Charles Opossum, the quiet entrepreneur who, as Baby Charlie, captured national attention after falling into an abandoned well, died on Wednesday night. He was 40.
The cause of death was minivan, according to tire and bumper impressions.
Sporting bright, beady eyes and a rosy nose, Charles Opossum reluctantly spent his life in the public eye. He was born, with six others, on January 7, 1972, to a schoolteacher and a traveling musician. A gentle child, he gained fame at the tender age of four months after he wandered from his mother’s back and tumbled into a well near the family’s tree. Rescuers labored for nearly three days to free Baby Charlie, who, throughout the ordeal, remained perfectly still on his side.
News footage of the harrowing event spread like wildfire, and before long, the nation sported Baby Charlie fever. Unauthorized biographies, including the bestseller Too Close to Not Fall: The Baby Charlie Story, followed, as did the television movie, Out of the Hole, into our Hearts: Rescuing Baby Charlie. As to be expected, overexposure of young Charles led to eventual backlash, with several opossum groups questioning the media’s ultimate intentions in shining the spotlight on Baby Charlie. It has been argued that the term “media circus” originated out of this disgust.
“I never quite got used to the attention,” Charles said in a 2008 interview. “To be perfectly honest, it isn’t in my nature to engage in much of anything.” He confessed to years of professional coaching, which he said helped him “not just drop to the ground” when approached by photographers and television cameras.
In 1995, Charles received a trust fund of donations worth an estimated $200,000. With this money he opened his first successful business, Do-It-Quik Abandoned Well Fillers. That same year he began a scholarship program targeting young, underserved opossums. Further business ventures included Baby Charlie’s Lil’ Tyke Tethers, Baby Charlie’s Lil’ Tyke Trackers, and C.O. Industries, a communications firm and think tank.
Charles Opossum never married. He is survived by his siblings, Christopher, Caleb, Clay, Chelsea, Caitlin, and Chantel. The family asks for privacy during this time of mourning.