Born in Baltimore and raised on Louth Road in Dundalk, he was the son of Charles Deem, a Bethlehem Steel employee, and Kathryn Deem, a homemaker who also served as a Glenn L. Martin Co. riveter.
He was a 1965 graduate of Dundalk High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and personnel administration from Antioch University.
Mr. Deem played baritone saxophone in a local band and was known as "Red" because of the red hair and freckles he had as a young man. When he was in his 30s, the hair turned white, family members said.
He worked at a Western Auto store in Dundalk and for Baltimore County's Department of Public Works before joining the Air Force in 1969. Family members said he began as an accounting and finance technician at Mather Air Force Base, in Sacramento, Calif., then was transferred to Baltimore, where he was a recruiting staff sergeant at an office on Conkling Street in Highlandtown.
He went into hospital administration for the Air Force and held posts in Biloxi, Miss., and Montgomery, Ala., before retiring in 1991 as a major.
"He was happy and cheerful. I don't remember seeing him when he wasn't smiling," said Keith Calvert, a friend who resides in Cullman County, in Alabama. "He also raised the kids by himself. He was a busy man."
While in the service, Mr. Deem worked in computer medical records and received a Meritorious Service Award in 1987 for his work developing a software program called MedLog. After his military retirement, he became a consultant in his field and was later a manager for a mailbox-making business.
Family members said had had been end of life caregiver to two wives and his mother. His first wife, Virginia "Ginny" Paul, died of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, at 40. He then married Ruby McCoy, who died of ovarian cancer in 2011. He also tended his mother, who died in 2007.
"His character was strong. He had a deep faith that carried him through a lot," said his wife, Susan Pacholski, a University of Maryland Medical System administrative assistant who married Mr. Deem on Jan. 23, 2013, shortly before his cancer diagnosis.
His wife said he had his own way of helping people at Christmas.
"Charlie would pay someone's grocery bill at a random grocery store, like a Giant or Mars," his wife said. "He'd assess the checkout line and look for someone who looked a little down on their luck. If it was an elderly woman, he'd go up to her and say, 'You remind me so much of my mother who just passed away, would you be so kind as to allow me to pay for your groceries?' He had strong instincts about whether a person needed help."
Mr. Deem was a long-standing member of the Dundalk Chapter Moose Lodge No. 97 on Sollers Point Road, where he met his wife. Their first date was at the Boulevard Diner in Dundalk.
In his free time, Mr. Deem enjoyed blues and country music. He continued his interest in computers and kept a home woodworking shop.
"Charlie was a very skilled woodworker and owned the saws, routers, planes to ply his craft," his wife said. "His favorite pieces were children's outdoor furniture and Adirondack chairs."
In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Kevin Deem of Montgomery, Ala.; three daughters, Teresa Deem, also of Montgomery, Gina Lewis of Albany, Ga. and Michelle Prater of Athens, Texas; a stepson, Steven Gump of Middle River; stepdaughters Mary Salyer of San Diego, Calif.; Darlene Jackson and Rita Maynard, both of Wetumpka, Ala.; 14 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He also had seven step grandchildren.
Services are private.