Where many would see challenges — even failures — Chris Hauck saw the opportunity to help.
Hauck, a Delta-Montrose Electric Association board member who devoted his time to aiding people in need, died at his home July 29. The 80-year-old had experienced recent medical issues and heart trouble.
“Chris was just one of those guys,” said Jim Renfrow of Montrose Jail Ministries and the Montrose Lighthouse emergency overnight shelter, where Hauck was a dedicated volunteer and board member. In fact, Hauck led the charge in setting up the Lighthouse as a nonprofit, Renfrow said.
“He made things happen. He was a dealmaker,” Renfrow added, recounting how the Lighthouse was able to sublease the shelter space from Tuxedo Corn. Tuxedo Corn, a collective of growers, uses the same city-owned building during summer months to house farmworkers. In the winter months, it is the Lighthouse.
“He was a good man. He is going to be missed,” said John Harold of Tuxedo Corn, who also is on the Lighthouse board. He said Hauck’s death came as a shock.
“He had everything all lined out in a rapid, organized manner and had a lot of heart. He just had an ability and real interest in those that were disadvantaged,” Harold said.
No one needs to tell that to Tuan Huynh. Huyhn, who now runs his own nonprofit, was in prison when he first met Hauck. Huynh was serving life for murder in Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Kansas — not exactly the recipe for hope, let alone for helping others.
But Hauck, who then ran a counseling program at the prison, helped him change all that.
“He was a father,” Huynh said Tuesday.
It started with Hauck simply acknowledging Huynh’s existence when he would come into the prison as a volunteer.
“It meant a lot, that this civilian, who I didn’t talk to, took time to find out my name and always acknowledged me when I walked by,” Huynh said.
After a time, the prison director told Huynh that Hauck would like to mentor him through Interchange Freedom Initiative, a faith-based program. Huynh had never imagined anyone would be interested in mentoring him, but he began connecting with Hauck.
“He became a good example of a Christian character and what that should look like. He taught me a lot. He saw a lot in me and cared enough to correct me. … He taught he how to see a possible life outside of prison,” Huynh said.
Hauck was there to remind him to aspire to more and Huynh began attending the services offered by a Baptist church in the prison. Eventually, that church accepted him as a member.
“I eventually came up for parole in 2011. I didn’t really have a parole plan. I didn’t have any aspirations of making the parole board. It was my first hearing. I was serving a life sentence,” Huynh said.
“He always told me to trust in God with all your heart and all your mind, to put God first. He mentored me. He was a father. He was never like a father; he was a father. I never sensed that he saw me as anything less. To this very day, I value that.”
To Huynh’s surprise, he was granted parole — and when he was released on June 21, 2011, he found no one waiting for him.
Except for one person.
“There was Chris.”
Hauck and his wife allowed Huynh to live in their home while he attended college. Although Huynh always insisted he would not burden them for more than one year, when that time came, Hauck said he wouldn’t mind if the younger man lived with them forever.
Hauck continued providing support and mentorship and they talked or communicated daily. When Huynh graduated, Hauck was there. When Huynh married, Hauck was there.
“My family loves him. They sent him a Father’s Day gift every year, birthday wishes,” said Huynh. “He’s everything. I literally wouldn’t be here.”
Huynh applied what Hauck taught him and also pays forward the love and concern, pouring it into his nonprofit, Chicago PEACE. The citywide initiative serves families with the mission that peace is possible.
Huynh, now an award-winning senior art director at a global advertising agency, chalks up much of his success to Hauck’s inspiration.
“My wife and I talk about Chris all the time. My family and I talk about Chris all the time,” Huynh said.
“I thank God for him. Every time I think about him, I thank God. He’s my dad.”
Local charities are also reeling from the loss of Hauck. Garey Martinez, a fellow Lighthouse board member, also runs the nonprofit Shepherd’s Hand, serving the hungry and homeless people.
“It’s a big loss in a lot of areas. Everything he contributed to the Lighthouse will definitely be missed,” said Martinez.
As had Renfrow, Martinez attributed Lighthouse’s formal establishment to Hauck’s drive.
“Chris has been a real cornerstone, not only at Shepherd’s Hand and the jail ministries, and Lighthouse, but other parts of the community,” said Martinez.
“He’ll be very much missed, not only as a personal friend, but because of his expertise.”
The DMEA board and members also feel that loss, said Bill Patterson, who served on the electrical co-op board with Hauck.
“The big thing is, he just had a wealth of knowledge about the electric business and the co-op business. I felt he was a very good contributor to the board and he brought a lot of good insight into good practices for power providers,” said Patterson.
Hauck held a law degree and worked in the power industry in several capacities before moving to Montrose. That included about 16 years as the CEO of Sunflower Electric Power Corp. in Kansas. He was general counsel for the former Colorado-Ute Electric Association.
Hauck represented much of southern Montrose on the DMEA board, whose surviving members are now tasked with finding someone to appoint in his stead.
Seemingly indefatigable, Hauck had even participated in a board meeting online just days before his unexpected death.
“It was quite a shocker when Kyle (Martinez, DMEA board president) called me to let me know Chris had died that morning,” Patterson said, of getting the news.
Renfrow said he will miss his “amazing” friend, who had always been in it for others.
“He was a very devout Christian. We always prayed before every meeting. He never did anything for publicity,” said Renfrow.
Hauck would say he needed to be replaced on the Lighthouse board, but he kept working, Garey Martinez said.
“As we tried to relieve him of some of his responsibilities, he kept jumping back in. His heart was still there.”
Harold put it simply: “He’ll be hard to replace.”
Leslie Christian Hauck is survived by his wife, Rita and sons Leslie and Christian, along with other family. Services are at 10 a.m. Saturday, Montrose Christian Church, 2351 Sunnyside Road.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.