In Memoriam: Charles Selberg

Among fencers on campus, he was known affectionately as 'Mr. Natural'

Photo of Charles Selberg in Wyoming

Charles Selberg, shown recently in Wyoming. (Photos: Mark Headley)

Please also see this remembrance, posted by Eliot Smith, son of founding Cowell College provost Page Smith.

And post your memories and photos on the Charles Selberg Fan Page on Facebook.

Photo of Charles Selbert

The following remembrance of Charles Selberg was written by two UCSC alumni, Angela Dracott and Mark Headley. Selberg died peacefully last month at his home in Ashland, Oregon. Dracott and Headley were two of the many students on campus who learned fencing (and many other things) from the revered master.

Charles Alan Palmer Selberg passed away in good humor at home on 9 March 2012 at the age of 81 after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota on 2 August 1930. He is survived by wife, Julie, and brother, Wallace.

Sign painter, cartoonist and artist, Selberg moved to California in 1952 where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine of Arts from San Francisco State University. He was a student of renowned photographer, John Gutman, and taught art in San Francisco.  After falling in love with fencing in the early 1950’s, He returned to Fargo, North Dakota to start the Selberg Fencing Academy in 1960.

He returned to San Francisco in 1966 where he taught fencing at Halberstadt Fencer’s club, and began his 16-year career teaching fencing at University of California at Santa Cruz (where he was a tenured member of the eminent faculty of Cowell College). Known affectionately as ‘Mr Natural’ amongst fencers at UC Santa Cruz, due to his engaging approach to teaching fencing, he was revered for his keen psychological and strategic insights into the game. His ability to teach quality fencing to large groups of students was a tribute to his deep knowledge of the sport, creative ability and tremendous sense of humour.

Selberg received his Maitre D’Armes in 1967 from the Federation International D’Escrime. The Fencing Masters that taught Charles created his most impressive fencing lineage: German born Eric Funke, followed by American born Jack Nottingham (taught by Aldo Nadi), and Hungarian born Olympic champion George Pillar (taught by Laszlo Borsody and Italo Santelli). His years working with Hans Halberstadt also left a profound impression on teaching as well as endless stories.

In 1970 he was a member of the three-man foil team that won the only gold medal ever for US at the World Masters Championships.

Named one of the Great Fencing Masters in History by Amarillo College in Texas, Charles was the author of renowned books Foil (1976) and Revised Foil (1993). After retiring UCSC in 1982, he moved to Ashland, Oregon where he resumed the Selberg Fencing Academy and created an extensive series of instructional videos and DVDs. His direct knowledge of West Coast fencing history was phenomenal and, happily, much of that history has been saved on video and on his Salle walls in Oregon.

During his retirement he also recommenced painting in his art studio amongst the red cedars he loved so much. An abstract, post-impressionist painter, he has a painting in the permanent collection at Moorhead State University, Minnesota, and one also at North Dakota University. And on the side of the McCormick building in Fargo, is a restored version of the infamous sign painting of ‘The Cowboy’ that Selberg painted in 1949 (commissioned by Sunny Brook Whiskey).

He will be missed dearly by Julie, Mark, Angela, his many friends and the thousands of fencers that he has taught.  Hanta Yo! A great man has passed.

Charles had a particular fondness for gorillas, and donations in his honor to be made to Defenders of Wildlife.