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Remembering Chris Slauson

When Paul Slauson looks at his 2-year old son Christopher he can’t help but think of his late brother, whom his boy is named after.

Like any good dad, Paul wants young Chrisopher to grow up healthy, happy, safe and ready to tackle every dream his heart desires.

Perhaps most of all Paul wants his son to view the world with the same loving eyes that Chris did.

“I want to raise my son to see the good in the world and in everybody,” said Paul Slauson.

That was Chris Slauson. He always saw the good in every situation and every person he met. No matter what.

Chris Slauson, was a beloved member of the City of Tonawanda, who earned the nickname Mr. Tonawanda because of his passionate love of his community and the people who called the C.O.T. home.

The ultimate supporter, Chris was a staple at every Warrior athletic event. Especially football, basketball and baseball.

He had a zest for life that was second to none, but his flame was extinguished far too soon when he succumbed to a variety of medical issues on Oct.27, 2011. Just five days after his 33rd birthday. It was a devastating blow as all of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda mourned the loss.

Chris wasn’t just a super fan of Warrior athletics. Those who were lucky to know Chris or call him a friend will tell you he was so much more.

He was the embodiment of everything good.

If Chris knew your birthday, you would get a card every year. Guaranteed. Christmas time. Same thing. A card in your mailbox. Bank on it.

If your name appeared in the paper he would cut it out and send the clipping to you.

Whether it was from the sports page, honor roll – whatever the reason he would make sure you had that keepsake.

“It didn’t matter what year you graduated. Everybody, while he was alive, knew who he was,” said close friend Cheryl Lepsch.

“So for the school district, and really the City itself, to not do anything in his honor kind of frustrated me.”

Lepsch has set out on a mission to create a permanent memorial in honor of Chris. Lepsch said she was inspired by the bench memorial in honor of Jed Woomer, a former THS student who battled cancer.

Cheryl wants to create a similar tribute area, complete with a permanent bench for Chris across the street from where his parents live. A place where Chris would often watch the water, feed ducks and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

Her middle son, Jeremy Lepsch, was instantly on board and offered to buy a fruit tree as a symbol of Chris’ giving nature.

Cheryl reached out to Tonawanda mayor Rick Davis to inquire about necessary paper work. When Davis said no special forms were needed Cheryl got to work.

“I thought it would be perfect,” she said. “Right across the street from his parents house where he used to sit right there on the porch and watch the boats go by and people go by.”

One of the first autistic students to be mainstreamed into classes at THS, Chris had a bit of a rough go at first. But before you knew it his warm heart and genuine personality won him a core of loyal friends.

From sharing his fries at lunch to a stick of gum, Chris was always giving. No questions asked.

In fact it was Cheryl’s oldest son Aaron who was among Chris first true friends at Tonawanda High School.

On his first day of high school Chris encountered some kids from the wrong element who tried to bully him.

When Aaron found out he stepped in and put a stop to it.

When Chris got home he told his family some kids were bothering him. Paul, who was attending St. Joe’s at the time, was livid. He wanted to know who was bothering his brother. Chris calmly stated it’s ok. My friend Aaron took care of it. Paul Slauson said it was comforting to he and his parents, Howard and Mary, to know Chris had people looking out for him. Just as it’s comforting to know people still remember him fondly.

“We love to hear that stuff, my dad especially,” said Paul Slauson.

“He has a hard time understanding why things happen the way they do. Chris was so young, but to see the positive come out of it means a lot.”

Paul said that it wasn’t until he transferred into Tonawanda HS that he truly was able to comprehend how much Chris was growing socially and making real friends who honestly cared about him.

“I’d see people in the halls and they were always kinda friendly with him and I was worried are they taking advantage of him? Are they friendly with him? What’s going on?” Slauson said.

“So I knew then that he was being taken care of and he was well liked, but I never really realized as much until I went to the wake and funeral and seeing all the people there. I see all the people continuing to show support. It just kinda put a stamp on how special he really was.”

As popular as Chris was with his crew from the Class of 1998, it was in the following years that his legend grew as he connected with class after class. Kids who saw and loved Chris for who he was and the support he gave.

Chris is a member of the Tonawanda Athletic Wall of Fame, seven year waiting period was waived, as he was inducted posthumously just a few months after his passing.

There is also a plaque on the side of the concession stand of the New Clinton H.Small Stadium behind the high school. While those honors are certainly special, Lepsch feels something more meaningful could be done to keep Chris’ memory alive.

As time passes the reality is that fewer and fewer Tonawanda student-athletes will know Chris Slauson first hand. They never experienced what it’s like to have Chris cheer for them or to have the simple joy of knowing him. Cheryl doesn’t want Chris to be just another name on a wall. “The kids now, they may have known him through an older brother or sister or aunt or uncle,” Lepsch said. “Other than that these kids definitely don’t have that joy of knowing the heart that Chris had for Tonawanda.”

It’s a gesture that has touched the Slausons.

“It means a lot to my parents. They never expected him to be gone. I never expected him to be gone,” said Paul Slauson. “When people do things for him like they’re doing now it means he’s still there. He’s still with us.”

Paul said as time goes by he will show his son scrap books and photos of his uncle and the positive impact he had on so many loved ones.

And how he should strive to be like his uncle.

“I’m gonna tell him the importance of being a good person and treating everybody good,” Paul Slauson said.

“Chris didn’t see any of the things that we all see. The racial tension and all the stupid stuff people fight and argue about. He never saw any of that and that’s what made him so special.”

Cheryl hopes to have the project completed by next spring.

Those interested in helping can contact Cheryl Lepsch at 866-7965.

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