quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence,
of his chosen field of endeavor."
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
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
Kim Goertner Darling
the Chattooga with Chuck
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.
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
“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
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.
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!
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.
Instant Problem Solver
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!!
from Friend & Coach
Coach's First World Champions
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,
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!
from Friend & Teammate
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.
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.
regards, Paul Grabow
is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament."
from Chuck's Younger Brother
Chuck & Grady's Excellent Skydiving Adventure
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.”
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.
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.
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?”
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
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.
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
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
certainly knew the disturbing power of prolonged, profound silence. And now, that
is what he leaves us with…
for the memories, Chuck.
past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." -- William Faulkner
from Close Friend Wendy Wallace
on Facebook: Monday, July 23, 2012
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
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
his younger brother, has created a wonderful web site to document his incredible
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.
Marts Thinking of Chuck today!! Enjoy the memories of many adventures!! XXOOOS