Easton mourns former fire chief
Life member Les Chance followed family tradition at EVFD
EASTON — Les Chance, a life member and former chief of the Easton Volunteer Fire Department and the longtime owner of an Easton automotive repair business, died Thursday, Nov. 22. He was 58.
Leslie Richard “Les” Chance had battled early onset Alzheimer’s for eight years.
Chance is sur vived by his wife of 31 years, Lois Anne Chance; his son, Jesse Richard “JR” Chance; and his daughter, Courtney Butler. He also leaves behind a daughterin-law, Amanda Chance; son-in-law, Michael Butler; and grandchildren, Nova Chance, Jase Butler and Aubrey Butler. He also is survived by his brother, James Chance; and nephews, Ian and Sean Chance.
Due to his illness, Chance faced
challenges, but he never let it interfere with living life, his family said in an obituary. He showed his family every day what a true hero looked like and instilled the same qualities in his children.
In an Oct. 24 Facebook post, his son explained the difficulty of the disease commonly known as the long goodbye.
“Nothing I do in this life will be as hard as dealing with a loved one with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s,” JR Chance wrote. “It’s time to end the stigma and talk about this disease.”
His post also explained the difficulty his father endured when the fire department would be called out to a fire, crash or other emergency: “Hearing the fire scanner call to your soul and knowing it tears you apart not to be able to help.”
Les Chance joined the Easton Volunteer Fire Department on Nov.20, 1978, and had been a member for 40 years, serving along with his dad, uncles and grandfather.
“It was family. I was expected to,” Chance said (in a 2008 interview with
The Star Democrat) about joining the fire department. He then held his hand about 3 feet from the floor. “I have been at the fire hall since I was this tall. I rode my first fire truck when I was 3 years old.”
Following in the footsteps of his father, Chance worked his way up through the chain of line officers before serving as chief in 1996. He also served as a trustee for many years, according to his obituary. He was a member of the Red Knights, which is a group of firefighters from various companies who gather to serve displaced families due to fires, families that have lost a fellow fireman and other children’s charities and fundraising drives.
Easton Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Harrison said Chance “was dedicated to the fire department. These trucks exist because of him. Operationally, we always had the best trucks because he cared so much for the equipment. He knew if we had the best equipment, we would be at our best at helping the community.”
Assistant Chief Drew Jensen joined the fire department in 1996 when Les Chance was the fire chief.
“I can describe Les with one word — passion,” Jensen said. “He had great passion for the fire department. He had great passion for his family. He had great passion for being a mechanic, and he had great passion for our community.”
In July 2012, the Easton Fire Department added a 2011 Pierce fire engine that is designated as Engine 64. The engine can carry 1,000 gallons of water, 50 gallons of foam and more than 1,500 feet of various diameter hose and assorted firefighting tools.
This unit was dedicated to the Chance and Soulsby families, who have a long-standing tradition of service to the Easton Volunteer Fire Department. Members of the Chance and Soulsby families have served the department since the early 1900s.
This includes four members of the Chance and Soulsby families who have served as fire chief: C.M.T. “Milton” Soulsby (1912-1920), Charles R. “Randy” Chance Sr., Les Chance and Charles R. “CR” Chance Jr.
“Any time we dedicate a piece of equipment to someone it shows the appreciation the department has to a person or a family,” Jensen said. “To recognize the Chance family was a cool thing to do.”
“Les was one of the nicest guys in high school,” Diane Harrison wrote on the EVFD Facebook page, where the profile picture has been replaced with the department’s logo with a black bar across it reading “Life Member/Past Chief Les Chance.”
“What a shame one hell of a man and a all around nice guy!!” Tyler and Candy Golt posted on the EVFD Facebook page.
Chance’s career was in automotive repair. He worked as a young man alongside his dad at Bob Smith Buick, according to his obituary. He decided to venture out on his own and leased the Amoco station then owned by William and Tim Miller.
His dream became fully realized in
1998 when he built Chance’s Service Center. He had a great following and a successful business that operated for more than 20 years.
Jensen drives a truck put together and maintained by Chance.
“This truck I drive is one of Les’ products. He did all the work on the truck — the paint job, the rims. That was the kind of guy he was. When you get in this truck, especially on a day like today after Les died, you think about him, and what he meant for our fire department and the community,” Jensen said.
Chance was born on Feb. 26, 1960. He loved to make people smile and to ser ve others, and was always there to lend a hand or help in any way he could, according to his obituary. Many weekends, his joy was to take his Lab, Jake, to Dunkin’ Donuts and drive the back roads in his GMC pickup.
“There aren’t many people that don’t tell us a stor y of how he helped them in a moment’s notice,” the Chance family said in his obituary. “He leaves behind a legacy of heroism, love and devotions. He has earned those wings. Fly high Les as we will meet again on that beautiful shore.”
Easton Mayor Robert Willey echoed many of the sentiments from mourners noting his contribution to Easton’s public safety and a lasting legacy he cultivated.
“He went along with his day-to-day operation until he couldn’t anymore,” Willey said. “You would never hear him complain about being sick or having problems. He was a strongwilled individual, and he will be missed. He will be remembered for a very long time.”
A funeral ser vice will be held at noon Thursday, Nov. 29, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 100 Peachblossom Road, Easton, where friends may from 10 a.m. to noon. Burial will be at Woodlawn Memorial Park.
Memorial contributions may be made in his honor to Talbot Hospice, 586 Cynwood Drive, Easton, MD 21601; Easton Volunteer Fire Deptartment, 315 Aurora Park Drive, Easton, MD 21601; or Alzheimer’s Association, Eastern Shore Chapter,
909 Progress Circle, Suite 400, Salisbury, MD 21804 (www.alz.org/mary land).
Les Chance, 58, left a legacy as a life member and past chief of the Easton Volunteer Fire Department, as well as a successful career at Chance’s Service Center.
EVFD Facebook page profile photo