Charles Viertel was one of eleven children born into the poor family of a German father and English mother in Queensland. An achiever since childhood, he graduated dux of the Brisbane Central Technical High School, received a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Queensland and later became an accountant and company director. Charles was an astute investor, and at his death in 1992 he was one of Queensland’s most successful share market investors.
Despite accumulating significant wealth and true to Charles’ legendary frugality, he was more comfortable in a hand-knitted beanie, cardigan, shorts and slippers than being dressed in a suit and tie. He gave quietly during his lifetime, without expectation of public recognition. He established the chair of Ophthalmology at the University of Queensland shortly after the death of his wife Sylvia, who had had severely impaired vision. In 1982 Charles was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his charitable work.
Sylvia Viertel was a quiet, gentle person who preferred home life to the corporate world in which her husband revelled. Sylvia and Charles married when they were both in their 40s and she remained in the background as a home maker and keen gardener.