A Tribute to Chris Mang
Celebration of Life
Mount Vernon Hillcrest Lodge
Presented by Tim Holloran
June 23, 2018
Chris died tragically. Everyone who knew Chris knew he loved life…
I happen to be one of Chris’s long time Special Olympics coaches. I’d ask everyone to take the time to see the beauty of our special friends and tell them you love them in your own way.
This afternoon, I just hope I can capture the essence of Chris’s spirit and personality and perhaps share a few stories. Two things I do know… if it was up to Chris I would speak about him for hours and secondly, he most definitely would want to be in the room to hear it. At this point Chris would interrupt me and let everyone know that he was a Renaissance Man. Seriously, my true desire in talking about Chris is to help you understand and appreciate just how intelligent and complex Chris was.
Chris loved life.
Chris Mang was a big personality… it amazes me how many people knew Chris. He was extremely social and openly engaged others. Chris was a passionate, deep thinking young man.
Sue and Reed, I want to acknowledge and thank you for your consistency and firm approach to raising Chris. He loved you so. Many times over the years, I witnessed the patient, constructive conversations you had with Chris and yes he’d always admit, “he knew better”. You always kept the bar high and expected more. You did a great job instilling strong, solid values in Chris.
Special Olympics was a safe, comfortable setting for Chris. He embraced the philosophy of fostering friends and fun first. I believe Special Olympics helps fill the social gap after high school. In this venue, those with special challenges can step out to develop skills and participate in sports without stigma or ridicule. I have to tell you that Chris wasn’t our typical special athlete. While he truly understood the concepts of games and fundamentals of skills, his numerous physical challenges made it difficult to carry them out. Chris can best be described as an emotional athlete who often expressed frustrations in performing while showing great determination
This winter, Chris had a great basketball season, sporting a new leg brace. You could see his resolve as he dribbled the ball down the length of the court and shot the ball until he made that basket. You could clearly see the determination on his face.
Cycling was Chris’s favorite sport; his crowning moment was riding on the back of a tandem in a race with Reed. The look of exhilaration and pride as the two of them flew past the crowds at Fort Lewis.
Once at Ft. Lewis, there was one particular race, ending with no sign of Chris. We expected to see Chris come across the finish line on his yellow recumbent much sooner. With no sign of Chris, we were concerned. After a while, Chris emerged visibly exasperated pushing across the finish line. Come to find out, he inadvertently pushed the hill brake button and rode the entire 1K race with the brake on. After a bit, he was able to laugh about it.
One of the things Chris and I shared was the love of music. Chris’s passion and appreciation of good music was evident. I was amazed at how many songs he knew regardless of the genre. I would describe Chris as a romantic with a sincere love of music and its meaning. We were known for singing karaoke together in Fort Lewis, neither one of us had a particularly good voice. As soon as we arrived on base, Chris would ask when we were doing karaoke. To appreciate this you have to understand karaoke was hosted in an open tent facing toward the entire cycling venue. We had an audience. Our go to song was from the movie, Top Gun-“You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”. Chris was Goose and I was Maverick.
Those of us who knew Chris well, knew his love for the Beatles. Sue chose one of Chris’s favorite songs, “All You Need is Love” to be printed on a shirt as a tribute to Chris.
Chris had an amazing sense of humor. He relived and shared many comical episodes from Saturday Night Live and many classic television shows. He loved Seinfeld, often sharing and laughing about random recaps of George Constanza or Cosmo Kramer antics. Hitting golf balls into the ocean with one landing in a whale’s blowhole or the fictitious company, Vandelay Industries. (Reflected on one of Chris’s favorite shirts)
Chris often talked about how life wasn’t fair. He would question why his twin brother, Robert, had a wife, children, nice car and a job. Robert, Chris was happy for you, he loved you and your family, he just wanted the same.
Fairness seemed to be a fundamental issue for Chris. It is probably what motivated him to be a huge advocate for those being treated poorly. I can remember several instances where Chris intervened on behalf of those being treated unfairly.
Chris knew right from wrong. He often expressed his beliefs, passionately, on issues. One should never have underestimated Chris.
I remember one time at Fort Lewis State Games when Chris started a heavy discussion with an enlisted soldier. All the military vehicles were on display for the athletes to explore. This soldier’s job was to explain how they worked and what they do. Chris cried out, “Don’t you think war is wrong?” (You knew when Chris got real excited and enthusiastic, the pitch of his voice would rise and crack) This soldier was clearly taken back. Chris talked about the harsh reality of war and repeated, “Don’t you think war is wrong”. I was about to intervene but the soldier replied, “These machines are meant to defend our country and those less fortunate.” I am not sure Chris bought his rebuttal. You could see this soldier was surprised yet taken back with the depth of the question. Chris was not trying to be insulting but after seeing the weapons, he just felt compelled to ask the question.
Chris had his share of bad luck. A few years back Chris fell and ended up breaking his hip. This occurred in late April. After surgery, Chris spent the entire summer in a nursing home rehabilitating. I can still hear him saying, but everyone here is old. Many of us would make a couple of visits a week to keep his spirits up. He conned me into bringing him a pizza with each visit. After a few weeks, Reed called me and said Chris was putting on some weight and asked me to cut down on the pizza. As a counter, Chris tried to convince me that he would share the pizza with others. Thereafter, I’d bring him half a pizza.
Friendship was truly important to Chris. He considered those he met to be a friend.
We all have specific triggers that will make us think of Chris. When we hear a good song, see a good movie, when we watch Saturday Night Live, when we witness someone standing up for the underdog. We will think of Chris.
Chris would not want us to continue to be sad. Rather he would want us to celebrate life. So, in Chris’s honor, we will host a special block party once a year, which will also raise funds for Special Olympics. And yes all our friends will be invited. We expect you to wear your favorite party outfit, be prepared to eat good food and of course, there will be plenty of good music, dancing and perhaps a bit of Karaoke.
I want to thank you, the friends of Chris and his family for being here today in support of Sue, Reed, Robert and family.
Chris will certainly be missed but not forgotten.