It took a talking bear to give the name a young boy loves

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"It took a talking bear to give the name a young boy loves" is the title of an article that appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 29 December 1993 that provides an independent account of how Chris changed his name.[1]

Text of the article

This is a Christmas-season story about how a bear gave a boy his name.

The bear is Leonard Bearstein, leader of the all-bear pops orchestra that entertains shoppers at Regency Square during the holidays.

The boy is Christopher Weston Chandler, 11, now called Christian. He met Leonard Bearstein during Christmas 1992.

The boy's father, Robert F. Chandler Jr., told the story.

"We were in Richmond on a visit last Christmas with our son Christopher, then almost 11," Chandler said. "We lived in Ruckersville, about 10 miles north of Charlottesville, at the time.

"And, as many people from west of Richmond do, we made one of our stops at Regency Square."

Christopher is a high-functioning autistic child. While intellectually his age level is 12 or 13, socially he is around age 7 or 8. He has some behavior problems with his peers and relates better with children a few years younger than him, his father said.

Christopher didn't talk until he was 7 years old. But thanks to his parents' hard work, he talks a blue streak now.

And while visiting Regency Square during Christmas 1992, he struck up a conversation with Leonard Bearstein.

"Since this was early in the Christmas season on a Thursday afternoon, the crowd was light," Chandler said. "The conversation between Leonard and Christopher lasted -- on and off, between songs -- about an hour. Christopher was spellbound."

Something unusual happened during that conversation. When Leonard Bearstein, in a decidedly British accent, asked Christopher his name, the bear must have misunderstood what the boy replied.

"Leonard started calling our son Christian. What better name for the Christmas season?

"And the name stuck like glue. From that time on, for the past year, his name has been Christian Weston Chandler. Christian is very emphatic about that."

Good things have happened since Leonard Bearstein changed Christopher's name to Christian more than a year ago.

In September, father and son moved to Chesterfield County. Chandler and his wife, Barbara, lived there when they married in 1980, before General Electric Co. transferred him to the Charlottesville area.

Mr. Chandler is retired now and looks after Christian during the week.

Mrs. Chandler works for Virginia Power in Charlottesville and commutes here from Ruckersville, in Greene County, on weekends.

"The Greene County School system was not equipped to teach an autistic child," Mr. Chandler said. "The Chesterfield County school system has accepted him with open arms."

Christian is in sixth grade at Providence Middle School.

This fall, on his own initiative, Christian entered a contest based on a favorite TV cartoon character. He was a winner in the "Sonic the Hedgehog Watch and Win Sweepstakes." His prize: a $1,000 shopping spree at Kay-Bee Toys after the first of the year.

And the Chandlers have started the process of legally changing his name.

As it happens, Mr. Chandler said he wanted to name his son Christian when the boy was born. As a sing-along leader at Matt's British Pub in Shockoe Slip in the late 1970s, he was familiar with the name among fellow Anglophiles and English friends.

"I was chicken," he said. "It took Leonard the bear to name him Christian.

"Although we live in Chesterfield, closer to Cloverleaf Mall and Chesterfield Towne Center," Mr. Chandler added, "a bear at Regency Square named my son."

Newspaper Scan

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  1. Archived page (links to an abstract of the article; full article requires subscription, but this cannot be accessed anymore after original site went down.)
LeonardSaga.png Bearstein Saga LeonardSaga.png
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