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Posted: July 9, 2017

Chuck Leishman: definition of a hero

By Mary Giuliano

Chuck Leishman

Most recently I was introduced to someone I think to be very courageous. I know very little about this man yet I’ve determined I don’t need to know any more information about this person.

It all began when my husband Nick found a message from Chuck Leishman inviting us to a party. On the return call Chuck told Nick that he was holding a “wake” for himself. We took it as a joke and on arrival at his home noticed there was quite a festive air.

A huge bouncy castle for kids of all ages, an amphitheatre of chairs set up for a live band concert, a barbecue holding several plump chickens giving off a delicious aroma, platters of ribs, large containers of salads, corn on the cob, bags of huge buns, on one table sat an array of appetizers, on another a huge bowl of sliced watermelon, and right next to that was the bar.

Chuck met us and shaking my hand firmly he brought us into the music area and put our names on a name tag as there were many people who didn’t know each other.

Chuck is tall and slim with rugged good looks; he is wearing black Bermuda shorts, a pale blue shirt, sandals and a cool hat that gives me an image of an Australian in the outback.

There are nearly a hundred guests all clamouring for his attention and he acknowledges everyone with a smile and a word while still providing Nick and I attention. He then hands Nick a drink and tells us to enjoy the festivities.

The live band starts to play and as I look around I notice a number of people I recognize. Linda, a mutual friend, says in awe, “Can you believe this? He has so many friends, so many people here, I have six for dinner and it seems a lot.

I respond by saying, he must be a very caring man to have so many people show up to this party.

The band stops playing and Chuck moves to the microphone. He extends a warm welcome and thanks the guests saying everyone knows he has been battling cancer the past couple of years. He’s spent time in hospitals and thanks close friends for surprising him with visits while in Kelowna. He drew a laugh on saying that initially the party was to be a wake but now he feels better and joked the date chosen for the party came about because it was the only day the band was available.

He then asked everyone to grab a drink and walk with him to where a small park had been built so they could do an unveiling. The park was down the road and so we all followed him to gather around a bench that was covered and upon ceremoniously pulling off the covering were the words “Traveller’s Rest Welcome.”

This bench and park was built without a penny of taxpayers’ dollars, Chuck said. I didn’t get details but it seems Chuck and wife Stephanie and neighbours Janet and Robert are responsible for this amenity that overlooks a breathtaking view of the gorge and river below. After some photo ops we all walked back to the house that is as unique as its owner.

In the middle of the Canadian Rockies in Elko is a most beautiful Spanish style home that boggles the mind and confuses the senses because this is not where you expect to find this house. Inside and out it makes one feel that you are on a Spanish hacienda.

The chef has chicken ready, the pulled pork is on a platter and now it’s time to eat. As we line up I meet Cathy and Stephen Larsen who along with Chuck built and designed the Spanish house. Stephen points to the bar and I notice for the first time that it is a coffin. Stephen says he built it and wasn’t sure if it would be ready for today’s event. We walk over to it and I make a comment that of course it makes for an interesting bar. To which he responds no it is the actual coffin that will hold Chuck at some point.

Suddenly someone hands me a hammer so I can hit a nail in the bottom right side. I’m surprised by my reaction as I take the hammer and do just that, and I realize that by this action I have faced the fear of my own mortality, the fear of leaving this world and the people I love.

What is courage you might ask? Well courage is Chuck. Courage is what allowed him to organize a wonderful party with food, music and friends. Friends who showed much love and who don’t want to face that life will one day end for Chuck and for each one of us.

We know that death follows birth but the journey in-between sometimes has us believing this will never happen.

We have spouses, children, family and friends; we have homes and material possessions. In the daily grind of life we forget that time is limited, if the thought surfaces we push it aside.

Chuck is a man with a heart and soul that is open and bold. I have no doubt that this courage will be what sustains him and keeps him going for many more days. Chuck is a hero; heroes are not perfect people but they are brave and genuine and loving and they have determination.

In life there is probably only one thing that is expected of us – and that is to be courageous. Courage explains all other human behaviour.

Chuck, I’ve only just met you but you have impacted my thinking and in doing so impacted my life.

There is nothing better in this world than to influence someone on such a high level. I thank you for being the person you are, for showing how adversity can be met without bitterness. You are someone special and I’m happy to know you. And Chuck, you sure do know how to throw one heck of a great party.

Mary Giuliano is a long time Fernie and Elk Valley community writer, and she is also currently Mayor of the City of Fernie

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