Vietnam War veterans Charles Sharples and Craige Osborne were friends, neighbors and part of the gay community in California’s Coachella Valley. They belonged to the same veterans organizations, volunteered and traveled together. They particularly enjoyed cruises. Their last cruise, at the beginning of March, was a one-week trip to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Norwegian Joy. When they disembarked in Los Angeles on March 8, Sharples was weak, confused and had a fever. His friend and caretaker, Rick Tice, took him directly to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Craige was born August 29, 1941 in Everett, WA. His parents were Bill and Marie Osborne. He grew up in the small town of Mukilteo, WA. In his 20’s he served in Vietnam.Upon discharge he managed restaurants in Los Angeles, CA for several years before moving to Palm Springs where he continued his restaurant career. He finished his career life selling lawn furniture. His loves were good food and drink, being with people socially and entertaining friends in his home. He was very active in the American Legion in Palm Springs which he enjoyed a great deal. He is survived by his sisters, Janet Vontalge and Celeste Osborne, nieces and nephews and his long time good friends. We will all miss his sharp wit and good humor.

Charles Sharples, a fierce trailblazer for gay veterans

Charles “Charlie” Sharples, to all who knew him, was a proud Marine — and a proud gay man. He lived openly since his late 20s, about the time he moved to the Coachella Valley in the 1970s. He arrived before Palm Springs and the surrounding area was home to a vibrant gay and lesbian community. Sharples was part of the wave that helped it become the well-known LGBT travel destination it is now, said Tom Hernandez, his longtime friend and a fellow Marine Corps veteran.

“He transformed this desert,” said Hernandez, 62. “When he came in the 1970s, there were no gay bars or gay businesses. Slowly, he helped change it. He didn’t conceal anything. He was very proud and very much out as a gay man.”
Sharples worked most of his life at gay businesses, including as manager of C.C.B.C., a gay resort in Cathedral City, Calif.

He was a leader — and onetime commander — of the local AMVETS post, which has a predominantly gay membership, and he was a founding member of the Palm Springs Gay Veterans club. In 1999, he and Hernandez joined others in the club to march in city’s annual Veterans Day parade for the first time — an action that made national news.