On Wednesday, Apr. 3, beloved community member Chally Erb passed away at the age of 68 after fighting a years-long battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
In honor of his wild life, the Mountain Messenger reached out to the community and asked for everyone to submit their favorite memories and stories with Chally.
He was not only known as a prominent anti-war activist and entertainer of all kinds, but as a friend to all he met. His beat-up old truck was a common sight around town, painted all over with different designs and handprints, with the hood covered in small toys. His uniqueness shown through and wore off on all that he touched, from city events he liked to attend in full costume (anything from his stilts to his car outfit for his mobility scooter in the later years), to his performances with the Trillium Performing Arts Collective with his wife, Beth White.
Please read the following stories from his close friends and family and take a trip down memory lane. It was his wishes to have a slideshow at his celebration of life after his passing. However, no date has been set at this time. To submit pictures for the slideshow, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We will always carry his spirit, it is huge and strong and loving,” and he will be dearly missed.
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I have two stories about Chally.
Chally and Beth lived across Lafayette Street from us. On our daughter’s 6th birthday, Chally spontaneously appeared, walking on his tall stilts, dressed as a clown, juggling bowling pins and carrying long thin balloons. One of my favorite lasting memories is of the swan balloon hat which he made for my 74 year old father.
Hoot was working in the yard when Chally pulled up in his truck covered with ornaments. Chally hopped out and his pants were wet from mid thigh down. When Hoot asked him what happened, Chally said he’d been trout fishing. He’d caught his limit of trout, three times. He had one limit down his right wader leg, the second down the left wader leg, and the third on the stringer. As he was walking to his truck, the game warden stopped him to check his license. One of the trout started flopping in his wader, and Chally started “dancing for happiness at catching his limit!!!” He got away with it!
Cathy Hyndman and Hoot Bobbitt
Remembering Chally Erb
Public speaking is man’s greatest fear, but when Chally was the host of Friday Night Alive! at the Lewis Theatre, he seemed totally relaxed and comfortable. His warmth shone through. On two nights I attended, anyone was welcomed to get up and tell a few jokes. When I got up to tell mine, standing next to Chally made me feel relaxed, so I delivered my jokes well. If I had been standing up in front of the crowd by myself, then I would have been terrified. After the show was over, I told Chally he talked a bit like Red Skelton and Dr. Oz. Chally nodded his head.
In 2018, I attended an Ivy Terrace Concert on the grounds of Carnegie Hall. Chally was in attendance in his wheelchair that was covered to look like a brightly-colored car. He didn’t stay long and he was far from me, so I couldn’t talk to him, but his mere presence was comforting. The last time I saw Chally, he was in the 2019 Shanghai Parade. Blessings to Chally on his journey.
In the early 90s, four young children in a van, heading out of town to Renick and home -after a long day of errands, visit to the library, snack breaks, bathroom stops and diaper changes in the back seat…
The treat was to see Beth and Chally on the corner of 219 and 60, waving to the cars.
“Look, there they are: the clowns on STILTS!!”
Mark and I didn’t know a soul in Lewisburg when we decided to make this town our home.
During our first week here, we made our first friend, Chally.
He was a bundle of joyful energy – physical and emotional – wrapped in a rainbow of colors and topped off with a head full of grizzled dreadlocks.
Chally Erb was FIERCE and he was my friend.
He inspired me to fight.
He reminded me to laugh at myself.
He cheered for me. He championed me.
Rest in power, friend.
My news feed is full of pictures, there are so many stories, so many memories, tied so tightly to Chally Erb . I think every hippy kid (and adult!) in southern WV knew him and got some kind of help or inspiration or laughter from Chally. He was an institution in my life. He saved my a** with $20 once, buying me and a bunch of girlfriends the tank of gas and pizza rolls we needed to get home from a festival in Pittsburgh. I watched him argue with a park ranger once, over people’s right to be naked at homesteaders. He told me my first dirty joke, in a tipi at that same gathering. It’s still basically the only one I ever remember. At a huge anti war march in DC, during W’s term, I saw him from halfway down the mall, on his stilts as Uncle Sam; he was unmistakable. He was always unmistakable. He lived life like no other. He gave me a card, after I danced in one of his pieces at Trillium & it has lived on every fridge since. I think he taught a lot of people about squeezing the most out of life, about being present, about standing up for what you believe in, about saying what you think needs to be said, about living in today. I’m so grateful that I got to be on this planet with him. I’m going to miss you friend.
Such a great man. A true role model. Two quick stories. Whenever I would run races in Lewisburg he would be waiting at the finish line for me and say “Hey, where you been man?” He’s 25 years my senior lol
We played racquetball together and he wore me out and I’d guess he wasn’t even trying as hard as he could. He gave me a black eye playing racquetball one time. I wore it like a badge of honor. Gonna miss him
Chally Erb used to come into Subway, where I first worked when I moved to WV. Sometimes he’d get a sandwich, sometimes we just talked but he always asked to fill his mug at the soda fountain and I always said yes. Never to his knowledge but eventually I got fired for it. That’s right, he completely wrecked my dream of becoming a professional sandwich artist. But over the years, talking to and watching Chally taught me the importance of living, laughing and loving, so I owe him more than I could ever express. We all do. He is one of the people who absolutely influenced my life and many others. I will never forget you, wild man. Maybe we can get the city to hang this flag at half mast.
I got my introduction into Lewisburg and Greenbrier County about 10 years ago when I first was introduced to the community through Trillium Performing Arts and The Lewis Theatre! Upon arriving to the theater and parking, I walk past this very curious pick-up truck with a hood filled with all kinds of ornaments like those little army men in various poses. As I stare at it, kinda mesmerized, guy says, “Whatdya think?” I said, “I’m taking it all in brutha!” We both laugh and THAT it is how I met Chally Erb!!!
He taught me a lot over the years but most importantly he taught me about being true to my passion of art and never letting go of why we do it! He taught me to walk on stilts (for real) and is the ONLY PERSON who I would dress up in a tutu, boots, and “Tickle Me Elmo” boxers for a character he developed for stage about Clown School! I love you man and will never forget all that you have given me and this amazing community!!!
Henry Hill Jr.
I remember I was driving over from the Pocahontas side, headed down south, coming through the middle of no man’s land and we drove up over the hill and came across Chally out in full camo near the mountain house with a gun across his lap, cruising around at high speeds on his motorized chair. He had a wooden crutch type apparatus with him that he explained to us he used to hold up the end of his barrel on. He’d already gotten about 3 deer this way I think. We carried on for awhile into the near dark and then parted ways for the evening. Legendary human. Can’t stop thinking about all of the good times. Love to y’all.