Published two years ago today, and it still reads like I wrote the words yesterday. It makes me happy to share this story about you Erich – even though it only captures a sliver of your life and the person you were – I think it gives those who knew you fond memories of our time together and those who did not know you a wish that they had. ❤
Virginia Beach – Erich Gerald McChesney, age 43, passed away peacefully on Friday, May 6th 2016 after a difficult battle with a devastating illness. Erich is survived by his wife, Mary Phelan McChesney, daughter Hannah Phelan McChesney, mother-in-law, Laura Lilieberg, and step-father-in-law, Carl Lilieberg, all of Virginia Beach, VA; brother-in-law, Mike Phelan, sister-in-law, Lindy Cartwright Phelan, and father-in-law, John M. Phelan, all of Kill Devil Hills, NC; as well as his aunt, Virginia McChesney, of Rome, GA. He is also survived by many aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as numerous friends who became his family. He created sisters of Cori Simmons Triano and Danielle Burns and brothers of Andrew Lasher, Eric Loulies and Kevin Littrell.
Erich was born in San Bernardino, CA, March 30, 1973, and spent the first part of his life in Turkey and Germany. He moved back to the states in the 80’s when his father was stationed at Langley Air Force base. After his father retired from the U.S. Air Force, they moved to Virginia Beach where Erich graduated from Cox High School in 1992. Erich then joined the US Army as an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper where he served with honor, winning many awards and advancing quickly. Erich studied Computer Science and Information Technology following his military service, completing multiple degrees and certifications before going to work for several local companies supporting their computer and network needs. His final career move married two things he loved the most: the US Army and computers. As a member of the CRGT team at Ft Eustis military base they serviced the contract for the Army Learning Management System (ALMS), helping soldiers go to school and complete needed training.
Erich was a wonderful father, husband, friend, soldier, leader, veteran and family member. He never met a stranger and fulfilled his desire for a big, boisterous, happy family through Mary’s huge family and with the many special people he met throughout his life. From high school in Virginia Beach, to the Army in North Carolina, and the last few decades in Norfolk, he created tribes of people who loved him for life and will continue to love him forever.
Erich had a wonderful and generous spirit. He gave his heart and soul to everything he did and to anyone he knew and cared about. Most people know of his time in the US Army and his love for his country and military brothers, but they may not know that he was also generous in many other ways including driving a truck for the Samaritan House; sheltering and fostering dogs for a rescue foundation; giving his time, money, and support to the Red Cross, wounded warriors, Joy Fund, United Way, Girls on the Run, Hannah’s school and music events, and many other worthy causes that were close to his or his family’s heart. By far the most generous aspect of Erich’s spirit was the support he gave to those he loved. If Mary or Hannah loved it, Erich loved it. Highest on Erich’s priority list was attending every play, recital, performance, and event where Hannah was a participant. He never missed a moment where he was needed in the 13+ years he had with his wife and daughter, whether it was a teacher meeting, party pick up, mall run or opening night of a new comic book or cartoon movie. He could even be found dressing up for a tea party or spa party in ways that only a dad would tolerate for his little girl.
Erich was an adventurer and also man of extremes. He was mouthy, sarcastic, funny and wild at heart, yet he also loved to meditate, do Tai Chi, read books, and build computers for hours on end. He had the unique ability to be still and at peace one moment, then rally and be the life of the part the next. And Erich did love a party! These were the best opportunities to use a good joke, catchphrase or sarcastic banter on his guests. He loved to dance, sing, drink good bourbon, smoke great cigars, eat any kind of spicy food and plenty of North Carolina BBQ and fried chicken!
On any given weekend Erich could be found around a fire pit, enjoying homemade moonshine in Goshen, on the Eastern Shore blowing stuff up with the guys, cultivating bonsai trees or orchids at Eggleston Garden Center, making beautiful Mala beads, mowing his yard (or critiquing Kevin’s), or playing a new video game while pretending not to hear Mary yelling up the stairs for him all evening long. He loved to sail, snorkel, search for unique stones or rocks, and would even occasionally watch Mary “sprout freckles” while they sat on the beach for hours in the summer. He never understood Mary’s love of sandy magazines and PB&J beach days, but he tolerated many hours of both for her.
Erich was generous to all with his love, time and most importantly – his famous hugs! Erich McChesney hugs were better than any chiropractic adjustment you could get and his sincere desire to make you feel better could heal all aches and warm even the coldest hearts, hands, and moments. His commitment to excellence improved his own life as well as the lives of others in so many ways, but most importantly he gave others a shining example of what friendship and a family member should look like.
Erich’s family would like to thank the many friends and extended family who have supported them throughout his illness. From cards, calls, visits and gifts, you have lightened our hearts and we have felt your never ending support. Dr. John Agola, Dr. Alex Grunsfeld and Dr. Peter K. Nelson, and their teams gave us hope and the Neurology ICU doctors and nursing staff at Sentara Norfolk General delivered the most amazing care. We will cherish the knowledge that Erich was cared for with excellence and love through each step of his journey.
There will be a celebration of Erich’s life on Saturday May 14th at 2pm at the First Presbyterian Church of Virginia Beach at 300 36th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.