The Beginning

The day I married my best friend

I was in my last semester of college, working, and finishing my internship at a residential juvenile shelter when Charlie came into my life. I had no interest in being in a relationship and had just began to find my place in life. Well, I thought so anyway.

 

Charlie and I worked together until I finished my internship hours. After a few weeks of talking and ONE date, we were inseparable. He proposed on Pier 60 in Clearwater and shortly after I became his wife. I had no idea how my life would change because of him. 

Charlie and I talked about everything. We finished each other’s sentences and would even call each other at the same time. I had never been close to anyone the way I was with him.

 

Charlie was always so fun to be with. He never seemed to stress about bills and plans the way I did. He just had a calmness about him that I absolutely needed. We balanced each other and everything just fell into place. Charlie never raised his voice or had anything mean to say about anyone. I was his priority and he always made sure I knew that he loved our life together.

 

Looking back, I realize Charlie lived like he wouldn’t have a tomorrow. He appreciated the little things in life. I just never once imagined my life without him.   

My safe place

My last Mother's Day card from Charlie


Police Wife Life

Officer Charles (Charlie K) Kondek, Jr.

Police Wife Life

 

Charlie began his career as a police officer with the NYPD from 1991-1996. He worked the Washington Heights area on midnights as well as the 34th and 75th precincts. After moving to Florida, Charlie began his career with the Tarpon Springs Police Department in March of 1997 until his EOW December 21, 2014.

Police wife life? Oh, the lessons I would learn! I shared my husband with strangers who admired and depended on him, and some that would rather see him dead just for the badge he wore. It was just the reality of the career he chose, not me. He carried a lot of hurt, stress, and worry from every shift yet he never complained.

Charlie wore his uniform with pride. He was fair and respectful, no matter how bad he was treated. He saw the good in people that most didn't and he was so forgiving; even when (I felt) people didn't deserve it. I loved Charlie for that.  

I learned really fast that my friends were limited. I lost some and gained some. It was hard for some to understand the fear I felt every time he left for work. We never had holidays and birthdays when everyone else did. Our budget always revolved around over-time or details that were posted. Planning vacations and anniversaries were nearly impossible around shift bids but somehow, we made it work. 

Charlie never left home angry or without hugging us and yelling "Love you guys" as he walked out the door for EVERY shift. I never knew how much that would mean later in life but he sure did. 

The sound of velcro, radio static, and gun belt snaps became a sound I waited for on a daily basis. It meant he made it home safe and I could breathe easy and watch the news if I wanted to. 

The hatred and disrespect toward officers seemed to escalate a little more as the years went by. We didn't talk about it in front of the kids but I could see the stress on his face when he left for work many nights.

The last night Charlie was home, he called me after watching the news about two NYPD officers who were killed sitting in their patrol car. It hit home for him. He worked near that area, he wore that uniform, and he felt their loss because he belonged to a brotherhood I didn't quite understand...yet.  Charlie was quiet when he gathered his things for work that night. He kissed my forehead and told us he loved us and walked out the door. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see my husband alive.

After Charlie left, I thought about the families that just lost a loved one. I thought about all the days they would hurt and how traumatic it must've been but then, just twelve hours later, that shock and emptiness became mine too.  


Our Family

Aleena, Charlie, Holly, Andrew, little Charlie, Brandon, Teresa

Charlie and I raised our family to be honest, to give, and to talk about EVERYTHING, no matter how hard it was. It was important to us to teach our kids to be independent, to stay close, and to speak up for those who couldn't. We wanted them to find a career that would make them happy. We didn't want them to struggle the way we did in the beginning. We wanted to start our own traditions with them, and we did the best we could to be parents they would be proud of.

Watching Charlie grow as a father was something I can't explain.  Only a wife and mother would understand that feeling. It's like you immediately love them in a different way. 

Charlie absolutely loved being a father. He didn't mind helping with diaper changes, cleaning vomit, taking turns with appointments, and helping with homework the night before a project was due. He was so sentimental and saved EVERYTHING the kids gave him: little things from plastic gum machine rings to scribbles on paper.  He was also that father in the crowd who would proudly point out which kid was his and had a tear in his eye for all of their accomplishments. No matter what they did, Charlie was proud of them.   

Charlie taught Holly and Aleena the way girls should be treated. He told them, “When you’re old enough to date, like when you’re 40, he’s not the one if he doesn’t make you feel like the prettiest girl in the room.” When they talked about being married when they grew up, he would tear up just thinking about walking them down the aisle. I never thought Charlie wouldn't get the chance to walk either one. 

Charlie was also tough on Andrew, little Charlie, and Brandon when it came to respecting girls. He was adamant about opening doors and always paying for everything on a date. His famous line to the boys was “When you look at a girl, remember that she is someone’s daughter. Think about your sisters and how I would want them to be treated.”  

Charlie melted if the girls cried or the boys had their hearts broke. He was so easy to talk to and could always make them smile. He was involved in every part of their lives and had a special bond with each of them. Charlie wasn't only an incredible husband, he was an amazing father to our children.