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Monday December 24, 2012

Christopher Chenoweth

Brother, lawyer, extrovert, great friend and sports fan. Born Nov. 18, 1954, in Toronto, died Oct. 10, 2012, in Toronto of complications from cancer, aged 57

Chris's charm, confidence and interest in exchanging ideas surfaced early. He was the fourth of five sons born to Clare and David Chenoweth between 1949 and 1955, and Clare often remarked with amazement at the boys having five such different personalities: Chris certainly was a character unto himself.

At 1960s cocktail parties hosted by his parents, his father being an executive at Molson Breweries in Montreal, Chris and his brothers would dutifully file into the living room to greet guests. Chris, not yet a teenager, eagerly engaged these businessmen in conversations about sports and politics - topics he keenly followed in the newspapers.

"What a nice young man," the wives would say as Chris worked the room masterfully. The motto under Chris's photo in his high school yearbook captured his wit and irreverence: "Silence is golden but I'll never be rich."

From his upbringing and early education at Lower Canada College, Chris believed in the values of honour, loyalty, integrity, ethics and fairness in all aspects of his life. After stints as a speechwriter and a journalist, he turned to studying law, following his passion for righting injustices by becoming a labour and employment lawyer.

Chris saw his practice as a helping profession in which he fought tirelessly for the rights of individuals who, in his view, had been unjustly dismissed by a more powerful force, usually a faceless bureaucracy. His tenacity, intelligence, obvious caring, yet tough tell-it-as-it-is style garnered him many grateful clients who often became lifelong friends.

He was an extrovert who enjoyed all people at all times. He loved to discuss and to challenge in classes at Queen's University. He also had a large impact at the infamous house parties at 77 Division St. in Kingston.

He had a sincere interest in learning people's real stories that crossed generations. He never missed a chance to engage older individuals, drawing out their life experiences and using his passion for history to share the context of events occurring around their stories. While children were more of a mystery to him, he enjoyed engaging them as short adults. Visits to his many godchildren were always a hit. He created hilarious situations and dropped comments, colourful and memorable, that no kid had ever heard from his parents.

Chris's greatest legacy is his larger-than-life, ever-youthful personality and his gift for friendship. At friends' gatherings and in baseball parks alike, he would enter with a booming greeting for all to hear. Many social evenings and weekends found him with back-to-back engagements.

That was Chris: the Iron Man, as he called himself after his hero Lou Gehrig, squeezing as much as he could into "life's rich tapestry." He had an army of friends because he lived by the truth that if you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend. Those lucky enough to know him feel a painful gap in their lives. Even so, you can't think of Chris without smiling. See you later, Big Fella.

Brian Chenoweth is Chris's brother; Chris Neal and Lynne Lawson are friends of Chris.

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