, known for dancing his way through life, has passed away. 

Family announced WWII Navy pilot "Dancing Chuck" Franzke died on Wednesday, March 29 -- a few months after his 100th birthday. 

Franzke was a Navy bomber pilot in World War II. He flew dozens of missions, and his home is filled with artifacts from that time, including his wedding photo.

“He was very proud that got through the Navy Air Corps, because it was rough,” his wife Beverly said. “He would write home to me, ‘Bev, I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ He was so proud to be a WWII veteran, and to fight for his country,” Bev Franzke said.

According to a news release, Franzke became an ambassador for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight in his later years, after taking his Honor Flight in 2010. “Chuck was overwhelmed (with his Honor Flight)” Bev said. "When he came back from the Honor Flight he was so happy that he danced right by us!” Bev added that this Honor Flight moment was his first public dance.

Chuck's dancing videos went viral, and he became a global sensation in April of 2020 -- during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Video of Chuck dancing to Justin Timberlake’s song “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was viewed millions of times and shared online worldwide -- including Timberlake himself. 

“Chuck’s zest for living and outgoing personality gave so many people worldwide a reason to smile during dark times,” said Karyn Roelke of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “He continued to share his joyful optimism until the very end of his life.”

“He loved working for Honor Flight, and was so proud that the veterans who hadn’t been honored (when they came home from service) were finally being honored,” Bev Franzke said. “That pleased him to end; that the Korean War and Vietnam veterans were finally getting the recognition they deserve.”

Franzke is survived by his wife of 78 years, Bev, and by two children, four grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He also leaves behind a great enthusiasm for life and words of wisdom that will live on in the hearts of his family and friends. “The best way to have friends is to be one,” Franzke commented often. “Love gets you to the altar; but trust and respect get you through the next 78 years.”

Funeral arrangements are pending. Donations in his memory are requested for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight HERE

The family asks for privacy at this time.

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