Steamboat Springs Dave Randles and his buddy figured it would be a boys night at Churchill Downs.
Randles would crash the fancy-free setup of his friend’s sister, and the extra money in their pockets would go toward trifectas and superfectas.
Of course, Randles didn’t expect to peer across the room and see Lesley Chambers.
There was the smile and those eyes. Oh those eyes, he thought.
The two got to talking, finding common ground in a love for the outdoors. Chambers just had returned from climbing Machu Picchu. Randles talked about Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
But it wasn’t until they had reached the parking lot, after the two had exchanged numbers, that Randles realized Chambers was more than that smile and eyes.
Chambers took off her heels to walk across the muddy parking lot. She had found the way to a Kentucky boy's heart.
“I found that endearing,” Randles, her boyfriend, said. “I knew she could hang with a Kentucky boy. That or I could hang with the Mississippi girl.”
Chambers died April 18 in Denver after a seven-month battle with leukemia. Friends celebrated her life Monday at a memorial with sparklers, flowers and, of course, bourbon slushies.
“She always enjoyed good wine and good bourbon,” Randles said.
Chambers came to Steamboat in 2011, her smile, work ethic and that Southern drawl making her instantly popular.
She grew up in Mississippi and always carried a love for the outdoors. She realized early on that her goal in life was to work for an outdoors company.
She was an industrial design major at Auburn and was working at a patio furniture design firm building up her portfolio, but she never lost that dream of working for an outdoor company.
So in August 2011, Chambers hopped a plane from Kentucky to Utah to go to the Outdoor Retailer show.
“She had this sweet Southern accent, and you could just look at her and tell her she was strong,” BAP co-owner Rich Hager said. “You could tell the minute you started talking to her. We liked that. Someone that is confident like that.”
From there, Chambers started for Big Agnes, her design acumen and work ethic always apparent.
She was strong yet endearing to colleagues. If she didn’t agree, she would let people know.
But it was hard to be mad at Chambers. She had an aura about her that drew people in and kept them.
“She was just a positive influence on our whole work force,” BAP co-owner Bill Gamber said. “I can’t say enough good about her. Before she died, when she was working and before she was sick, I would have said the same stuff. She was really, really a great part of our team. This sucks.”
Chambers was diagnosed with leukemia Sept. 28 and had a bone marrow transplant March 8.
She would have been 32 years old Monday.
“It was tough having her say something negative,” said Wendy Carmean, one of Chambers’ older sisters. “If it was raining, it meant everything would be green the next day. If her car broke down, it meant she got to walk.”
She spent the past seven months in Denver, mostly in hospital rooms. But through it all, Chambers' zest for life and people never wavered. She always found the good in a day. Her love of all things life never wavering.
“The most enduring thing I remember was waking up and seeing her smiling with those big, bright eyes,” Randles said. “You wake up, and every day was a fresh day. You woke up with a cup of coffee, and it was like, ‘Let’s go have fun today.’ Her tenacity for life was there, and she always did it with a positive attitude. That’s just the way she lived life.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com