SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Chad Rattray wasn’t only Cheddar Chad. He wasn’t simply the guy who sold dollar dogs, occasionally slathering on the mustard and handing it over - on the house - to a homeless person with no cash. He wasn’t only a newly trained bus driver who had driven his first route this weekend, or someone with a deep affinity for Africa, where he traveled for three months.
Mainly, for those who bought his hot dogs in front of the Bank of America building in downtown Spokane, he was Chad.
Rattray died Monday of complications related to the flu. At 37 years old, Rattray had recently graduated from Eastern Washington University and finished his training to be a Spokane Transit Authority bus driver on Friday.
“He had just accomplished what he had been working on long term,” said Todd Rattray, Chad’s older brother. “He had just found happiness in his life.”
Sunday marked Rattray’s first and only day as a coach operator, as he looped around the city’s core on the 44, 34, 33 and 20 routes. He was scheduled for the same run on Monday, but called in sick from Sacred Heart Medical Center’s intensive care unit.
But Rattray is best known for his cart at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Howard Street: $1 dogs, $2.50 jumbos as well as Polish, German and Italian sausages.
On Wednesday, as the flowers and coins from around the world piled up where Rattray sold dogs for 13 years, people asked each other what happened. As news spread of Rattray’s death, the stories began. One man said the only time Rattray didn’t serve dogs was during the winter of 2008-09, when almost 100 inches of snow shut down Spokane. Another said Rattray was his own “community service” because he gave hot dogs away to the hungry and needy.
In a hard hat, Vern Wiese walked by to get a hot dog. He hadn’t been to Rattray’s cart since 2006, when he helped build the Davenport Tower.
Now Wiese is back downtown, working on the Davenport Grand. He sought out his old usual of two dogs, pop and a bag of chips, and the “camaraderie” that Rattray provided, but instead found the makeshift memorial.
“He was a reminder that there are still good people who care,” Wiese said. “Some people have best friends that don’t get along as well as he and I did.”
Tim Burk, chief engineer at the Bank of America building, said with a laugh that he had bought “enough” hot dogs over the years.
“He was one of those people who stood out in a world full of knuckleheads. You just knew he was a good person. Everybody liked him,” Burk said. “There was nothing I didn’t like about the guy. I think you could ask 10,000 people and not one of them would speak badly about him.”
It’s not hard to imagine 10,000 people having something nice to say about Rattray. After more than a decade on one corner, you get to know a lot of people.
For instance, Rattray met a woman named Adwoa who worked at the Little Red School House Children’s Center. She was looking for another way to make money, to help her fiance move to Spokane from Ghana. Rattray hired her to pitch in during Hoopfest, and then gave her a lion’s share of the day’s take.
“She became part of our family through this,” said Rattray’s brother, Todd. “That corner became a real meeting spot. He was an ambassador to a lot of people.”
Rattray became close with the local refugee community. When downtown, they would seek out Rattray’s generosity.
“He didn’t only sell hot dogs,” said his brother. “He helped people get around in a civilization that they weren’t accustomed to.”
Rattray, who graduated from Northwest Christian in Colbert, traded roles about three years ago when he traveled alone through Ghana, Eritrea and Ethiopia for three months. He came home, but the continent remained with him as he studied international affairs and anthropology at EWU, receiving a degree in both this fall. He had plans to return to Africa, his family said.
First, though, he got out of the hot dog business last year and was hired by STA. Paul Hoffman, a training instructor there, had been buying hot dogs from Rattray “ever since I can remember.”
For years, Hoffman was convinced Rattray would be a good driver.
“He just made a great impression on me. I immediately started to recruit him,” Hoffman said. “Finally, I prevailed. . I let him use me as a reference. I’d been around him enough to know he’s a good egg.”
After seven weeks of training, Rattray became an official coach operator Friday.
“He was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, ready to conquer the world. And there he went,” Hoffman said. “During the training cycle, we were out among the public a lot. Every time I had Chad on my bus, someone would recognize him and come over and engage him. ‘We sure miss you down here. Hurry up and finish so you can come back down.’ You wouldn’t think a hot dog guy would have such an impact. . But you can feel it. It’s palpable.”
Rattray’s brother said his brother’s legacy is multifold, but it was Rattray’s searching that made him who he was.
Rattray was known as DJ Cheddar Chad and an “excellent turntabilist,” his brother said. He performed on local radio station KYRS and at several Spokane venues.
Joining STA was a nice “change of pace, but he really didn’t know what he wanted to do long term,” his brother said.
“He said, ‘I’m going to try this. I may be down there selling hot dogs next week,’?” he said. “The cart is parked in his garage. We’ve got to do something right with it.”
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com
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