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Quenzel had reputation for excellence

February 26, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Those who knew tae kwon do grandmaster Charles "Bill" Quenzel said when he walked down the streets of Martinsburg, everyone turned to look at the man with bright white hair strolling in a three-piece suit.

"He was the sharpest dressed man in town," said his son, Dave Quenzel. "He always wore a suit or his uniform."

Charles Quenzel, who died Feb. 20 at the age of 86, took great pride in his appearance.

His karate students said until he fell ill in December, not a hair was ever out of place on his snow-white head.

Dave Quenzel said his father believed being a grandmaster with a 10th-degree black belt came with responsibility.

"To my father, it was not the belt around the waist that mattered. It was the thought in your head, the grit in your body and the character in your heart," he said. "When it came to martial arts, he was tough."

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Quenzel fought and trained with some of the world's best-known black belts.

Dave Quenzel, an eighth-degree black belt, said his father sparred with men such as Bob Walls, Ed Parker and George Dillman.

"Bruce Lee taught him the two-inch punch," Dave Quenzel said. "My dad knew the best of the best, and he was one of them."

Ashley Young, a third-degree black belt, said she could remember Quenzel telling stories of when he came out of retirement to fight Chuck Norris.

Until his cancer returned in 2008, Quenzel taught at Quenzel's Karate Self-Defense Club, the school he founded in 1942 , Young said.

Testing and training with Quenzel, even when he was 85, was intense, she said.

"I tested for every belt with him, my orange to my third-degree black belt, and trust me, good enough was never good enough for Grandmaster," she said. "If it was not right, he would fail you and say, 'Fix it and come back.'"

Young said Quenzel believed if you were going to do something, you should do it right.

"He carried this stick and if you slacked off, it was nothing for him to tap you and tell you to do it again," she said. "From him, I learned to accept nothing but the best from myself."

Quenzel grew a reputation for excellence in his students, and some have gone on to win national and world championships.

Precision, integrity and love became the legacy Quenzel passed on not only at the school, but in the community, Dave Quenzel said.

He said he could count on three hands how many black belts his father awarded, but the guest list at his father's viewing was nearly 500, and about 150 people attended his funeral.

Amber Glennon, a former student of Quenzel, said being a student of his was like being part of a family and she never could consider training elsewhere.

Those who knew Quenzel loved him, especially his students who kept a constant vigil by his beside in February, taking shifts to be sure he never was alone, Young said.

As the cancer began to take over his body, Young said he would cry when a new face came into the room, so happy to see that person one more time.

"He loved people," she said. "He called us 'my people.'"

Quenzel would be touched to know how many people came to bid him goodbye, his son said.

"You either loved my dad or you hated him," Dave Quenzel said. "But to me, he walked on water."

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