A public servant of Whitehall for almost three decades, Whitehall's former city attorney and City Council president, Charles "Chuck" Underwood Jr., 72, died July 18 in Syracuse, New York, due to complications from exposure to Agent Orange.

Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard called Underwood "a consummate public servant" who "will be deeply missed."

"But even more than his public service, Chuck was a friend to many because he knew how to be a friend," Maggard said.

Maggard, who served as the city's auditor for eight years before she was elected mayor in 2011, said Underwood "was my mentor, colleague, and above all, my friend."

City Councilman Chris Rodriguez lauded Underwood for his love of Whitehall and mankind.

"He was a really kind person, and every time he saw me, he stopped to ask how things were going," Rodriguez said.

Underwood graduated from Auburn High School in New York in 1964 and from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1968, where he met his future wife.

Underwood enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1968 and became a pilot, having never before flown a plane.

He served six years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, including two tours in Vietnam as a pilot of an EC-47 aircraft used as reconnaissance in military operations.

After retiring from active duty in 1974, Underwood spent an additional 24 years in the Ohio National Guard as an aviation instructor and a KC-135 pilot on the midair refueling of fighter jets.

He rose to the rank of colonel while serving in the Air Force and the Ohio National Guard, also serving in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Middle East and as a pilot for 121st Air-Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker Air Force Base.

After retiring from active duty, Underwood became a simulator flight instructor, training Citation Ten and Excel pilots at FlightSafety International.

Underwood graduated in 1980 from Capital University Law School, beginning a legal career that included a private practice, work as a judge for the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Board, and as the elected city attorney for Whitehall.

Underwood began his public service in Whitehall in 1989 as a member of the city's zoning board but served in many other appointed or elected roles.

During the next 28 years, Underwood's public service in Whitehall included that of Ward 4 city councilman, council president, city attorney, treasurer and safety director.

Underwood concluded his public service in January 2017, retiring as safety director.

"I've been elected to everything except mayor and auditor," Underwood told ThisWeek Whitehall News on his retirement.

Speaking about his final public-service job as safety director, Underwood said, "There was a wide spectrum of responsibility (and) I think I left an imprint by the quality of people I had a hand in hiring (on the police and fire departments)."

In addition to his military and public-service careers, Underwood enjoyed playing golf, watching the Columbus Blue Jackets, organizing regular trips to watch the NCAA basketball tournament, driving his red Chevrolet Corvette, and spending family time each summer at Owasco Lake in New York.

Underwood is survived by his wife of 49 years, Mary Jeannette Underwood; son, Charles (Carrie) Underwood III; mother, Jean Underwood; and siblings, Sarah (Joe) Hazard, Eleanor Sinclair and David (Kathy) Underwood.

A memorial service was held July 28 at a Gahanna church.

Contributions in his name may be made to the Central Ohio Diabetes Foundation, the Fisher House Foundation or the Salvation Army.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo