Zoe Brown: “Chris Lemone Will Always Be A Part Of Me”

Zoe Brown graduated from Staples High School in June. Now a freshman at the University of Southern California, she’s also the author of an insightful blog, “IMO.” 

Yesterday she shared her emotions on the death of Staples’ outreach counselor, Chris Lemone. She gave permission to share her beautiful piece with “06880.”


“You’re it. Your life. Your decision.” That’s the Teen Awareness Group (TAG)’s motto.

Unfortunately though, sometimes life throws something at you that you can’t control, something that’s not your decision at all. I learned this the hard way today.

I didn’t think anything at first of the texts and calls I was getting this morning at 5 from members of Staples High School’s TAG, of which I was co-president last year and Chris was advisor of for many years. But when my little sister called me at 6 a.m. (my time), I knew it must be important.

I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I really still can’t. I screamed “NO” over and over again. My whole body shook and tears spilled out uncontrollably. I couldn’t catch my breath for what felt like, and honestly may have been, an hour.

Chris Lemone was (and will remain) one of my favorite people ever. When I wrote him a thank-you note at the end of the year, I told him that I’d like to stay in touch forever, to which he said “absolutely.” I told him I could guarantee that he was someone who would be at my wedding, that we would still be close friends in 10 or so years. I even had a 30-minute conversation with him over the phone a couple of weeks ago when I was having trouble settling in to college. He made me feel a million times better, and was so happy that I called.

Chris Lemone

Chris Lemone

It’s all so ironic. Chris was one of the best guys I knew and one of the last people to deserve anything negative in his life, let alone this.

He spent all of his time working to help people and make the community a better place. He must have changed and bettered the lives of more people than I even know in total.

There’s no other way to say it besides that it’s not fair. To say it as Chris would have said it, “It’s just really f*cking unfair.”

On an even more personal note, Chris saw more in me than I ever saw in myself.  I was never able to truly express to him with words how grateful I was for his faith in me. So I tried to use my actions. He made me want to be so great that I really did live up to his vision of me.

At the end of last year he wrote me the nicest letter I’ve ever received, praising my leadership and passion. I hope he understood that so much of what I did was in hopes that it would make him proud, and that he would speak highly of me as he did of other past TAG members.

I now hang that letter next to my bed to remind myself every day to be the person that Chris saw me as.

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

What makes this even harder is that usually, Chris is the person I would call if I was ever feeling as I do now: weak, helpless and sadder than I thought possible.

I’m usually good at giving advice but now I’m completely lost. Nothing I say can make it better or make it hurt any less, no matter how hard I try.

So I’m going to try to think like Chris would. He would throw up his hands, raise his eyebrows, lean back in his desk chair in the TAG office by the cafeteria and say with a little half-chuckle: “F*ck. Life just sucks sometimes, man. You gotta try your best to make the most of it while you’re alive.”

I don’t know if he’d say it exactly like that. But he would definitely figure out a way to throw a curse word in there. He would be blunt and honest but also positive at the same time, as always.

There’s really not much else to say. I could write about how I cherish so much the times I would skip class to sit in Chris’ office, and give and receive advice. I could talk about how overly excited we both got when one of us would see a new Broadway show, or how we spent way too long talking about plays in general. Or I could mention the secrets we had that no one would ever understand and how happy I was whenever I was around him, even when he played his crazy loud rock music during lunch meetings.

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real; everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real. Everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

But I don’t need to spend too long talking about any of that because I know that I will always have those memories, even if I don’t have Chris anymore.

We know he loved us and he knows we loved him. We can and will remember the good times forever, and he will live on through our memories. And in everything I do and whoever I become throughout the rest of my life, there will always be a little part of Chris in there.

It’s pretty fitting that he shared this video on Facebook last month. Without us even asking, he left us with some of the best advice out there:

A good lesson shared by an even better man.

I’ll miss you forever, Chris, and I will continue to live every day trying to make you proud of me.

(P.S. I only included curse words because I know Chris is laughing about that from wherever he is now).

5 responses to “Zoe Brown: “Chris Lemone Will Always Be A Part Of Me”

  1. You are so very lucky to have had such a friend in your young life (I wish I had known him!). Remembering him and sharing his wisdom and energy with others is one way to honor his generous gifts to you. God blessed him and you and now you can pass it on.

  2. wow. i wish i had met him. another great teacher from Staples.

  3. Gerry Kuroghlian

    My condolences to Chris’s family. I hope that the Staples and Westport reach out to the Lemones just as Chris helped and guided hundreds of students over the years he served our community. He was a competent counselor who really tried to make the lives of young people enduring a bumpy spot in their journey smoother.

  4. Because Chris loved working with young people so much, he extended his responsibilities and involvement with students while at Staples each day to include meeting with students who simply wanted to do something good for others and were not, themselves, in any trouble or in conflict. His work with Teen Awareness Group (TAG, as it is known) brought dozens of students each year together to shareI had never worked in a high school that had a person in a position such as the one Chris had. Officially, he was the Outreach Counselor for Staples students. In reality, he was the confidante, the friend, the consoler, the motivator, and the reality checker for a huge array of young people in Westport. I knew I liked Chris from the first time we had a conversation. He and I viewed our work with high school students the same way. We both recognized and accepted that part of being young is to make mistakes. Our jobs (although mine involved discipline) required that we step into the lives of young people when those mistakes were made, avoid judgment, offer advice, and help lead them out of the darkness that they felt at that moment. I loved Chris because he loved kids and they knew it.
    a common interest. They simply wanted to do something good for other students. I will always remember his facial expressions when he was surrounded by eager students planning for a big event like Grim Reaper Day held each year. His faith in the goodness of Staples students paid off in the long run. His legacy will live through all of those hundreds of teenagers who are now or will soon be functioning adults starting their own families. I am grateful to have known Chris Lemone and to have worked with him to create a culture of acceptance in which ALL students can find themselves while at Staples. He was truly a good man.

  5. Mary Schmerker, Staples 1958

    My response is to Zoe and the other students whose lives were impacted by Chris, and to Chris’ family. I am an old, old graduate of Staples. The old building Staples. From the advantage of years of living I can say that even the unpleasant things that happen to you can become positives that give you prospective on life and wisdom to share with others. The impact Chris made on your lives will live on in you and you will be able to share that with others throughout your lives. My deepest sympathy to Chris’ family at this time even thought I did not know him, he obviously was a treasure to know and love. Thank you Zoe for your honest and compelling words. Thank you for sharing your heart.