Born in the early 1920’s, John Carter thoroughly enjoyed the first ten years of his life. John lived with his family on the shores of Lake Michigan in a heavily forested suburb north of Chicago. The first ten years of his life, he enjoyed hunting, fishing and chopping wood.
Then divorce entered John’s young life. Like most children impacted by divorce, John’s life was disrupted. He moved to Columbus, Georgia to live with his aunt and cousins. After the divorce was final, he then returned north to St. Helen, Michigan to live with his mom. Sadly, John only saw his biological father once during the next 10 years.
Shortly afterwards, their family friend Chet Heston became his stepfather. The new stepfamily moved to Alliance, Ohio where Chet had hoped to find work while the country was stuck in the Depression.
Chet found work to support his family. He set a strong example of hard work, independence and responsibility for John by ensuring there was always food on the table and the rent for their room was always paid on time.
John shared how he and his two stepcousins went to the town’s welfare office to pick up free food. When Chet heard about it, he made it very clear why this wasn’t acceptable. In John’s words, Papa said,
“I’m not taking any relief handout, ever! You hear me?”
John spoke with admiration of his stepfather’s “never say quit” determination to provide for his family.
Chet eventually found a more permanent position in Wilmette, Illinois rising to an executive position at a defense plant during the war. Now a teenager, John attended New Trier High School. It was at New Trier, John would find what would become the center of his life – acting.
Twenty years later, Chet died of a heart attack. John said he was “proud to pay off the last of the mortgage and give my mother the deed to the house he [Chet] worked so hard to provide.”
As an actor, John Charlton Carter’s career spanned 60 years and he appeared in 100 films. The staring roles he played allow him to accept only roles that embodied responsibility, individualism and masculinity - characteristics modeled by his stepfather and from whom he took his name.
John, more commonly known as Charlton Heston, is best known for his roles in The Ten Commandments (1956); Ben-Hur, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor (1959); El Cid (1961); and Planet of the Apes (1968). He also is well-known for his roles in the films The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Touch of Evil (1958).
Charlton died in April 2008. As you read the Heston’s family statement at the time of his death, you’ll see Chet Huston’s influence on his son Charleton.
“He was known for his chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played. Indeed, he committed himself to every role with passion, and pursued every cause with unmatched enthusiasm and integrity. We knew him as an adoring husband, a kind and devoted father, and a gentle grandfather, with an infectious sense of humor. He served these far greater roles with tremendous faith, courage and dignity. He loved deeply, and he was deeply loved. No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country. “
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