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Remembering Cris Dopher by Bill Sapsis

Cris Dopher. Lighting designer, technical director, scenic designer, CAD manager extraordinaire and one of the founding members of the Long Reach Long Riders, passed away August 25th after a long illness. Some might say he succumbed to complications brought about by Cystic fibrosis, a disease he lived with for a long time.   But I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Cris did not succumb. He faced the inevitable with courage, tenacity, humor and a gentle stubbornness. When it was time, he accepted his fate.

Cris faced life, and all the challenges it threw at him, with a seemingly limitless supply of perseverance. It didn’t matter if he was working on his beloved Harley Davidson Sportster, Roxy, (Every. Single. Night. on the LRLR rides) or was rolled down a hospital hallway on his way to yet another procedure or surgery. He took ownership of whatever journey he was on making it the best it could be, not just for himself but for everyone involved.

Cris, was a champion for Behind the Scenes; raising money and awareness while riding Roxy on the LRLR or, in later years, in a chase car. He also worked tirelessly with Cystic Fibrosis organizations, raising money and offering physical and emotional support for other CF patients. He shared his double lung transplant experiences with those who were preparing for that operation, and he was there for them afterward.

Cris had a down-to-earth sense of humor. When he was relegated to riding in a chase car on this past LRLR ride, which took place mostly above 10,000 ft, he was happy to point out that, since he was already on oxygen and had his own tank, he didn’t have to worry about altitude sickness.

But I believe his legacy will prove to be his writing. Over the last year of his life, Cris took to social media with a blog that spoke of his life experiences. His was an upbeat pragmatism that gave us all a look into his heart, mind and soul. He spoke about living with CF. About watching his CF family pass away, one by one. Even when describing his body’s rejection of the new lungs, his words were clear, humorous and without rancor.

The phrase “only the good die young” could not be more appropriate. At 47 he lived longer than he expected, but it was still much too short. Cris was a compassionate, strong and passionate individual and we all are the better for knowing him. His memory will live in his words and deeds and that image of him sitting on the ground working on Roxy yet again. 

Thank you for being you, Cris. Know that you rode the hell out of it, as I’m confident you are at this very moment.

Editor’s Note: Cris’ family have indicated memorial donations may be made to the following charities:

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Boomer Esiason Foundation (Team Boomer)
  • The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • Ellie’s Army

2 thoughts on “Remembering Cris Dopher by Bill Sapsis

  1. RIP Cris Dopher.

    Toughest man I ever met. Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a baby, was told he wouldn’t live to age 5. Beat back CF to hold it at bay, was told he probably wouldn’t survive his teens. Went on to college and graduate school, became an amazing lighting designer. Lit thousands of dancers and actors in his career. Became a stellar Vectorworks power user and teacher. Participated heavily in the designs of the Christmas season windows in NYC. Pro level photographer. Wordsmith beyond compare. Dispenser of wisdom and devastating bon mots.

    Took up motorcycling well into adulthood, while battling the CF that was supposed to have killed him years before. As one of the original Long Riders, he rode a Sportster (!!!) from NY to Boone NC to Long Beach CA and back to NY on the first LRLR ride in 2004. On the return leg of that trip, he was one of 6 of us who earned an IBA patch for covering 2000+ miles in 48 hours. Rode that bike to Alaska and back and across the country multiple times. Rode with the LRLR every time he could right up until his CF lungs wouldn’t allow it anymore. Then, after he survived a double lung transplant he went back to riding again as soon as he could.

    Survived colon cancer. Survived liver cancer. Survived a horrific motorcycle crash in southern California. During that recovery, another bout of cancer was discovered. This time in his transplanted lungs. The gift of life was going to be the source of his demise. Cris certainly saw the irony in that. He rode with his LRLR family one last time in 2019, this time in support mode in a chase vehicle. It was so good to see him, but we could tell his time was drawing near. That soaring spirit was barely contained in that failing body. The combination of lung cancer, lung rejection and the side effects of the chemo shutting down his kidneys, etc. became too much for even Iron Man Cris to overcome. As fellow LRLR founding member Moe “Pipes” Conn said “If ever there was a man who made Death work for it, it was Cris Dopher”. He would have been 48 in September. I’ll only add my final message to him, which I hope and believe he was still awake enough to hear and understand – “Safe travels little brother, I’ll see you down the road.”

  2. Beautiful Tribute. As a friend of Cris for 24 years, you truly summed up my thoughts on him. He was a wonderful man.

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