Chris Borzym

Back in October, some 500 people rose to their feet to cheer the winner of Dancing with the Chamber, Chris Borzym, who stood in the spotlight, stunned by the honor, clutching his trophy.

About an hour earlier, he’d arrived at the high school, gaunt and weak from treatment for the prostate cancer he’d been battling for two years. Not performing at all was a distinct possibility.

For Borzym, however, the show went on and when he stepped onstage in a psychedelic purple romper to the strains of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” the winner of the competition was never in doubt.

Many of those who applauded Borzym’s bravery that night returned to the high school on Dec. 10, this time in the cafeteria, to remember Borzym, who succumbed to cancer on Dec. 3 at the age 64.

“He brought something that was bigger than life to everyone around him,” said Jeremy Kiser, who had officiated at the wedding of Borzym and his husband, Jim Deacon, 11 years ago and delivered a eulogy at the memorial gathering.

That was a familiar refrain from those who knew Borzym, that and his penchant for perfectionism, from the former cheerleaders he coached at the grade school and high school levels for decades to the customers who grew to be friends while he operated Christopher Mark Fine Flowers on Grand Boulevard in downtown Brookfield for 16 years.

“His artistry and imagination is pure talent,” said Borzym’s sister, Kim. “Chris had a knack for making things beautiful.”

Borzym grew up in south Berwyn, one of 10 children born to Carole and the late Don Borzym. He attended St. Leonard School and Morton West High School before heading to Arizona State University, where he was a Sun Devils’ cheerleader.

Even before that, Borzym coached cheerleading at St. Leonard’s – five members of the 1976 team he coached led those gathered on Dec. 10 in a sendoff cheer. Later, Borzym worked at Riverside-Brookfield High School as an aide and coached the cheerleading team there for 17 years, guiding the 2010 squad to a second place showing at the cheerleading state finals.

“He was a taskmaster. It had to be right, or we’re doing it again,” said Debbie Gentilini, whom Borzym coached at St. Leonard’s and whose family was close with Borzym’s. “He actually brought us all the way to a world competition in Chicago. It was in his blood. I think he was born a cheerleader.”

Borzym left coaching for good in 2010 to concentrate on his then nascent florist business in Brookfield. When the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce welcomed him to town, it sent Betty LeClere, who owns Betty’s Flower and Gifts on Broadway Avenue, to do the honors.

“We were never competitors, from day one,” said LeClere, who provided the table centerpieces filled with Borzym’s favorite flowers, purple irises, at the Dec. 9 gathering. “There were other [competitors] in town, but never with him.”

Mary Vyskocil, Ann Kissel and Rosemary Lynch were all Brookfield customers who became close friends and, in various ways, employees over time at the flower shop.

“I began going in for little things, and he was so welcoming,” Vyskocil said. “Even if I was not purchasing anything, I’d pop in to say hello to Chris. Then I got to know his sister, who was doing jewelry work there.”

Kissel, who spoke at the gathering, first met Borzym when he accompanied her son, Ryan, to the shop when he was trying to sell ads for a Boy Scout pancake breakfast. Ryan promised to order his next corsage from the store and Borzym accepted the deal, cultivating a new customer at the same time.

“Chris never forgot that brave little scout, just like he never forgot his cheerleaders,” Kissel said.

After Borzym was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer in late 2020, Lynch, Kissel and Vyskocil launched an online fundraiser to help fund medical expenses, raising nearly $50,000 in the process.

At the end of February, Borzym retired from the business, closing his shop but worked to fulfill commitments he’d already made for customers, working out of Betty’s Flowers. When he agreed to compete in the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce’s dance competition this fall, he did so representing Betty’s.

“About a month ago … Chris danced his last dance and he found the strength to complete the dance, despite his fatigue and exhaustion,” said his sister, Kim. “Chris was so grateful to all of you who made such an impact in his life. … I know Chris left this world knowing he was loved.”

Borzym’s family is creating the Christopher Mark Borzym Cheerleading Fund in his memory. For now, anyone interested in contributing is asked to make checks out to the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce and put “CMBC Scholarship Fund” on the memo line.

The chamber will transfer those donations to the fund when it obtains its EIN number from the IRS.