Chuck Windemuth: 1959 – 2013

Chuck Windemuth and Chicago Den publisher Pup Ruff at the Mr. Chicago Leather 2012 contest. (Photo by Lady Justice)

Chuck Windemuth and Chicago Den publisher Pup Ruff at the Mr. Chicago Leather 2012 contest. (Photo by Lady Justice)

CHICAGO – Chuck Windemuth, 54, of Chicago and Cumberland, Md., passed away on Thursday, February 7, 2013, at the home of his parents in Cumberland after a long battle with cancer with his family by his side.

Born on January 16, 1959, in Cumberland, Chuck was the son of Louis Paul Windemuth Sr., Cumberland, and the late Jeannine Lee (Berry) Windemuth.

Chuck’s roots in the Chicago and Midwestern leather communities were deep. Chuck was the first Mr. Chicago Leather, receiving the title in 1991 and competing in International Mr. Leather that year. He worked with David Boyer to revive the contest in 2004 at Touche. He was also the driving force and founder of the Chicago Leather Kennel Club, a volunteer group of titleholders and community members who worked to help men and women who entered leather contests both in Chicago and across the country. He volunteered as the Road Show director at the Leather Archives & Museum and as a contestant handler for IML. He served as a judge or emcee for leather and fetish contests across the eastern half of the country including Mr. Midwest Leather, Mr. International Rubber and Mr. Pittsburgh Leather.

This is the part in an obit where the writer usually says, “He will be missed.” That doesn’t quite cover it. I knew Chuck, mostly through the Kennel Club and the contests in Chicago I’ve covered. I wasn’t one of his closest friends. Others had that honor. But he still had an effect on so many people that it’s hard to quantify.

Chuck was one of those rare people who truly liked everyone he met. In the years I knew him, I never saw him without that great big smile of his. If he wasn’t the sweetest, friendliest and honestly caring people I’ve ever known, he’s in the top three.

He loved the community deeply. That was the driving force behind both the revival of MCL and the start of the Kennel Club. He knew the community’s history deeply and knew that there was a limited time to pass on that knowledge and passion to a new generation of people. There was no “but” when he spoke of people or events. “I like him, but…” Words fail in trying to describe his devotion to the community. It came across so clearly in talking and working with him.

Chuck is one of a very small number of people I’ve known who was loved and respected by everyone in the community. People who otherwise disagreed or bickered were in complete agreement about Chuck. He loved the community as the family it was. When illness forced him to withdraw, it took away one of the best unifying forces the Chicago community had.

I hadn’t seen Chuck for more than a year when I heard about his death. In some ways, I don’t think the news has hit me completely yet. But I remember the last time we talked so clearly.

It was at the 2012 MCL contest. I had taken time away from the community myself and was just starting to get deeply involved again. Even though it had been years since we saw each other, it was like we had just talked yesterday. We caught up, chatted about jobs, health and the contest. But there was something different when we hugged each other. Chuck was always affectionate, loved hugging. But the strength of his hug and how long he held the hug surprised me. I realized then how serious his health issues were. I hugged him as tight as I could back. I knew that this might be the last time we saw each other. And it was.

By pure luck, there’s actually a photo of us that night. Usually I’m behind the camera. It’s my job to be. But Lady Justice had her camera and got a picture of us together. I can’t say how grateful I am for that picture.

There will be a lot of reminiscing about Chuck in the next few months, at CLAW and IML. If you didn’t know him, please listen when people talk about him. He was a truly wonderful man who loved the community and was loved back.

The Chuck Windemuth Leather Mentor Award, just begun this past MCL, is meant to honor those who mentor and help those entering the community. They really couldn’t have named it after a better example of that kind of mentoring. Whoever receives that award will have really big boots to fill.

Thank you, Chuck. I’m glad to have known you.

Friends will be received at the Adams Family Funeral Home, P.A., 404 Decatur Street, Cumberland, MD, on Sunday, February 10, 2013, from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. and from 6:00 P.M., to 8:00 P.M.

A funeral service will be conducted at the funeral home on Monday, February 11, 2013, at 11:00 A.M. with Reverend Stephen Yelovich officiating.