Eulogy by Tom Baltes (Scoutmaster & Friend)
(Scout Memorial 4/4/2005)
Christopher Michael Restaino:
Christopher Michael Restaino, born August 16th, 1985 in Alamogordo New Mexico, passed away on March 19th, 2005 in Albuquerque New Mexico. He was an Eagle Scout, a college student, a friend to many, and a loving son and brother. At his funeral service on Wednesday, March 23rd, a central theme of his family’s eulogies was that, while they are saddened to lose this cherished son and brother, all is well. Chris’ grandpa quoted an unknown author who said: “If God brings us to it, He will bring us through it.” These words tell us all is well, because as Christians, his family believes and knows he is now in the wonderful, loving hands of God. All is well because, as his grandmother said, he will live in her heart until they meet again. Each of us who knew Chris has wonderful memories to hold in our hearts and those are ours to keep forever.
We remember him tonight at Faith Lutheran Church and as part of our Troop meeting, because he was in our Troop for over 8 years. During this time, Chris served as Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader and in many other roles. I believe that when you join a Scout Troop you become part of a family, with adult leaders who become invested in your future and Scouts who become new friends you help, and who help you along the way. Chris has a special place in all our hearts and I’d like to relate some of my history with him to help you understand why he is so dear to me.
My first recollection of Chris and his dad was back in about 1997 when we were on a 20-mile day hike from Iron Gate to Pecos Falls. It was a horrible day, with heavy rain, hail, and blowing winds at times, which created muddy trails. Like my son, Chris was not happy being on the hike and I remember pulling him up a couple slick hills with my walking stick, while Sergio encouraged my son along. In fact, Chris was not a very happy hiker that day, but that didn’t discourage him for long. Unlike some scouts, he didn’t quit hiking, but continued to hike with the Troop and enjoyed the outdoors, always looking for some bright spot or interesting site along the trails. Over the next few years I worked with Chris often on merit badges and advancement. I still have the counselor copies of two citizenship merit badges we completed together in 1998 and 2001. We enjoyed a lot of campouts together at places like Cedro Peak, the Mal Pais near Grants with our old Scoutmaster Wally Erck, and many other events. While looking at pictures on the board out front, one picture reminded me of the great time we had in Mexico. It was a photo of the day I took Sergio, Chris, and two other Scouts out on my father-in-law’s boat and we caught a nice big Dorado. It was so fun to see Chris’ excitement as he tugged on that fish. It was even better when we tasted what Sergio did with it later. On that trip Sergio took the boys snorkeling in the bay, where they had a lot of fun. Chris really enjoyed being in the water. Sergio, in his Eulogy, talked about the special times he and Chris had snorkeling, from the time he was just 8 and how Scouting gave them so many wonderful experiences together.
Like so many Scouts, Chris could be a challenge to get up in the mornings so we could get down the trail. I think his mother captured it best in her Eulogy when she said “Christopher was also a master of sleeping and kicking back. I have never seen anyone who grasped the concept so well.” That brought a smile to my face, because that was a part of Christopher.
I’ll never forget our trip together down the primitive Tanner Trail into the Grand Canyon. It was a windy day hiking down that steep, rocky 9-mile trail. When we got to the campsite beside the river, we immediately started setting up our tents, even though we were all pretty exhausted. Well, Chris and Ross Clark were to be tent mates using Ross’ brand new tent. In their haste to get their tent set up, they hooked their tent poles up with the door facing the wind before staking it down. As the wind increased, a gust ripped that tent out of their hands and blew it 10 feet up in the air, over a patch of willows lining the riverbank and landing it out in the middle of the Colorado River, where it did a couple of swirls before sinking beneath the surface, never to be seen again. We could only stand and watch in speechless awe as their tent disappeared. To make matters worse for Chris, we put him and Ross in a small tent with my son Mike. What made that significant was that for supper Mike and Ross had power food. Mike had an entire package of hikers’ chili mac and Ross ate a big pot of refried beans and tortillas. Poor Chris got caught in the middle of a gaseous crossfire that night. Again, Chris was not deterred by this situation, remained positive, and made the best of things. It was during this hike when I realized that Chris had grown and come a long way in his scouting advancement. As we were climbing out of that steep canyon in a blizzard, he was up leading the way with his dad. And when we finally made it out of that canyon, he was at the top of the hill providing us encouragement to keep going.
Another hike with Chris that stands out in my mind was our Lake Johnson trip when he had a seizure after a long day of hiking. That event scared a lot of us, but also served to bring us much closer to Chris, as we worked to get him back to medical care. Adults like Curt Rosenberg, Sergio, Gordon Little, Paul Eichel, my wife, and several others, as well as Scouts who stepped up to help Chris, will never forget that experience. We’ll never forget the panic and fear we faced as Chris went into that seizure and Sergio raced down and back up that steep hill to get Chris’ medication, or the relief we experienced as the medication began to take affect. Once Chris was stabilized, we created a litter with walking sticks and a sleeping bag and started down the steep, narrow, rocky trail at about 8:00 in the evening. With the help of the Pecos volunteer firemen and Gary and Jason Williams from search and rescue, we finally got Chris to the parking lot and into an awaiting ambulance, somewhere around 2:00 in the morning. That was a long, exhausting night, but we felt good about what we had done for Chris and in our skills as outdoor scouters.
As chairman for Chris’ Eagle Scout Board of Review I was never so proud of him. The other board members included Jim Dow, Paul Eichel, and Mike Scott, along with Alison Schuler from the council. We were all so impressed with the thoughtfulness of his answers to our questions and his ambitions for the future. Few Scouts have shown more poise and given more intelligent answers to our questions. And as a co-MC with Paul Eichel and Gary Williams for his Eagle Court of Honor, I shared the tremendous pride his family felt in our new Eagle. As I reflected over the script from that ceremony, I remember the beautiful open and closing prayers by his grandfather or as Chris called him, Papaw.
Over the years, our families have become close, sharing a lot of dinners, holidays, movies and other times together. Louise and I have always been impressed by the way Chris showed his love and affection for his grandparents, parents, and even his brother. The hugs and kisses they shared reflected a deep family love. Alex, in his Eulogy talked about how much he looked up to his brother as a best friend and hero. Sure, they had their sibling rivalries, but Chris and Alex enjoyed a lot of fun times exploring nature down in Alamogordo, in the Pecos, the Sandias, Hawaii, Italy, and just about everywhere he went. Chris was a great mentor to his brother and I know his influence will carry on in Alex, as he becomes an Eagle Scout and great young man.
Louise and I have so many wonderful
memories of Chris tucked away in our hearts. We love him and miss him. But
we also rejoice in knowing that all is well…Chris is in God’s presence where
we’ll meet him again when our time comes.