Charles Hornby served in South America, assisted with Lights of Guidance
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Charles D. Hornby was a well-regarded traveling Baha’i teacher in the 1950s; a pioneer for the Faith starting in 1961 who helped develop Baha’i communities amid rapid expansion in Colombia and Ecuador, serving for years as an Auxiliary Board member; and a key supporter of his wife, Helen Bassett Hornby, in production of Lights of Guidance, the wide-ranging compilation of authoritative Baha’i writings.
Charles passed away October 20, 2012, in Ambato, Ecuador, where he had returned in recent years after living for a time in Michigan. He was 90.
A letter of tribute from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States recounts that during the Faith's Ten Year Crusade ending in 1963, “he responded to calls from the Supreme Body for pioneers, ultimately performing many remarkable services — on both appointed and elected Baha’i institutions — as a long-term champion of the Cause in Colombia and Ecuador.”
Born in Carey, Ohio, in 1921, Charles attended high school in Parma, Ohio, and served in the Army during and after World War II. Holding sales jobs in numerous cities, he attended college in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Oklahoma. After completing a degree in 1955, he taught school in Athens, Ohio, and later in Gainesville, Georgia. His first marriage ended in divorce; the couple had three children.
In addition to being an enthusiastic teacher of the Faith from the start of his Baha’i life, he served on the national Library Committee in 1956–58.
In 1961 he offered his services as a pioneer in Colombia, and the Baha’is of that country almost immediately elected him to its first National Spiritual Assembly. Before long Colombia had Baha’i communities in 100 localities, along with a great expansion in the number of Local Spiritual Assemblies.
On moving to Barranquilla, he met Helen Bassett, who also had moved there as a pioneer. Wed in 1963, they were both energetic in working with indigenous Baha’is to expand and organize their communities. Charles also helped other pioneers settle and made arrangements for traveling teachers.
At the National Assembly’s request, Charles and Helen moved to San Andres Island, where they worked to build the first Baha’i communities among descendants of African slaves there and on nearby islands.
In 1969 Charles moved to Quito, Ecuador, followed a few months later by Helen. They supported Baha’i community growth and consolidation in indigenous settlements in and around Otavalo, and later moved to Cumbayá for a similar purpose.
Charles’ long service as an Auxiliary Board member, encouraging development of Baha’i communities over a wide geographic range, began in the early 1970s.
By the 1980s the Hornbys were sharing their experience and wisdom with other prospective pioneers at training programs in the United States. They resided in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for several short stints to facilitate medical treatment for Helen.
Also during this time, Charles supported Helen in resuming compilation of Lights of Guidance, which she had begun decades earlier. Charles is credited with considerable hands-on logistical work from the original 1983 edition through several revisions.
After Helen’s passing in 1992, Charles stayed in Michigan for some time before returning to Ecuador permanently in 2001.