I think it's fair to say that my childhood would have been a tad bit drearier were it not for Mr. Flatt.


By Steve Kemme skemme@enquirer.com September 15, 2009

ANDERSON TWP. - Charles R. Flatt devoted much of his life to helping millions of people have fun.

After managing Coney Island's Sunlite Pool in Anderson Township from 1946 to 1970, he coordinated the construction of Kings Island amusement park in Mason and Kings Dominion amusement park near Richmond, Va.

"Kings Island would have never opened on time without Charley Flatt," said Gary Wachs, who was in charge of the planning and development of Kings Island and whose family had owned Coney Island when Flatt worked there. "He was what I call a quiet leader. He inspired people by example. He had a great dry sense of humor and he was fun to work with."

Flatt, 90, of Anderson Township, died Sunday from mantle cell lymphoma, one of the more rare forms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He battled the disease for more than four years, said his daughter, Jenny Dilbone, of Columbia Township.

A 1936 graduate of Walnut Hills High School, Flatt earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Cincinnati. He served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for three years during World War II.

In 1946, the Wachs family hired him to manage Sunlite Pool, a job he loved.

"He said it never seemed like work to be at such a happy place and to be around so many wonderful people," Dilbone said.

The pool had an exemplary safety record during Flatt's years as manager, Wachs said.

But being placed in charge of the construction of Kings Island enabled Flatt to display his full range of talents, he said.

"When he started building amusement parks, he really came into his own," said Wachs, who was Kings Island's first general manager and now is a general partner for the Garfield Suites Hotel.

Kings Island, which was owned by Taft Broadcasting, opened in 1972. Flatt then began coordinating the construction of Kings Dominion, which opened in 1975. Flatt moved back to the Cincinnati in 1977 and worked for the Taft Broadcasting Co. on the creation of amusement parks in Toronto and Sydney, Australia.

After retiring in 1984, he worked as a consultant on the construction of fountains. In order to stay busy, he performed volunteer work for Pavestone Co. in Newtown.

Throughout his life, he swam regularly at the Sunlite Pool.

"He always looked forward to summer," said his son, Russell Flatt, vice president of maintenance and construction at Kings Island. "For him, summer was the Cincinnati Reds and the Sunlite Pool."

Even at the age of 90, he kept up his ritual of diving off a board in the deep end of the pool and swimming to the concrete island in the shallow part. In the last four years, he scheduled his medical treatments for mantle cell lymphoma in the fall and winter so that he could go to Sunlite Pool in the summer, Dilbone said.

He often wore a T-shirt that featured an image of the Sunlite Pool and the saying, "You don't stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing."

"That pretty much exemplified his life," she said. "He always said the amusement parks and the people there kept him young."

In addition to Dilbone and Russell Flatt, Charles R. Flatt is survived by his wife of 64 years, Martha; daughters, Barbara Schwain of Minneapolis, Minn., and Jody Hub of Toronto, Canada; a brother, Richard Flatt of Sarasota, Fla.; and 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday, at the Geo. H. Rohde & Son Funeral Home, 3183 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout. The funeral service will begin at 6 p.m. at the funeral home.