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Commander Charles G. Raney, retired

June 11, 2020
Estherville News

Commander Charles "Chuck" Gilbert Raney, 86, of Iowa City, passed away on June 7, 2020 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Charles was born November 11, 1933 in Fort Dodge, Iowa, the son of Ernest and Eva Raney. He attended Waldorf College and entered US Naval Air Training Command in 1954. He received his naval Wings of Gold in 1956 and a week later on April 14 married Dorothy J. (DJ) Valen of Estherville, Iowa. They raised a family in naval base cities from Pensacola, FL, to Coronado, CA, to Binghamton, NY. Charles flew in times of war and peace, completing three cruises to Vietnam. He served as a flight instructor and an elite pilot who landed on 13 different aircraft carriers including the USS Lexington, on which he was Aircraft Handling Officer. In 1964, after engine failure forced him to land in the Pacific, he became the first aviator to be rescued at night via helicopter ocean landing. He was the commanding officer of two naval stations, including Binghamton Naval Reserve, NY, and Corry Field, FL.

Charles retired with the rank of Commander in 1974, having served, in the words of the US Navy, "Faithfully and Honorably." He and DJ made their home in Iowa City, where he earned a Master's of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa. He was an artist of drawings in multiple media (including paint and watercolor), pottery, and handmade paper-making. Samples of his paper are housed in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress. Charles was curious about everything and read voraciously. In his 70s, he completed the Chicago Triathlon twice and kayaked rivers in Iowa with his sons. He also enjoyed morning coffee and pastries with friends, and vacationing with family in Hawaii, and turning strangers into friends. After retiring, he and DJ flew their Cessna for years, often to his much-loved family home in Humboldt, Iowa, where he raised corn and soy beans until his death.

Article Photos

Commander Charles G. Raney, retired

He is preceded in death by his son Charles E. Raney. He is survived by his wife Dorothy; sons Gary E. Raney (Bette L. Bottoms) of Illinois and David A. Raney (Carmel Raney) of Arizona; grandchildren Emerald and Jasmine Raney of California; one brother-in-law, Donald Valen (Leila), and four sisters-in-law, LaDonna Bergeson (Harland), Katharine Roberts (Glen), and Mary Peterson (Ronald) of northwest Iowa, and Barbara Mull of Texas.

Memorial services will be held later this year. Memorials may be made in his name to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL (, 1-850-308-8941) or the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Fund (, 800-648-6973). Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service in Iowa City is handling arrangements.



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