Longtime Washington lawyer Charles Schulze collapsed and died this weekend in Florida after diving into the ocean to save two drowning children.
When news of the 73-year-old’s death reached colleagues at his firm, Schulze & Pederson, they were dismayed, but not shocked. Somehow, the doomed act of heroism was exactly the sort of thing they expected from their boss, says one co-worker, Sherri Lahay Lasover.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the fatal incident occurred while Schulze was on vacation in Pompano Beach, Fla., with Helen Smith, his partner of 20 years. The two were walking along the shore when Schulze noticed two brothers, 9 and 12, struggling in the surf. He dashed into the water and grabbed the younger boy, before swimming out more than 40 yards to fetch the older child as well.
Schulze collapsed as he brought the older boy to shore. By the time paramedics arrived on the scene, he had no pulse.
According to Lasover, Schulze had always felt compelled to lend a hand to those who were struggling. She describes him as the kind of man who would regularly stop his car to help strangers on the side of the road. He had also worked for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad and had once delivered a baby while on duty. And during a storm in Ocean City, Md., he and a friend hopped into a boat to look for people who were stranded.
“He worked by the golden rule more than anybody I’ve ever met in my life,” Lasover says. “Anybody who was down on their luck, they could come to Charlie, and he would help them.”
Schulze, a D.C. native who graduated from law school at American University, co-founded the firm that would become Schulze & Pederson in 1972 after a brief stint with the D.C. Corporation Counsel. His practice focused largely on personal injury law, though he did some criminal defense work.
He leaves behind two brothers, four children, and five grandchildren.