Nobody did life like our friend Chuck

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Rarely does an obituary capture the depth and breadth of a person’s well-lived life, but leave it to Chuck Lempesis to be the exception to the rule. In life, Chuck was the exception to many rules, including his sense of humor: wicked, but never hateful or mean-spirited. An authentic Renaissance man, describing Chuck in a word or 20 is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

I loved and admired so many things about him in the decades of our friendship it’s difficult to choose stories to share.

But many people know that in his day Chuck was worth the price of admission to any event he emceed. Kootenai County GOP Lincoln Day Dinners in the ’80s and ’90s are a great example. In the early 1990s Chuck was to emcee the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. The newspaper ads probably mentioned the keynote speaker, but it was the fact that Chuck was the emcee that filled the house.

A few days before the event, Chuck had to send his regrets, so Chamber president Joe Dollefeld asked if I could fill in. What? That’s a tough assignment. So I told Joe and Cliff Hayes I’d do it on one condition, that they not let anyone know in advance that Chuck wasn’t coming.

The night of the banquet I was escorted to the stage by uniformed Post Falls Police officers when I announced that I would be filling in for Chuck. Then, ala David Letterman’s Top Ten, I proceeded to list the top 10 reasons Chuck wasn’t there.

That was the first and only time I ever got one over on Chuck, and certainly the only time I had the last word.

This past Fourth of July, our patriotic friend Chuck and his wife, Cyndie hosted a most wonderful party at the Cedars. Everyone enjoyed dinner and camaraderie while waiting for the fireworks on beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. Chuck even sang “God Bless the USA” and visited with everyone in attendance. We all knew that Chuck’s battle with cancer had seen gains and losses over the last several years, but everyone was betting on Chuck, I dare say even Uncle Sam.

Since learning of his passing on Friday morning, my heart’s been heavy. But after reading Chuck’s obituary at English Funeral Chapel’s website, I was buoyed and lifted up by being reminded of the sheer weight of his contributions to the country and our community. And as always, some of Chuck’s last words brought a laugh ... “If nobody died, there would be no place to park.”

• • •

Ben Tran is not just creative, he’s one of the most upbeat people I know. His backstory is incredibly interesting, too. Born in Vietnam he came to America with his family three decades ago. This past week Ben, already an Ironman a few times over, has now checked a big one off his bucket list by returning home to cross the finish line at Ironman 70.3 Vietnam. From all reports it was an emotional and inspirational homecoming for our friend Ben.

• • •

Twice a year, in May and September, the Pleasantview Community Association holds a public breakfast at the historic Pleasantview School to help fund restoration projects. The school, opened in 1910, is a registered historical site in Idaho as well as on the National Historical Registry.

As always the Cowboy Breakfast at the old Pleasantview School attracts interesting people with wonderful stories. In addition to the homemade biscuits and jams, tours of the building are one of the fun things about the breakfast, too. There’s a bell tower with a bell for the ringing, an antique wood stove and many artifacts from the days the building welcomed school children to class.

There’s a framed and yellowed piece of calligraphy on the wall of the school titled Honor Roll. It appears to be an enlistment registry, likely of Pleasantview School students during World War 1, in 1917 and 1918. There are young men from the same families on the list, brothers or cousins perhaps.

Experiencing the Cowboy Breakfast and the historic school is a wonderful outing for families and anyone interested in local history. The event is 8-11 a.m. Saturday, $8 per person, family pricing available, at 18724 W. Riverview Drive.

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Things to Do Highlights:

Today at 4 p.m., the weekly farmers market returns to downtown Coeur d’Alene at Fifth Street and Sherman Avenue.

The Harald Haarfager Lodge of the Sons of Norway will celebrate syttende mai, Norwegian Constitution Day, with a flag raising at Falls Park in Post Falls on Friday beginning at 11:30 a.m. The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17, 1814. The local Sons of Norway have held the anniversary flag raising in Post Falls since 2001.

Friday the Battle of the Badges hockey game at Frontier Ice Arena features the Coeur d’Alene Police Department team versus the Spokane Police Department team. It benefits the Sgt. Greg Moore K27 memorial. Puck drops at 6:30 p.m.

Also on Friday is the second Loretta Reed Memorial Fundraiser to benefit the Coeur d’Alene Windermere Foundation, 6 to 9 p.m. at the Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn.

On Saturday, the City of Post Falls hosts Downtown for a Day on Spokane Street and Third Avenue. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., free family activities. Outdoor movie at 8 p.m., Mary Poppins Returns.

From 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday the Coeur d’Alene Arts and Culture Alliance presents Crawfish Boil for the Arts at the Eagles Pavilion on 15th Street. Reserve your ticket in advance, www.artsandculturecda.com.

Armed Forces Day celebration on Saturday at Spirit Lake City Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parade at 11 a.m., followed by live music, food and beverage vendors, raffles and auctions.

• • •

Happy Birthday today to Suzanna Spencer, Al Harrison, Lorri Gum, Patricia Braddock, Jack Wheir and Barbara Welch. Tomorrow Wednesday Walton, Diane Wahl, Kari Malkovich, Cindy Barnes, Natalie Fritz and Michelle Richter blow out the candles. On Friday Bryan Myers, Jared Janke, Brad Finney, Shawntel Shofner, Brad Enders and Christine Brannon will celebrate. Saturday Vicki Isakson, Jeanne Helstrom, Amy Corbett, Larry Carstensen, Tom Ball, Corky Chadderdon, Richard Alderman, Shaun Johnson and Tina Haskin take another trip around the sun. Putting on their party hats on Sunday are Laura Stensgar, Tom Lien, Vera Brown, Julie Kohut, Jessica Smalley (30!), Tammy Rupinski and Rick Nowoj. On Monday Jeannie Steele, Heather Hart, Barry White, John Goedde, Billie Gross, Shawn Nash, Tina Smith, Jana Hull and Lindsay Herbert have some birthday cake. Jessica Bauman, Ruth Fullwiler, Tom Richards, Jessica Capaul, Dick Epstein, KV Nelson, Pam Freeman and Carter Hamby celebrate the day of their birth on Tuesday, May 21.

• • •

Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press and Kerri can be contacted on Facebook or via email mainstreet@cdapress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kerrithoreson.

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