I met Chuck on March 1st 1990, when I attended a benefit performance of the play “The Normal Heart” at Vagabond’s Theater in Baltimore. Chuck gave a very unremarkable performance as the straight brother of the main character. That was the only unremarkable thing I ever saw him do in the next twenty years… As the tale has been so often told, I saw Chuck coming down the staircase of the theater and he was wearing a very cool tweed coat, and what I was to later understand was his trademark “Indiana Jones” hat. I found this very attractive, and he (so he often said) was attracted to me because the shoulder pads in my black dress made it appear that I had big breasts (ahh how sadly he was mistaken)….thus we embarked on our crazy adventure of life. The Halloween wedding, the plays, the farm, the animals, the weaving, the art, the travel; every moment of a life lived with Chuck was open to unexpected possibilities. Yet few people knew the extent of the inner torment that bi-polar disorder foisted upon Chuck every day of his life. He cared so much about the participants in the ALIVE study because he saw himself in them, struggling daily with addiction and mental illness. The only difference was that by some stroke of luck he was born into a middle class home.
The ALIVE study (AIDS Linked to the Intravenous Experience) at Johns Hopkins began in the early
years of the AIDS epidemic (1984) as a project to look at the natural history of HIV infection among
intravenous drug users in Baltimore, MD with the original intent of studying the behavioral, clinical
and pathogenesis of HIV in injection drug users. In addition, the study looks at many aspects of
non-HIV illnesses such as cancer, liver and lung diseases. This study has produced a great number
of publications and contributed greatly to the understanding of HIV infection. The success of this
study has been due to the dedication of the staff, many of whom, like Chuck have worked there for
greater than 15 years (in fact, some have been there since the study’s inception). The patients, many
of whom are indigent, have faithfully come to semi-annual study visits (again, some since the project’s
inception). You can learn a bit more about the ALIVE study at
HIV-Injection Drug User Study Marks 20th Anniversary
(note: you can see the top of Chuck’s head in the back row)
The purpose of the Chuck Spoler fund is to provide support for study participants whose resources are limited. The fund will supply bus tokens, food, clothing, assistance with gas and electric bills and whatever unmet needs the staff thinks the money can be effectively used for. A donation as small as ten dollars can provide bus tokens to six people, many of whom neglect to get medical help when they are sick due to lack of car fare and the inability to walk to the nearest emergency room. Chuck’s generosity to people in need was well known among his friends and colleagues. He gave money to anyone who asked and often said “you never know if they might be Jesus returned to earth”… I will always remember one day when we were walking to the stadium to see a baseball game with a couple of friends, there was a man on the street who was approaching passersby asking “got a dollar, got a dollar” as we approached he said to our friends “got a dollar”, then “hi Mr. Chuck” who of course had more than a dollar for him……..
Chuck used to say that I was his “muse” but I see myself more as the person who unlocked the door to Chuck’s creative side, and let it run wild for twenty years. Chuck will live on forever in the memories of those who loved him, I hope ensure the continued production of his plays, and with this website we endeavor to continue to help the participants of the research study ALIVE) on which Chuck devoted most of his career.
Donations may be made securely online (select Chuck Spoler Fund from the drop down menu) or by mail to
Division of Infectious Diseases,
If you have any stories about Chuck or photos that you would like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be added to the website.