CHRISTOPHER PILARO

Obituary
7 entries
  • "Chris and I were born on the same day (July 6, 1972) and..."
    - Tanya Kowalczykowski
  • "May the powerful words recorded in the Bible at Matthew 5:4..."
  • "Very saddened to hear the news of Chris' passing. I..."
    - Marquise McGraw
  • " Chris Pilaro was a treasured friend. If a man's character..."
    - Michael Mallory
  • "What a sweet tribute from a brother. I knew Chris as a..."
    - Jessica Duncan-Mendez
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PILARO--Christopher

Anthony, father, friend, filmmaker, philanthropist, and fierce independent spirit died early Thursday morning, February 16, on his own terms at his home in Hailey, Idaho. Chris was a documentary filmmaker, photographer, outdoor educator, and a soulful friend to many. His work focused on challenging the system and fighting for the underdog spirit. He produced his first film, "Children in America's Schools with Bill Moyers" for PBS, while a student at Arizona's Prescott College. He later co-produced "Blue Vinyl" (HBO 2002) and "Everything's Cool" (Sundance Channel 2007), both nominated as Sundance Film Festival grand jury award finalists. His most recent film, "The Greater Good," attempted to clarify the debate over vaccine safety and regulation. Chris's spirit showed from an early age. He declared his deep love for the plants and flowers in his schoolyard garden, used an alias (Chris Garcia) at a teenage job so coworkers wouldn't know he was the boss's son, and grew into a man whose generosity impacted hundreds of lives. He believed that wealth should only be measured by how we use it to improve the world. During the 20 years he served as the chair of the National Selection Committee of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, he interviewed and mentored hundreds of low-income, African-American high school students who were awarded university grants. In 2006, the book he co-produced about their stories, "I Have Risen," was read and celebrated by educators and officials nationwide, including former President Bill Clinton. In Idaho, Chris and his former wife, Phoebe Izard Pilaro, helped establish the Syringa Mountain School, a public charter. Chris was a gifted athlete who relished a challenge. He climbed and skied several first descents in Alaska's St. Elias Mountains and summited peaks around the world, including Canada's highest, Mt. Logan, after which he named his oldest son. He was an expert skier, snowboarder, mountaineer, mountain biker, ice-climber, rock-climber and skateboarder, a Renaissance man and a "wipeout artist" who could ragdoll down a mountain, survive unscathed, and make any crash look elegant. After his 2012 diagnosis with a rare cancer, he treated his five-year fight for life with the same vigor. In 2015 he recruited friends to climb and ski the "Terminal Cancer Couloir" in Nevada's Ruby Mountains. "I've got terminal cancer," he said. "Let's go ski it." That September, he may not have been the first person to run Class IV rapids on Idaho's Main Salmon River on a stand-up paddleboard, but he was definitely the first to do it in drag. As seriously as Chris applied himself to the causes he believed in, he refused to ever take himself too seriously. Always more comfortable in a wild costume (or dress) than a suit, he preferred silly over self-regarding. He elevated his favorite motto - "It's only weird if you make it weird" - into a life philosophy. When his friends threw a party to celebrate his life in October, he showed up in a 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am dressed as an angel with long blonde hair. As his health declined and childhood friends called to check in, he only wanted to lift their spirits. The way Chris lived - compassionate, open, and fearless - is also the way he chose to die. Last summer, he invited his friends and their children to paint and design his custom cremation box. The generosity of his work circled back to him in the end, and he was surrounded by loved ones from near and far. After he passed and according to his wishes, his friends Rick and Gary drove him in his trademark red Volkswagen van to the crematorium. That day like so many, Chris taught us peace, love, happiness and healing. Christopher Anthony Pilaro was born in Paris, France, on July 6, 1972, and lived in Hong Kong; Southampton, New York; Prescott, Arizona; Crested Butte and Ridgeway, Colorado; and Oakland, California, before settling in Hailey, Idaho, in 2002. He is survived by his sons, Logan Fischer Pilaro (12) and Zeppelin Anthony Pilaro (nine) of Hailey, former wife Phoebe Izard Pilaro, and rescue dog Shonipup (13) of Hailey; mother Linda Pilaro of New York City, father Tony Pilaro of Seoul, Korea; brother Andrew, sister-in-law Fairley and nephews Keeling (18), Chris (16), Finn (16) and Boo (12) Pilaro of Southampton, New York. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Ron Brown Scholar Program. Funeral services were handled by his family and the Purple House Society. A memorial service will take place after the snow melts at Galena Lodge, north of Ketchum, Idaho.

Published in The New York Times on Mar. 5, 2017