Charles Sledge, MD, left a lasting impression on everyone he met. From those he cared for as a physician to those he loved as friends, he had a gift for creating the type of genuine connection that lasted a lifetime.
His steady, comforting presence filled the halls of Walnut Place for more than 40 years. From residents to aides to managers, each person knew they could depend on him to be there – even for the small details of their lives.
“I’ve never had a physician who knew my staff like he did, and I’ve never seen anyone loved by such a diverse group of people,” said Dusty Davis, executive director of Walnut Place. “Whatever you needed, that’s what he was for you.”
A lifelong resident of Dallas, Dr. Sledge attended Southern Methodist University and then graduated from Southwestern Medical School in 1967. During the Vietnam era, he served two years as a surgeon in the armed forces. Just as he would often go out of his way to show how he genuinely cared at Walnut Place, Dr. Sledge went above and beyond during his service, earning the Meritorious Service Medal.
“Several times, he went to a village with all his medics and saw Korean patients,” his wife, Mary Jane, remembers. “The people lined up for miles, and he worked until the medicine was gone.”
After his military service and residency, Dr. Sledge joined with other physicians to open a private practice – Dallas Diagnostic Association – in 1973. Over the years, he served in many roles, including president of medical services and chief of staff at Medical City Dallas. He became the medical director of Walnut Place in the 1990s.
Dr. Sledge’s sense of humor and ability to not take himself too seriously put others at ease. Known for being a bit of a jokester, he enjoyed bringing fun into the day-to-day lives of Walnut Place residents and staff.
“At our staff retreat, he wore a ref shirt and whistle and had everyone laughing,” Davis said. “He could fill the serious role of a physician, but he knew how to be engaged in fun wherever he was.”
Outside of his role as a physician, Dr. Sledge enjoyed spending time with his wife, two daughters, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. He also loved being outdoors – including gardening, hunting, hiking, skiing, and especially fishing.
“It didn’t matter to him if he caught the fish, the joy was in the day, the place, the experience,” Mary Jane said. “He did like to tell fish stories and definitely knew how to hold his catch with arm extended forward to make the fish look huge!”
From family to friends to patients, his passion for caring was at the core of how he lived his life. Even when he became ill, his main concern was still for others. When he was in the emergency room, he was on the phone checking in with the nurses at Walnut Place.
“You couldn’t get him to stop working because this is who he was,” Davis said. “He was a physician because he wanted to help people – not to get paid, not to worry about insurance – but to simply help people.”
When word of Dr. Sledge’s illness reached Walnut Place, his impact was evident in the number of people who came to support him – just as he had always supported them. Staff and friends lined the halls as a way to honor his legacy.
“It was stunning to see how many staff came to see him when he was sick,” Davis said. “We had staff members choose to come in on their day off just to honor him, and that speaks volumes about who he was.”
Through a million small, meaningful moments and his unwavering care, Dr. Sledge left an unforgettable imprint on the hearts of so many. He was truly the fabric of the Walnut Place community.