Sean “Stanley” Leary, an amazing climber, adventurer, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer, passed away in a wingsuit BASE accident and has left a gaping hole in the hearts of those who had the honor of knowing him and those that knew of him in the outdoor industry. But this is not about how he died. This is about how he lived.
Stanley learned to climb in the Sierra Nevada range as a teenager and never stopped as he embraced all the climbing disciplines in the adventurous life he led. He held multiple speed records in Yosemite that included the Salathé Wall with Alex Honnold in 2009, the Nose speed record with Dean Potter in 2010, and the mixed male-female speed record for the Nose with Mayan Smith-Gobat in 2012. Many first ascents were made by Leary located in Patagonia, Baffin Island, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Canada, the US, and Southeast Asia. He climbed 70+ ascents of El Capitan in Yosemite, California.
He shared some fantastic adventures with a talented team that included Leo Houlding and Jason Pickles in the past several years: The first ascent on Mount Asgard on Baffin Island; Autana in Venezuela; and their latest last year (2013) in Antarctica, Ulvetanna Peak. These expeditions were captured beautifully by Alastair Lee and his film crew and depicted the fun, positive attitudes from the team among the not-so-greatest conditions and also captured the infectious smile of Stanley that many of us had the privilege of experiencing in person.
In addition to his numerous accomplishments as a climber, Stanley was an experienced BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer. He did a first wingsuit descent in El Mocho, Argentina, the first wingsuit descent off of Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, Canada, and opened numerous “exits” around North America.
As Stanley had an impressive resumé as a climber and wingsuit flyer, he also had other talents that weren’t focused on as much as his extreme adventures. He developed an innovative rigging technology for aerial camera systems that are now widely used for live coverage, features and commercials. He was the lead rigger for Cablecam, Inc. and rigged for various European television events and commercials. Leary also worked as a film stuntman among many other talents.
Beyond his copious endeavors, Sean had a huge heart. For those of us that were lucky enough to call him friend, we know that he embraced life and lived it like there was no tomorrow. You didn’t have to know him very long to experience his passion for life. He made you feel as if you knew him for years even if you only knew him for a few mere moments. His zest for life was contagious, and his kindness knew no bounds.
Stanley’s friends describe him as being inspirational, one-of-a-kind, humble, positive, kind, generous, a beautiful soul, encouraging, respectful, and loving. There aren’t enough words to define the depth of who Stanley was. His Facebook page is full of love, memories, beautiful words, and although there is sadness, there is also a celebration of his life.
Charley Kurlinkus, a dear friend of Stanley’s who was also a part of the “American Wingsuit BASE Jump Revolution/Mountain Flying in the USA with Sean Leary” by EpicTV, shared some thoughts with me about Sean. “I had the pleasure of sharing countless adventures with Sean over the last 5 years since meeting him skydiving in Lodi, CA. He was the type of guy that never talked about his accomplishments and was always excited about any adventure no matter how massive or tiny. I learned about Sean's climbing prowess not from him, but from others who would say, "Oh man, did you know that Stanley has (fill in a number of amazing feats)" but rarely heard about them from him.” One day Kurlinkus stumbled upon footage from Stanley and Dean Potter’s Nose speed record and was watching it in Stanley’s living room. Stanley saw what he was watching and said in his very Stanley way, “Oh yeah, that was really fun.” “He was an equally talented wingsuit pilot as he was a climber,” Kurlinkus said, “and his passion for it grew every day. He had so many dreams for the future of wingsuit base in the United States, and had already opened many new jumps. I will miss Sean immensely and still cannot believe he’s gone.”
The following quote by Sean was shared by one of his friends on his Facebook page, Sarah Underhill, who had lost her husband months ago. “I promise you that it gets better. Now your loss is a massive gaping hole but over time experiences grow around it, trees and bushes and flowers that soften the ragged edges. Eventually you build a sort of soul garden around it. The hole will always be there but it becomes a much gentler place that you can visit without feeling the overwhelming pain.” Little did he know how profound his own words would have on those of us who mourn him today.
Stanley lived a life that many would covet, and he lived each moment to the fullest. His death has truly left behind many heavy hearts, but those of us who were fortunate enough to’ve known him and shared adventures with him have memories to last a life time. May you rest in peace, Stanley, and may your family find comfort and solace through this difficult time. Your life will be remembered, celebrated and many will venture out to honor you. You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.
A memorial account has been set up for Sean's wife, Mieka, and their baby through Mountain America Credit Union. If you'd like to donate, send to: Mountain America Credit Union, Sean "Stanley" Leary Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 9001, West Jordan, UT, 84084. Phone number is 801-280-1525.