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Christopher J. ‘Chris’ Beutler, chief vision officer at Renegade Productions and a competitive cyclist, dies

Christopher J. “Chris” Beutler fundraised for families with ALS through the Brigance Brigade Foundation.
Christopher J. “Chris” Beutler fundraised for families with ALS through the Brigance Brigade Foundation. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Christopher J. “Chris” Beutler, chief vision officer for Renegade Communications and an avid mountain biker who won several races in his age category, died Saturday of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at Gilchrist Center in Towson. The Cockeysville resident was 54.

”I spent 15 years working side by side with Chris and he brought a spark, illumination and creativity to each and every situation,” said Tim Watkins, president and CEO of Renegade Communications. “He didn’t just want good, he wanted better. He honed solutions that hit the core of storytelling for consumers and did what our clients wanted.”

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Christopher John Beutler, the son of Mary Gephardt, a Baltimore County Public Schools counselor, and his stepfather Richard Gephardt, a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. worker, was born in Camden, New Jersey, and moved with his family as a young child to Lutherville.

He was a 1985 graduate of Towson High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991 from Ithaca College where he studied film. A music aficionado, he played bass with the 1980′s new wave rock band, Bangah.

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Mr. Beutler had a long career in screenwriting, film production and advertising. For nearly two decades, he was chief vision officer at Renegade Communications, a Hunt Valley production company.

One of the highlights of his career was winning an Emmy Award for a public service announcement video about domestic violence that he created for the One Love Foundation. The nonprofit was established to honor Yeardley R. Love, the University of Virginia senior, lacrosse star and Cockeysville resident, who was murdered in 2010 by her ex-boyfriend.

“It’s an honor to talk about Chris,” said Sharon Love, Yeardley Love’s mother. “He was wonderful to work with and his creativity was just exceptional, and because of his movie, millions of students have been saved and have their lives, and so many parents have their children at home because of it.”

Ms. Love added: “The movie was really responsible for growing the One Love Foundation beyond our expectations and we will always be grateful for what he did.”

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“Chris continued to use his social media platform to educate others about healthy and unhealthy relationships,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family. “Years after the PSA came out, Chris’ daughters and classmates viewed the video at their high school.”

“He was always a joy to be around and work with,” Mr. Watkins said.

Mr. Beutler continued working for the company until 11 months ago when he left because of failing health and went on medical disability.

A resident of Cockeysville’s Springdale neighborhood since 2001, he was an inveterate cyclist who enjoyed spending hours building and riding trails in the nearby Loch Raven Reservoir with friends.

Mr. Beutler was a competitive bike racer, winning such events as the Iron Hill Challenge Cross Country and Guy’s Neshaminy Classic Mountain Bike Race. He also took the overall in the sport category for the 50-plus age group one season in the Mid-Atlantic Super Series.

In 1997, he met and fell in love with the former Laura Knight, who he married in 1997.

An avid traveler, he and his wife and two daughters enjoyed traveling through the Pacific Northwest, vacationing in the Caribbean and spending several weeks each summer at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. He also visited China and Italy on business, and when he and his wife spent a week in Rome together, “he took photos of almost every single Vespa,” according to the biographical profile.

After he was diagnosed with ALS In November 2019, Mr. Beutler became a practicing Buddhist, “noting that Buddhism brought great enlightenment and peace to his life,” according to the profile.

Rather than being discouraged, Mr. Beutler thought in some ways his ALS diagnosis was a “gift” that he “used to help others and celebrate his life,” family members said.

Music was an important component of his life, and he used it as a fundraiser for families with ALS through the Brigance Brigade Foundation that was established by former Ravens football player O.J. Brigance.

He and his wife organized the Beutler’s Band Bash, an all-day event in September that featured 14 bands, two soundstages, and a silent auction that raised money to assist families affected by ALS. The event raised more than $70,000 for the Brigance Brigade Foundation.

Family members said he was fond of saying: “If you give people an easy way to try and help others, people’s hearts are really big. Nothing will give you more joy than trying to help others.”

“When it came to ALS, he was more concerned about others than himself,” Mr. Watkins said. “He was just an incredible guy and a tower of courage and strength, which would be good for all of us to follow in times of trial.”

“Chris was a vibrant soul in all of his communities: family, friends, neighborhood, work, cycling, music and screenwriting,” according to the profile. “He cherished relationships with friends from all parts of his life. Chris said, ‘The best memories are the risks that I took to go out and discover myself. Life has been full of many journeys. My message to everybody is to take risks — that’s what’s going to be with you forever. Your friends, relationships, and adventures — that’s what holds value in your life.’”

In addition to attending concerts, posting about artists and musical styles like jazz, new wave and punk on his social media account and playing records for his family and friends, Mr. Beutler was a dog lover, and especially fond of his dog Dolly, family members said.

Two memorial services will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 28 at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Lutherville.

In addition to his wife of 24 years, Mr. Beutler is survived by two daughters, Anne Beutler, 17, and Ella Beutler, 13, who are students at Dulaney High School; and his mother, Mary Gephardt of Mays Chapel.

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