By Patrick Sullivan
Dr. Charles Ebel was born October 1, 1937, in Paullina, Iowa. He died in Traverse City at Munson Medical Center on July 7, 2013.
Charles was raised in Iowa in a large family of German descent. He had a no-nonsense, rural upbringing. In early adulthood he worked in construction, enjoyed betting on dog races, and he was in attendance at Buddy Holly’s final concert on February 2, 1959, in Clear Lake, Iowa. A brother who returned from the Korean War convinced Charles that he could make more money with a college degree, so he enrolled in the University of Iowa. He graduated there in 1970 with a Ph.D. in ancient history.
Charles specialized in Roman history and he spent much of the 1960s on archaeological digs in the south of France, digging up Roman ruins. He spoke French, Greek, Latin, and German.
Charles passed up a professorship at an Ivy League university to teach four classes per term at Central Michigan University, a decision he later joked he could not understand.
He spent his career as a professor of ancient history at CMU and he eventually became the chair of the history department. He established a faculty exchange program in the Netherlands and a joint study program for graduate students with the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, where he taught for a year.
In 1976, he published a book called Transalpine Gaul: The Emergence of a Roman Province, that looked at how a small region in Europe became a Roman province. In the introduction to the book he displayed his characteristic modesty as he minimized what up until then had comprised much of his life’s work: “The role of archaeology will not loom very large in what follows, but that is because a great deal of archaeology produces very little history.”
His first wife was Miriam Davenport, a woman who served with the French Resistance during World War II in the south of France, where she helped forge documents so artists could flee the country. She died in 1999.
In 2002, he married Dr. Carole Eberly, a journalist and professor at CMU. They lived in Mt. Pleasant, Traverse City, and Elberta. In retirement he enjoyed fishing, woodworking, reading, and travel with his beloved wife.
He is survived by his wife, stepdaughter Jessica Sullivan, stepson-in-law Patrick Sullivan, and his stepgrandson Henry; two sisters, Lois and Lucy; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is planned for Dr. Ebel Friday, September 6, at 1 p.m. at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Beulah. Memorial donations can be made to Ducks Unlimited, Planned Parenthood of Traverse City, or the ACLU.