01/03/18 — Community mourns the loss of John Chance

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Community mourns the loss of John Chance

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 3, 2018 5:50 AM

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John Chance

John Chance is being remembered for his ever-present, wide smile and positive outlook and for being a wonderful person who cared more about others than he did himself.

He is being remembered as well as a person who spent his career advocating for those who could not advocate for themselves.

Chance, 57, who served for 23 years as executive director of the Wayne Opportunity Center, died Monday.

The Center is a private, community-based rehabilitation facility.

"John had a great heart for helping people, especially those with intellectual and developmental disabilities," said Amy Hartley, Center executive director. "He had a love for people in his community and was very active in many civic organizations.

"John was always the first person to extend a helping hand to those in need, whether he was helping an individual find food, housing, a job, monetary assistance or a potential Eagle Scout to finish a project."

Chance used his time and resources to make life better for many others in the community and will surely be missed by all, she said.

"One of the things that I remember and admired about John is that he was always in a good mood, regardless of the circumstance," said Heather Stutchman, Center executive secretary. "He took everything in stride and let nothing become a roadblock.

"There were very few times in the 21 years I knew him that I saw him get truly upset about anything. His positive outlook and jovial personality is something I will never forget."

Chance always found the best in people, said Evelyn White, Center production manager.

"He was one of the kindest, most good-hearted individuals you could ever meet," she said. "John had a huge personality with a contagious laugh. He felt everyone should have the opportunity to be the most that they could be."

Steve Moore, a long-time friend and fellow Boy Scout leader, called Chance a "prince of a man."

"I think John exemplified the Scout slogan 'do a good turn daily,'" Moore said. "He always put others before himself, and his smile and laugh were contagious.

"The BSA Second Class Rank has 'Be Prepared' across the scroll on the bottom. Its turned-up corners reminds us of his smile. John saw the rank of Eagle Scout, not as a destination, but the first leg of a lifelong journey to help others."

Chance never let anything get under his skin, Moore said.

It is, Moore said, a life lesson he learned from Chance.

Moore recalls working at Scout camp with Chance in the summer of 1982. Moore had just graduated from college and Chance had another year or two.

"He just taught me not to take life too seriously, and he didn't," Moore said. "He cared a lot about a lot of people and a lot of things. The clients at Wayne Opportunity Center, he treated them just like they were his own kids, the staff as well. He had that kind of respect for them.

"The same thing about Scouting. John was an Eagle Scout, and a person that I can say in being Tuscarora Council president somebody that I am proud he was a part of Scouting because John always found a way to give back every time that he could."

Chance was able to attract and make friends so effortlessly, Moore said.

"People just gravitated to John," he said. "He made you feel like you were his best friend and were a part of his family. I treasure that summer that we worked so closely together. He was just a prince of a man."

Nancy Delia and Chance were members of the Sunrise Kiwanis Club where they organized the Aktion Club in 2008 for people with developmental disabilities.

"It is to give them their own group and to teach them how to run a club," she said. "We had worked together at O'Berry Center, and I had helped him out some at Wayne Opportunity Center. I am a nurse. I did training, and I did that for his staff at Wayne Opportunity."

Chance was very focused on that population, and it was something that was close to his heart, Delia said.

That is one reason the two stayed in touch because it was her focus, too, Delia said.

It was not an 8 to 5 job for Chance, she said.

"I am retired now, but I still do some things with folks with developmental disabilities," she said. "That was really close to him and important to him. He did a good job with that.

"The clients all loved him. I still meet clients who ask, 'How's John?'"

Anyone who knew Chance, knew that he was always smiling, and always welcoming, she said.

"If you went to his office, if you called him on the phone, he was glad to talk with you," she said. "He was glad to help anybody who requested any help."

Chance, who grew up in Goldsboro, was very community minded and was interested in doing things that benefited the community, Delia said.

He was a friendly person, who was always willing to help, she said.

"It is like he never met a stranger," she said. "He was very knowledgeable about a lot of things -- things going on, connections in the community, who was doing what and that sort of thing. He really kept up with all of that.

"To me, he always remembered people. It's not like he would see you today, and then you saw him in two months and he acted like he didn't know you. He always remembered people, so he was very sociable."

Chance was a former member of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Governmental Affairs Committee, said Chamber President Kate Daniels.

"He always brought a lot of good ideas to the conversations of the group," she said. "He always had that big smile on his face -- that enduring wide smile on his face anywhere that you saw him in the community."

Chance was a source of positive energy and great insight and a contagious smile and a good heartfelt belly laugh, she said.

He retained that smile and positive outlook in spite of health problems in recent years, she said.

"I can hear him right now," Daniels said. "He was quite a blessing to our community, and we are certainly covering his family in our prayers."