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Remembering Chuck Lyda
"The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence,
regardless of his chosen field of endeavor."

Vince Lombardi

Memories from Teammate
John Hefti

I met Chuck Lyda in Kernville California in January 1973. At the time, I was 16 years old and Chuck was 20. Kernville was a national slalom training center in 1972 for athletes hoping to make the Olympic team that year. In 1973, Kernville attracted a smaller but no less dedicated group of slalom racers who were intent on preparing for the World Championships in Switzerland that summer. Not a month before, I had made a life-changing decision to leave home and school and head West to train with some of the best athletes in the sport... more

Memories from Teammate
Sue Norman

Chuck had a very important impact on my life, that I do not believe I ever really communicated to him. It occurred over a brief but very important time in my paddling career. The year was 1981, and I was competing for the US World Championship team in whitewater slalom. In the preceding two months leading up to the team trials, Chuck had become a friend, often offering me encouragement and support during training camps, workouts and races as he was training and competing for his events in whitewater and slalom. As a westerner and relative newcomer to the established east coast racing world, he was clearly supporting me as the “underdog”... more

BrianMichaelALSO, please read the insightful Memorial Service comments
by Chuck's friends and coworkers:

Chief Warrant Officer Brian L. Peterson

Colonel Michael L. Herman

Memories from Friend
Kim Goertner Darling

Surviving the Chattooga with Chuck

I’m an artist, living in Vermont. The last time I saw Chuck was in New York in ’83 or so. We fell out of touch, but he never left my
memories, and his passing brings me immense sadness.

Chuck and I did some training together in the 70s. Once, during some flat water training in Maryland, I became very frustrated with my inability to coordinate the various physical, mental and emotional disciplines of training. I said to Chuck, “I want to be a machine.” He replied something to the effect that being a machine wasn’t really what I wanted. Through my present lens, colored by many years of life experiences, I know now that he already understood that physical training was a deeply human experience, involving all aspects of one’s being, and that he had been working for quite a long time on fine-tuning his mind/body relationship. At some race or another, we were standing around a dwindling evening fire at a campsite, and I said to Chuck that I was getting cold. Chuck’s response was to tell me that being cold was something I could control with my mind, and he began to coach me on how to do that.

Chattooga Double DropAlso, about that “moonlight” run of Section 4 of the Chattooga mentioned in Charles Albright’s Bio of Chuck -- I don’t remember a
whole lot of moonlight, or light of any kind. I think it was a pretty dark night. I was paddling one of the leftover ‘72 Olympic Lettman
“Mithril” kayaks, so it was a very lightweight boat. I can't remember who else was on that trip. Near the beginning of the trip, at Seven Foot Falls, well before the river enters the longer and more intricate “Five Falls” stretch, my boat folded up in front of the cockpit, splitting the seams. Chuck offered to walk out with me, but that would mean foregoing the river trip, plus carrying boats out in the pitch-black woods. I saw no problem with continuing in a boat that rode about a foot below the surface -- and this was in the days that kayaks were designed to ride ON the water’s surface. I knew the river so well that I was sure I would be okay. I know now that was probably foolish, but I'd been down those rapids day and night, in and on all sorts of vessels -- even an air mattress -- and had swum most of the river at one time or another. Of course, I was VERY slow, compared to the others. Chuck stayed with me the entire way down the river, and then across the lake, which is where “slow” took on a whole new meaning, with me paddling an underwater boat. Eventually, Chuck flagged down some night fishermen who towed us with their boat to the boat-ramp landing.

To the other trip members -- those with the vehicle at the takeout -- Chuck and I had just disappeared into the darkness, and they feared the worst. They figured they'd come back and search for us the next day. Chuck and I huddled, wet and very cold (or maybe his mind control was working, and I was the only one who was cold), on our PFDs and skirts, trying to sleep, for the very long hours until dawn. I still remember, at the first glow in the sky, a song that was around at the time, "There's Got to Be a Morning After", playing in my head. No, it actually was playing on some fisherman's radio. In my hypothermic state, it was surreal. Our anxious trip mates did show up soon after dawn, and we were returned to a place of shelter and dry, warm clothes. Chuck left that day -- and I think I ended up with one of the boats that Chuck had delivered, although that part isn’t clear in my memory.

Wendy & Chuck at ChattoogaAdditional Comments by
Wendy Wallace

I'm really happy to read Kim's remembrances because Murray told Charlie that Chuck paddled the Chattooga alone and I KNEW that wasn't so. I was there. I was in that miserable support van with a bunch of people I'd just met hours before and we spent the whole night driving the river looking and waiting for them. You couldn't just cruise along the river. You had to go up to the road, drive a bit, and then go down to the river where you could. It was awful and I swear I had the beginning of an ulcer at the end. I'm not kidding! I was literally doubled over with stomach pain. But we never quit and gave up. We searched all night!

About this photo, Wendy notes: The picture with me in the helmet is because I went down the river in a raft the day after Chuck's overnight on the river. Chuck would meet us and check up on me whenever we stopped the raft, like for lunch. I've noted in my photo album that the trip took over 4 hours.


Memories from Friend
Lecky Haller

Chuck, Instant Problem Solver

Chuck was one of my many heroes. Before I began racing C-2 Slalom, I had the fortune to accompany my brother to the team trials on the Savage river in Western Maryland for the 1981 Worlds in Bala, Wales. He was racing with Boo Hayman in C-2M. I believe Chuck was racing with John Hefti at that time. Boo and Fritz (my brother) broke their boat before the competition began and it couldn't be repaired in time for the race. Chuck volunteered his race boat for them to use and switched his race order to allow them to do that. Without that opportunity, Boo and Fritz would not have gone on to be World Champions that year, a title they hold to this day as that was the last Worlds that C-2M was held!

This simply shows what Chuck was, a true competitor sure, but also a true sportsman and lover of life which I have always thought was the better part. I have always tried to emulate that and blend that with my own career in paddling with my brother and others in C-2 slalom and wildwater and hopefully in life itself. I was saddened to have another hero go down but his was a life to show others how to have their own adventures. Thanks!!


Memories from Friend & Coach
Bill Endicott

A Coach's First World Champions

Bill Endicott here. Chuck and Marietta Gilman were my first World Champs. It was back in 1977 in my first World Championships as national team coach and they came to train with us in Washington, D.C. (I had first gotten to know Chuck back in 1973, though.)

Besides remembering him as a great athlete, I remember his sense of humor! Glad to see that some of the newspaper photos on the webpages you mentioned have him in that red "bowl" helmet with the racing stripes on it -- one of a kind! For some reason, I seem to recall that he attached a feather to it from time to time!


Memories from Friend & Teammate
Paul Grabow

Veterans Day 2010

To all,

I expect that the headstone will be in place by my next visit. I heard (unconfirmed) that this usually happens around 8 weeks or so.

As it happened the day I visited the gravesite, I came to realize that a recent internment (11/2/10) in that same section was for a soldier who interned with us just last summer. His story was truly "Chuck-worthy." By background, we participate in the Walter Reed Wounded Warrior program. Spc. Alex Knapp was learning computer forensics with us as he was about to leave the military 2 years after losing both legs from an IED. As he was getting fitted for prosthetics, he fully expected to return to his active sporting life; ice hocky, basketball, etc. He even showed me a video of a fellow with prosthetic limbs riding a mountain bike. He left us after last August for Michigan, where he grew up. We heard in October that he had suffered a heart attack after an ice hockey workout and passed away suddenly. The toll on his body from the blood transfusions and surgeries was greater than we all realized. It didn't take a toll on his spirit and perseverence, however. That is what I found so remarkable about the young fellow. He fully expected to live an unimpeded life and saw no disability at all in his circumstance.

If there is a type of flower that has a sentimental value to you, I will do my best to leave on my visits.

Warm regards, Paul Grabow

"Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament."
George Santayana

Memories from Chuck's Younger Brother

Chuck & Grady's Excellent Skydiving Adventure

Maybe it’s true that nobody ever really dies –- they live on in the memories of the people who knew them. I remember when Chuck was 20 and I was 18, he called me and said, “We’re going skydiving tomorrow.” I said, “We’re doing what, now?” He said, “I’ll pick you up at 4AM, we’ll be taking skydiving training in the morning, then we’ll make 3 jumps.”

When Chuck had a plan, you just had to go along with it. He had already asked his girlfriend, Wendy, to go with him, but she had replied, "Hell, no!" At least, that's what Wendy told me at Chuck's Memorial Service. I was his second choice.

So the next day we drove out to the little airport at Perris, California. An instructor showed us what we needed to know, and we went up in the plane. I was the first one out the door –- it was a static line jump where there are 2 or 3 seconds of free fall, then a cord attached to the plane opens the parachute and you just float down.

I enjoyed the jumping out part, but after the quick, intense rush of free fall, there was nothing much to do except look at the scenery. I played with the toggles for awhile, seeing how I could make the canopy go this way and that way, and then I realized the ground was coming up pretty fast. We had been told that in the last 5 or 10 seconds before you hit, you should not look down. It will freak you out, and you will tense up and hurt yourself upon impact. You need to concentrate on the horizon, relax and keep your feet together, knees bent, and collapse in a three-point landing –- feet, seat and helmet.

That worked, and when I got back up I saw the instructor was coming down nearby, but I didn’t see Chuck anywhere. Later, the plane was preparing to take us up again and I noticed that Chuck had finally showed up. I saw him talking to the instructor for a minute, then he came over to me looking mad, and said, “How did you do that?” I replied, “How did I do what?” He said, “The trainer told me you hit the target dead center. How did you do that?”

This was the moment when I learned that sometimes the best answer was just to keep my mouth shut. I stared at him and didn’t say anything, otherwise I’d have had to tell him, “Chuck, I didn’t even know there was a target.”

We went on to make two more jumps. Each time, I got farther away from the target, and Chuck got a little closer, but there were no more bull’s eyes.

I didn’t see Chuck again until a few days later. He was walking with crutches and had a cast on his foot. That’s when he told me what had happened on his first jump. He’d drifted far, far away and came down in a big field. He didn’t have the luxury of focusing on the horizon because he was desperately trying to avoid hitting a cow, and he ended up crashing into some farm equipment. That’s how he broke his ankle. He was in terrible pain the rest of the day, but nobody knew it.

I asked, “How did you do that?” “Do what?” “How did you make two more jumps with a busted ankle?” He just stared at me and didn’t say anything.

Chuck certainly knew the disturbing power of prolonged, profound silence. And now, that is what he leaves us with…

Thanks for the memories, Chuck.

Chuck's 60th Birthday
"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." -- William Faulkner

Memories from Close Friend Wendy Wallace

Chuck and WendyPosted on Facebook: Monday, July 23, 2012

I’m thinking of Chuck today. We met in high school when we were 17. We fell in love and had many adventures together. More than anyone else, he shaped the person I became.

He was always in training for the Olympics so our world revolved around that. On this day in 1976, he was in Montreal for the Olympics so I sent his 24th birthday telegram there. Today would be his 60th birthday and I am so sad that he’s gone. Our lives went in different directions but I always thought that I would see him again. He was big, wild, and majestic and like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, I thought that he would always be there and that I would see him again.

Grady, his younger brother, has created a wonderful web site to document his incredible life: Chuck-Lyda

Kat Peterson WOW Wendy, that is quite a story and he was quite a man! Thanks for sharing, sorry you lost your friend and that we lost a hero.

Sandi Marts Thinking of Chuck today!! Enjoy the memories of many adventures!! XXOOOS

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