Monday, June 2, 2008
LISBON - Gathered around
the kitchen table of their country home, memories flowed from their
hearts while tears flowed from their eyes. But tears slowly gave way
to chuckles and outright laughter with each new story about the
beloved son, baby brother and best friend who inspired them all to
set the bar higher than they ever thought possible - and then go
just a little further.
Christopher Douglass died Saturday in a morning car accident outside
Fort Collins, Colo., just a day before the free-spirited 28-year-old
from Lisbon was scheduled to start his 2,500 mile journey on foot
from Colorado to the top of Tumbledown Mountain in Weld, the last
stop before heading to his folks' home in Lisbon. He was a passenger
in a car that was hit head-on by a pickup truck on Colorado 287.
"He thrived when someone said, 'You shouldn't do that' or 'You can't
do that,'" said long-time friend, neighbor and running partner Jean
Abradi, recalling the way Douglass ran a marathon with very little
training just to prove to himself he could do it.
His best friend, Glen Giasson, added: "But that's the kind of guy
Chris was. He was always ready for something like that. He wasn't a
go-around kind of guy. It was straight through or nothing."
His older sister, Bethany, talked with pride about how her baby
brother was not only smart and outgoing, but always put others
before himself and his needs. She pointed out how he never allowed
himself to be tied down to any debt because he was so passionate
about living life in the moment rather than for a paycheck.
Her voice wavered as she described one of her last phone
conversations with him. She read him a fortune from a cookie she
said should have been his: "Excellence is the absence of
Douglass planned to chronicle his trip to Tumbledown on a blog, as
he had done with previous adventures.
In one blog, he wrote: "The best I can figure is that we've been
told too many times that adventure just isn't in the cards for
everyday folk like you and I. It's reserved for the people we read
about in books and magazines, or watch on TV and Indiana Jones
movies, not mere mortals like us. Well I'm not buying it."
That sense of adventure - infused with a strong sense of self and
commitment to others - guides the friends and family left looking
for answers in the wake of his tragic death. Douglass' girlfriend,
24-year-old Amy White of Denver, was driving him to the campground
where they were set to spend his last night in town with friends.
White was northbound on Colorado 287 about 10:24 a.m. when a
southbound 2007 Chevy Avalanche pickup truck driven by 20-year-old
Gregory Nessler of Fort Collins drifted across the yellow line and
hit her car head-on. Douglass was pronounced dead at the scene;
White was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. She was in
critical condition late Sunday night.
Nessler and his passenger, 20-year-old Tyler Santomaso, also of Fort
Collins, suffered only minor injuries. Trooper Gilbert Mares of the
Colorado State Patrol said that Nessler was arrested and charged
with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, possession of a Schedule
II substance, driving under the influence of a drug, careless
driving causing injury and possession of a fictitious license. Mares
was unable to release any other details about the crash due to an
But while authorities in
Colorado sort out the details of his death, Jerry and Linda Douglass
struggle to hold tight to their son's abundant love of life, thirst
for knowledge and deep understanding of human kindness.
"Chris has always been my traveler," Linda Douglass said of her
youngest child, glancing down at a picture of him and his long-time
companion - a Doberman named Shiva who died in 2005. "Chris just
loved people and loved life."
While the rest of his family shared memories of his youngest son -
who even tried his hand at real estate alongside him for a brief
time in his ever-changing life's adventure - Jerry Douglass took it
all in with stoic silence. "Pops," as Chris lovingly referred to
him, smiled quietly to himself and finally broke his silence to sum
up his son's determination to master any challenge - be it a job or
"He was just amazing," Jerry Douglass said. "You realize when the
dust all settles - all the amazing things he did."