An Altruist’s Icon - Remembering Duane Chapman’s life of empathy and service

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

Regardless of how often you volunteer, or how much you give back to your community, most of us can admit that we could always do more. Such was not the case for Richmond’s Duane Chapman. A nurse, an advocate for the homeless, an alcohol and drug counselor, a social worker, a board member, a volunteer—Duane dedicated his life to helping others, and remained consistent in those efforts for decades until his very last day on October 30, 2018.

“Even up until the point of him passing he was still working on things,” said Duane’s nephew Charles Rembert. “He was just born with the gift of wanting to help. He didn’t even have to know you, the man would bring you home, buy you something to eat, if you ain’t got no clothes he’d have something for you to wear; he’d probably only let you stay for one night because he liked his privacy, but he’d still let you stay.”

At the time of his passing, Duane was chair of the Contra Costa County Mental Health Commission. Professionally, he helped his community as a nurse for 30 years. Outside of work and family, his influence was felt all over the county. He co-founded Richmond Rainbow Pride (Richmond’s first LGBT organization), at one point he was in charge of every single homeless shelter in the county, he logged 20 years of volunteer efforts with the Richmond Police Department (RPD), helped fundraise for Richmond PAL … the list is immeasurable.

Duane also helped organize Juneteenth and many other city festivals. “He wanted to make sure there were opportunities for the community to come out and get resources and information; and have a good time!” said RPD’s Crime Prevention Manager Michelle Milam.