Ailing Chartier is an unsung hero of the Expos cause

By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Chris Chartier was trying to tell Dennis Martinez he was just a "nobody.''

Martinez, knowing who Chartier was and what he was going through health-wise, replied, "No, you're a somebody.''

So Chartier, at Martinez's insistence, got into a photo with Martinez, the Expos' iconic pitcher, and former Expos player Bob Bailey at the recent Exposfest fund-raiser in Montreal.

"I like to be behind the camera but Dennis insisted on having the photo taken with me,'' Chartier said, shaking his head in admiration.

With his trusty Canon, Chartier, 50, had taken many photographs of El Presidente in recent years -- at his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. in 2016 and at Exposfest -- so word had reached Martinez about Chartier's plight.

Chartier's therapy is taking photographs of nature and sports. It keeps him busy, keeps him moving, keeps his thoughts somewhat distant from a devastating blow to his life: cancer of the esophagus.

"I go day by day. I'm just hanging on,'' Chartier was saying from his home in Dorval, Que. "I'm not in good shape at all. It is what it is. It's all part of life. I've got to live with it.''

Going back close to 15 years, Chartier has promoted everything and anything about Montreal baseball and the Expos. He's the silent promoter that nobody knows much about. This love first started in Toronto where he was working as a supervisor for a photo-lab company from 1999-2003. Often, he would get together with ex-Montrealer friends at a bar and shoot the breeze about Montreal baseball.

Years later in Montreal, Chartier organized the Montreal Baseball Fans Group on Facebook. Today, the group totals an amazing 8,800 members. A separate Montreal Expos Forever group has 1,000 Facebook members. Montreal Expos Fans Show Your Colours is another entity. The group's Twitter account has 800 followers, the Spanish page 545. All organized by one person: Chartier, whose personal Twitter handle is @exposfanforever.

"It's incredible how many Expos' fans are Dominican,'' Chartier pointed out, as witness to the number on his Facebook page.

Chartier also single handedly takes the photos and writes the editorial copy for montrealsportsnews.net. Check it out. He gets about 200 hits a day on that site and even though many people may not think that's a high number, it's "incredible'' to him. You will find stuff about the Canadiens, speed skating, car racing and other sports. He even snapped former Expos majority owner Charles Bronfman at a signing for his book Distilled.

Chartier studied photography at Dawson College in Montreal in the 1980s and pursued job opportunities as a photo journalist but he struck out during a one-year search. So Chartier compromised a little by starting his own wedding photography business.

"I did it for four years and to tell you the truth, I hated it,'' Chartier said.

Chartier is currently on disability leave from Canada Post, his employer for six years, most recently as a supervisor of its plant in St. Laurent, Que. He is grateful for the brace of help he has received from the company and fellow workers, not to mention the support from his family: wife Jennifer Brown and children Autumn and Ryan.

Then there is Exposfest organizer Perry Giannis, who has been a pillar of strength and takes Chartier with him to many sports functions. On March 31, Chartier could be seen in the press box at Olympic Stadium where he snapped photos of Tim Raines at his news conference.

"Photography is my therapy. It makes me survive. I first met Perry Giannis at Exposfest in 2016 and if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be doing all of this photo work,'' Chartier said. "He takes me to a lot of the events. I've been allowed on the field before the Jays' games in Montreal to take photos. I tell Perry that he has saved my life. A lot of people have kept me motivated and alive.''

When he went for a check-up 13 months ago, Chartier was advised that he had cancer. He underwent chemotherapy for a few months and then tried to go back to work for Canada Post but that didn't last long.

"People who smoke can get esophageal cancer but I didn't smoke and they say people with a lot of acid reflux can get esophageal cancer. With me, I'm not sure why I got it,'' Chartier said. "So I went on chemotherapy for some time and then in August, I was re-diagnosed.

"They operated on me and removed my esophagus and they pushed my stomach up to where my esophagus was. Another thing happened -- I had a major reaction to chemo. I'm one of three per cent of people who are allergic to chemo. I was close to being dead.''

Because surgeons had to remove parts of Chartier's back, he's left with a stoop and his mobility is affected. So if you are healthy and something gets under your skin, think of Chris Chartier. Keep him in your prayers.

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Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com