- 66 years old
- Date of birth: Jun 24, 1949
- Place of birth:
New York, New York, United States
- Date of passing: Jan 13, 2016
- Place of passing:
Houston, Texas, United States
|Let the memory of "The Chicken Man" live on.|
Christopher Alk, 66, of Houston passed away on January 13, 2016 of pancreatic cancer. Born on June 24, 1949, Chris spent most of his childhood in Rowayton, Connecticut. He graduated from Lehigh College in 1971 and worked for some time as a ski instructor in Vermont. Chris moved to Houston in 1978. He was a small-business owner and opened over 20 Command Performance Hair Salons in the Houston Market. He later operated a Craters & Freighters franchise until his retirement in 2012. Chris was a gourmet cook and for many years was a grillmaster with the Cold River Cattle Company team at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World Championship Bar-B-Que Cookoff, earning the nickname “The Chicken Man” for his Championship Chicken. He was also an avid sailor. He could be found most days at the Seabrook Marina, where he often spent time racing sailboats with his friends. He was a long time member and former Treasurer of the Galveston Bay Cruising Association (GBCA). Chris is survived by his sister Malvina, her husband Tom, and their son Eddie, along with former wife Sharon Alk and step-children Karyn and Michael Lyons, and a seemingly endless supply of loyal, heartbroken friends.
"I have just come across this obituary of Chris. I used to work for Chris at Command Performance, and have such wonderful memories of him. He was always so kind to everyone of us. I have been out of touch for many years, however, I recall many conversations about sailing. Since I grew up on Lake Michigan, Chris always had a fascination with sailing on the Big Lake."
"Just found out about Chris. I am heartbroken. I worked for him at Command Performance for 6 wonderful years. He and Sharon were two of the best people I ever had the pleasure to work with. Thanks for all the wonderful memories. What a loss~"
"I just learned about this but I have very fond memories of Chris from junior high school all the way through high school. He turned out to be a lovely guy when I met him again at our 20th Brien McMahon reunion. I am so very sorry."
"We are thinking of you and miss you today especially."
"Miss you buddy!"
"We think of you so very often Chris. It is hard to be out on the Bay and
NOT think of you and sailing with you!!
Hugs to you, Chuck and Patty Buckner"
"I have been friends with Chrissy for more than 100 years. That may sound strange, but Chrissy’s grandparents and my grandmother were very close friends and Chrissy’s parents and my parents were very close friends so it seems that it was inevitable that we would be close friends too. We always thought that our friendship began well before we were born, with our grandparents.
In our high school years, this friendship took a much more substantive form. Chrissy, Steven Kerschner and I spent a lot of time together – the 1960’s equivalent of BFFs. We also were part of a group of boys that were in many of the same classes who hung out together. We called ourselves the “neurotic nine.” We partied together and generally were around for each other.
At the end of our freshman year in college, in the summer of 1968, Chrissy and I traveled around Europe together for 2 months. We began in Rome where his mother’s parents lived. We stayed at their apartment in Rome, their farm in the Tuscan countryside and their villa on the Italian Riviera. Chrissy spoke his first words as an infant at the farm. When we went there, we were given a lunch cooked by the people who ran the farm who just loved Chrissy. Chrissy kept telling me – “Don’t eat the pasta. Don’t eat the fish. Just don’t eat much because you have no idea how much food is coming.” They put on the most amazing meal because they welcomed and loved Chrissy the Italian so much. Chrissy was fluent in Italian so it made for a fun trip.
We ended up traveling throughout Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany (including going into East Berlin) – we were about to cross into Czechoslovakia and had gotten visas – but the Russian tanks rolled in crushing the Prague Spring about 6 days before we were going to cross over. We decided it was a good idea to get away from the Russians. We also went to Northern Europe – Hamburg, Amsterdam, Paris, than over to the UK and Ireland. It was quite a trip. One thing we learned is that virtually every village had its own beer or wine so we thought it was our duty to honor local traditions by sampling the beverages from each village. The result was being slightly drunk for the better part of 2 months.
Although it was a great trip, we had more than enough of each other and barely spoke to each other for the next 3 years. After college, we came together again at Steven Kerschner’s house in southern Vermont. I was going to a small graduate school of education nearby and Chrissy and Steven were working at a local restaurant. Steven’s house was on a small lake with great swimming and close to ski areas. During the warm months, there was a non-stop party at the house. During the winter, Chrissy was a professional skier at a local ski area. I had just had a messy break-up with my then girlfriend and Chrissy was a great friend and supporter. We had an awesome time that entire year.
After that stint, I moved about 2 hours’ drive south where I met the woman who would eventually become my wife. Chrissy and I stayed in close touch, with me going north to ski with him and him coming south to visit us. One time, my wife to be and I decided to cook a turkey. About 2 hours into roasting the turkey – it was 12 pounds for 2 people – we thought “that is a lot of turkey” so we called Chrissy and told him to “get your butt down here so you can help us eat our turkey.” 3 hours later, the 3 of us were sitting around having a giant turkey feast. It was a great memory.
Fast forwarding, Chrissy moves to Houston and my wife and I decide to take a year-long trip in a VW van. Two months into the trip we arrive in Houston, exhausted and broke. Chrissy opens his house to us without hesitation. Chrissy is starting up his Command Performance salons – and my wife works for him as a receptionist while I work at a nearby Victoria Station. There are a few great stories from this time. Chrissy, staying true to his Italian heritage had a full espresso machine, which, in 1978 was well before these became common. Every morning and every evening we had great coffee. In the morning we just sat around and enjoyed the coffee – without talking because Chrissy didn’t talk in the morning – but every evening we would have an espresso and we had wonderful, quiet talks about life. This led to my wife and I getting a similar machine as soon as we could.
About six weeks into this time, Chrissy married Sharon. For reasons which we still don’t fully understand, he kicked us out of the house for 4 weeks while he lived with his bride. Go figure…we just thought that we were part of their marriage too. We didn’t know Sharon well at that point, but came to admire her really quickly. Shortly after we were allowed back into their home, Chrissy was having one of his grumpy spells. Sharon looked at him and said, with a voice that was both caring and teasing: “Would Chrissy like some apple crisp?” How can you resist that approach? Chrissy tried to stay grumpy but couldn’t, smiled and said: “I would love some apple crisp.” We thought – Sharon certainly has his number and we were very happy for him.
Jumping ahead two years, my wife and I went to visit Chris and Sharon. As was always the case, the conversation picked up as though we had just seen each other. During this visit, the four of us were sitting in their kitchen eating some snacks, when my wife said: “I am so hungry.” Sharon gave her a look of – “I bet you are pregnant.” My wife and I saw the look and thought…we better get a pregnancy test. Of course, Chrissy was oblivious to that interchange, but it was forever after, a part of the fabric of our relationship with him.
2 weeks later, Chris and Sharon came to visit us on the west coast. We met up at Scott’s Seafood in San Francisco, and the first thing we told them was – my wife was pregnant. They were very pleased, but not surprised. Sharon had been right. After some drinks, we went to their hotel and the four of us crowded together onto one bed while we all took a nap. That night we went to see Beach Blanket Babylon goes to the Stars, which was a famous San Francisco show, followed by a very late dinner at Vanessi’s a great Italian restaurant. Chrissy and I had the most amazing veal chops…it was a wonderful night of celebration and fun.
Over the ensuing years, we managed to link up with Chris and Sharon in Cozumel, Cabo, and Houston. Each one was a cherished time. Later, he went through some hard times. During these times, he was often lonely. We would talk occasionally and he would tell us about the great support he got from his sailing friends, his BBQ friends and from Diane. I want to express my appreciation to all of you for the warmth and support you gave him.
Last spring, he spent a few days with us at our home in Oregon as part of his trip to buy a boat in the Seattle area. As before, we resumed our conversation as though we had seen each other the day before, and it was wonderful. When he bought the boat, which was berthed 3.5 hours’ drive from our house and only 30 minutes’ drive from where 2 of our kids lived, we hoped to see a lot more of him. But, sadly, it didn’t happen. We had talked with him a few times during the fall and, as part of a tradition we had developed, we spoke on Christmas. This is when we learned how ill he was.. It was clear to me that, though he was tired, the thing he most wanted was to have a normal conversation. Although I was concerned about keeping him on the phone too long, we talked for about an hour, just the way we always had talked. It was so sad to learn that he died shortly after our call.
Looking back, I know that Chrissy wasn’t the easiest person to have as a friend, He was often grumpy and bossy. But as my wife put it: “He was a curmudgeon, but he was our curmudgeon and we loved him dearly.” He will be missed."
"Chris was one of a kind and has been taken from us way too soon. My wish for him is that he has found his one particular harbor. He will be greatly missed by all his Houston friends."
"At our C&F convention this year, we will miss one smiling face, one great story teller and a big hug - all belonging to Chris. He will surely be missed by many.
Evelyn and Gary McKinley"
"Sailed with Chris on Wednesday nights on Footloose. We'll miss his laid back sailing style. We will miss him dearly. Sue and Dave"
It is hard for me to admit to myself that you are gone. For now, I am going to imagine that you are happily sailing somewhere in a beautiful, sunlit bay. We are going to miss you.
"Chris went with one of my daughters for a few years and was well liked by all. He helped me move 10 dining chairs from Chicago to Dallas with his Freightors & Craters Company. We had the opportunity to meet his parents one weekend in Houston and they were a lovely couple. We also went to the livestock show one year where Chris had cooked. He was a good chef and always enjoyed company. He will be missed and I pray that God takes him in his wings and that he rests in peace."
"You were always a pleasure to work with during our volunteer years with GBCA. Always nice and easy going. My condolences to your family during their time of loss. I'm sure you, Kevin and other sailors past have already got a heavenly regatta in circuit!"
"A few weeks ago I wrote a message to Chris, who had been my stepfather. I shared it with my mother, and she asked me to share it here: "Probably a decade later, I was visiting Houston and I suppose it was a Saturday morning that Chris and I drove down to Galveston (was it Galveston?) to sail on one of Chris’ friends’ boats. We had to listen to Texas radio stations. We went around the dial listening to the classic rock. Chris and I scoffed at some of the new music, even the flashy stuff (“Tom Sawyer” by Rush with its hysterical flourishes of instrumental prowess). However, maybe we had probably landed on the Texas public station that played more quality material. We listened to “The Weight” by the Band; it was a live version, and Chris and I wondered where the live version had come from — Before the Flood (the live album from the Band’s tour with Dylan in ’74), or Rock of Ages, or something else. I think we both agreed it was the Rock of Ages version. I’m sure I’d asked Chris again about his attending the legendary 60s rock festival Woodstock, but Chris never had much to say about it. He sort of proved the old adage about remembering the 60s ("If you can remember them, you weren’t really there.”) But he always volunteered: “Hendrix was good.” I’m sure he was, Chris, but few people can attest to having seen the guy in person! You’re a lucky man.""
"Chris attended Brien McMahon HS in Norwalk, CT, and is where I met and grew up with Chris. Many knew Chris from years past and he was quiet and respected others. I only wish I spent more time with Chris."
"Chris and my sister dated for many years. He was considered a member of our family, and we all loved him. I am very saddened that he suffered. He was a patient man, respectful, and calm. I really liked how his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled. He was reserved, and he seldom laughed aloud, but when he did, he usually teared up. I am sad that he spent such a short time on planet Earth; however, I am very glad that he did not suffer long. I am sure that he is giving all the angels a hard time with his dry humor, and he is probably trying to talk God into letting him set up a kitchen on a cloud. Chris, we will always love you."
"Good memories. Sail on Chris"
"Sail on Chris. I will miss your welcoming smiles and hugs...he was a friend to all. May the wind forever be at your back and your sails always be full."
"Thanks, Chris, for many fun days. You are missed."
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