WILMINGTON – Two days into the search for missing swimmer Charles “Chuck” Kuebler, hundreds of people gathered at a vigil held on Wrightsville Beach to show their love and support Thursday evening.
The 58-year-old Wilmington resident went missing Tuesday after a morning swim. His vehicle was found in the parking lot of Robert’s Grocery store. His backpack, shoes and beach towel were found about 20 feet from the lifeguard stand at access 29, according to his wife, Rose Kuebler, who went looking for him Tuesday afternoon. He would normally swim pier-to-pier at the beach, she said.
Rose Kuebler and other family members who attended the vigil said they are still hoping for a miracle. A husband of 33 years and a father to two sons, Kuebler has been a big advocate for youth sports in the Wilmington area for the past two decades.
That was evident at Thursday’s vigil as Wilmington’s tight-knit sports community gathered among friends and family in the crowd, many of them coaches, teachers, friends and teammates to his 19-year-old son Jonathan Kuebler.
Rose Kuebler said she has been overwhelmed with the amount of support from the community.
“It is just so wonderful. It is just unbelievable. I knew he had a lot of friends and people who loved him. And right here, this shows to me how many people loved him in this community,” Rose Kuebler said at the conclusion of the vigil.
Rose Kuebler, along with her sons Jonathan and 23-year-old Andrew Kuebler, tossed more than a dozen red roses into the ocean and set flight to several blue and yellow balloons.
“I am holding out hope for a miracle. I am. I am praying for a miracle that he will be found alive,” Rose Kuebler said. “He is the love of my life. So I threw out the roses to think of him, remember him, and praying still, for that miracle.”
The Coast Guard suspended its search for Kuebler late Wednesday. But according to Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Daniel House, who was also at the vigil, the missing person investigation is still ongoing and police, along with members of ocean rescue, are continuing their search.
“We just don’t know what’s happened … we’re going to continue on until we can solve this,” House said, adding that his force was out searching the beach even as the vigil was taking place.
Kuebler’s son Jonathan was a standout baseball player during his time at Laney High School and most recently spent the summer competing with the Wilmington Post 10 American Legion Baseball Team. Kuebler has been a staple at Buck Hardee Field throughout the Post 10 season, with his voice ringing through the sound system as the public address announcer.
“Chuck is a good man with a wonderful family and has been a great supporter of not only Post 10, but all kids in Wilmington,” said Wilmington Post 10 Manager Scott Sandlin, who was also in attendance.
Other notable people from the local sports community included, Mark Scalf (longtime UNCW baseball coach), Al O’Briant (former Laney principal), and Larry Honeycutt (member of Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame).
Kuebler recently ended his tenure as head of athletic boosters at Laney High School. Friends say he is a guy who loves to talk sports, whether it’s in the press box during a Laney baseball game or just in passing, while attending one of the many events held across Wilmington.
Others know Kuebler from him being an umpire at Supper Optimist in Ogden and through his volunteer work at The First Tee of the Cape Fear Region. He is also known for his candidacy during the 2014 campaign season as a candidate for the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.
Love for Kuebler was evident during Thursday’s prayer circle as members of his family and friends, including his two siblings and his mother, told stories and shared laughs and tears.
“I am just so thrilled and overwhelmed with the response of the people and the love and the support they are showing for Chuck and for myself and my two sons,” Rose Kuebler said.
Rose Kuebler said she is going out with a friend Friday to search for her husband on a private boat. She asked the Wilmington community and others with private boats to join the search.