A free spirit is remembered

Register City Editor

If Chance Shrum’s life was described in a single word, “gregarious” would be as good as any.
Friends mentioned that repeatedly in a conversation about Shrum’s life and death Tuesday evening.
Shrum, 20 years old on Feb. 22, died Tuesday morning after he was subdued by two charges from Tasers when Iola police officers were summoned to Cottonwood and Lincoln streets at 1 a.m. to deal with a disturbance. He apparently was cavorting in the area naked, perhaps doing one of his skank dances.
“That might have been what he was doing,” said Nic Olson, a friend since fourth grade who had seen him less than an hour earlier. “He talked once about taking off his clothes and dancing naked.”
A few hours earlier Shrum, as he often did when the local band “Latent Content” was playing, jumped on stage at Allen County Idol, a talent show at Allen County Community College, and skank danced, which involved him flailing his arms and legs while bouncing about.
“He was our roadie,” who helped carry equipment and do other chores, Olson, a band member, said. And, Olson said, Shrum was the one person he and many other 20-somethings in Iola knew would brighten a room by his mere presence. “He’d change anyone’s mood who was down,” quickly telling an outrageous joke or, when that was what was needed, flashing a broad smile.
Shrum and Stephen Bender grew up friends from the time they entered Jefferson Elementary School. Other close friends were Cody Conley, Jimmy Winslow and Parker Laymon.
“We always wanted to be video game designers and we spent a lot time, up until right now, working on it,” Bender said.
Shrum also was a voracious reader who favored fantasies, the more absurd the better. Once, Olson recalled, Shrum neatly folded a test given out by Marvin Smith in an Iola High School chemistry class, put it in the back of a book he was reading and continued to consume the novel.
“He was one of the few kids who got in trouble for reading too much,” Olson said.

Chance Shrum flashes the smile those close to him remember well while cutting the hair of friend Cody Conley. (submitted photo)

SHRUM WAS about 6-1, of average build and not particularly given to athletics. He never mastered skateboards or roller blades, as did many of his friends.
If he had an athletic specialty, it was jumping from the front porch roof of the home of his mother, Sue Shrum, on Madison Avenue and landing nimbly enough not to get hurt. He wasn’t aggressive, his friends said, except for perhaps an occasional biting verbal retort that quickly was softened by a “I-didn’t-mean-it” smile.
He worked most recently at Pizza Hut and, without a specific timeline, meant to join the Marines, thinking that he could save enough money to go to college some day. He was booted from high school for absences, some incurred when he went to Wichita to visit his father, Bill Shrum, who lives in Linn County, when he was hospitalized. He earned a General Education Development (GED) diploma a year ago.
After the talent show at ACCC Monday night, Olson retired to where he and buddies live at 401 N. Elm St. A little later Shrum, entirely expected, showed up acting goofy as he usually did, and watched a movie until after midnight.
“He was a little over the top, but he had those nights. He seemed OK when he left,” Olson said.
He learned later that Shrum had imbibed some drugs.
“He wasn’t a druggie,” Olson said. “Chance was just the type who would try anything,” though not to the point of addiction.
About 1 o’clock, reports say, Shrum was naked and causing enough of a commotion near the intersection of Cottonwood and Lincoln streets to prompt someone to call police officers.
“I don’t know what he was doing; you never knew what he would do next. Maybe he was dancing, but what threat was a naked kid like him?” Olson said.
Later a friend of a friend heard about the incident on a scanner and that Shrum had been taken to Allen County Hospital, without a heartbeat. The friend called Olson, who went to the hospital.
“They wouldn’t tell me anything,” he said. “I didn’t know he had died until (much) later in the morning.”

“IF CHANCE wanted to do something, he’d be all for it,” Olson said. He told about the roof-jumping episode.
“We were in eighth grade, maybe freshmen, and climbed up on the roof to fly a kite. The string broke and the kite came down in the middle of the highway (Madison Avenue). Chance jumped off the roof, ran onto the highway, right into traffic, and got the kite. We all spent the next hour jumping off the roof, climbing back up and jumping off again. Chance said it was fun.”
After being graduated from high school, Olson moved from home to live with a couple of friends. Chance came by practically every night, even spent a couple of weeks there once.
“He always was the ‘guy on the couch,’” Olson said, at many of his boyhood friends’ homes and later when they moved out on their own.
“He obviously had his problems,” Bender said in a text message shared with the Register before he joined an interview, “but he was an amazing friend. ... He lived for the memories and did everything he could to make them special. Chance will always be ... in my heart, always be with me skank dancing each time I play my guitar. He’s forever burned into my memory.”
Tuesday afternoon Olson and his girlfriend, Paige Schauf, took scissors to dress slacks they found in a secondhand store and cut the legs just below the knees in a tribute that anyone who knew Shrum would recognize.
“He called them ‘shants,’” Olson said. “He didn’t like shorts and he didn’t like long pants, so he’d cut the legs off halfway up the calf and then wear knee socks, usually two different colors.”
Friends also pinned black ribbons to shirts and jackets as simple but meaningful memorials.
“I don’t think anyone who got to know Chance didn’t like him,” Olson said. “He got along with anyone as long as they had an open mind.”
Friends from Wichita and Pittsburg came when they heard of his death and another in Georgia was arranging transportation. A text message from Olson Tuesday night, asking for photographs of their friend, had five people at the Register office in minutes, several toting photos.
“I never saw him without a smile,” Olson said. “He died, but there’s a piece of Chance in all of us.”