Eas­ton mourns for­mer fire chief

Life mem­ber Les Chance fol­lowed fam­ily tra­di­tion at EVFD

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRISTINA ACOSTA ca­[email protected]­pub.com

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).

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

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

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