When people consider the Senate, they often think only of elected officials, but the Senate is also a state agency with employees providing expertise in a variety of areas from fiscal and legislative analysts and bill processing and information technology. When you go to our website at www.oksenate.gov and look up the current status of bills you are interested in, listen to digital audio podcasts and clips, or look up committee meeting schedules and agendas, you get just small glimpse of all the work that goes on behind the scenes.
In comparison to other state agencies, we are a small one, and fairly close-knit. We often talk about ourselves as being part of the Senate family, and that includes senators, their executive assistants and all our staff divisions. When one of our Senate family members celebrates a wedding or the birth of a child or grandchild, we celebrate with them. When there is a loss among us, we also share in that loss.
Recently, we suffered a profound loss in this family. For fifteen years, Charles Israel worked as a member of our Senate staff. He helped design and launch our first website in 1996, and served as Web Administrator. He also managed the Governor’s Executive Nomination process, ensuring adherence to procedures and protocol. Charles had a remarkable mind and a terrific sense of humor—but he also suffered from Muscular Dystrophy (MD). It’s a broad term for more than 40 types of genetic diseases that gradually weaken the muscles.
Many MD sufferers lose their lives at a fairly young age. When Charles first came to work for the Senate in 1995, he was able to walk with a cane, though eventually he required a wheelchair. When that happened, the Senate family held an auction to raise the money needed for Charles to have an assistance dog. He named the dog Hobbes, and he was Charles’ constant companion for more than a decade.
Through it all, Charles continued his work at the Senate, determined not to let his illness stop him from living life to the fullest. While his body weakened, his spirit and his mind did not. I don’t know how many of us would have had the inner strength he had, but I do know that he was an inspiration to everyone who came to know him.
He also was determined to make life better for others with disabilities. He served on the ABLE Tech Advisory Council for 14 years, and was a founding member of Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation, working to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
Israel attended Edmond Memorial High School and was a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). Israel joined the Senate staff in January, 1995. In addition to his web skills, he was also known for his sense of humor and masterful planning of practical jokes. Israel was a tremendous sports fan, and loved techno music.
We lost Charles last week at the very young age of 48. Members of the Senate family honored his memory by making donations to Paws With a Cause, which is the organization that trained his assistance dog. Charles Israel’s courage in the face of adversity and his dedication as a public servant will always be remembered.