Chadwick Harlon West, “Qwest Freely,” 40, of Asheville lost his life to mental illness and substance abuse on August 25, 2020, at his home.

Chad was born on June 8, 1980, in Asheville, N.C. He spent the first 10 years of his life in Burnsville, N.C., before moving to Statesville, N.C., with his family, where he resided until adulthood. He moved around during early adulthood, with some of his favorite time being spent in Breckenridge, Colo. Eventually the Blue Ridge Mountains called him back and Asheville permanently became home.

Chad was a beautiful soul tortured by mental illness and substance abuse for over 25 years. His diseases led him down a lot of difficult roads, but he also traveled rainbow paths with his favorite music playing in the background.

Chad loved his family fiercely, even during times of strife. When his diseases allowed him to, he worked hard in all that he did. He took pride in his landscaping ability and was a skilled gardener. Chad loved cooking big meals for his family and friends to enjoy. In his youth and as an adult, he worked at Fifth Street Ministries, gaining experiences and friendships that he carried with him all of his life.

His entire life he used music as an outlet and a companion. He rarely missed a live show and attended myriad concerts and festivals like Merelfest and Lockn’. He was most at peace when he got to see his favorite artists live, including The Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic (150-plus times), Doc Watson, Michael Franti and Abe Reid. In his own words, he loved nothing more than to see a good show and “let his freak flag fly.”

He was passionate about the outdoors, especially camping. He always felt at peace in nature and among animals. He loved everything rainbow and was an amazingly gifted tie-dye artist. He surrounded himself with colors of the rainbow in an attempt to chase away the darkness that often surrounded him.

Chad is survived by his parents, Gary and Patti West; daughter, Madysen West (22); son, August West (2); and grandson Silas West; sisters, Lyndsay West (Chris Sluder) and Jordan West Barker (Russell); and brothers, Gregory West (Sarah), Donald West (Izumi) and Paxton West (Courtney Wilson); along with numerous adored nieces and nephews; and his wife of two years, Jennifer McElrath.

Chad was preceded in death by his infant son, Jacob Harlon West; maternal grandparents, Harlon and Alma Holcombe; and paternal grandparents, Oris and LaVerne West.

Because of COVID-19, there will be a short service of remembrance in the backyard of Gary and Patti West’s home at 228 West Bell Street, on Saturday, September 12, at 11 a.m. Masks will be provided.

September 6-12 is Suicide Awareness Week. If you are struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you know someone who has a severe mental illness or struggles with substance use, never stop loving them, even if at a distance, and remind them that they are worthy. Always have hope, and believe in the possibility of recovery. Advocate for funding for mental health and substance use treatment and fight to break the stigma.

Donations may be made in Chad’s memory to Fifth Street Ministries, P.O. Box 5217, Statesville, NC 28687 or or to National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), P.O. Box 49104, Baltimore, MD 21297 or online at

16 thoughts on “Chadwick Harlon West

  1. Michelle Brooks says:

    May you all be filled with comfort and peace during your loss. I would like to say thank you for your honesty and bringing awareness to mental illness and substance abuse. Your love and acceptance shows in your willingness to be open and honest about who he was.

  2. Amanda stinnett says:

    This is a beautiful tribute. May you always remember the happy rainbow times with him. Mental illness is so often not discussed. Thank you for sharing his story. Prayers for his family.

  3. Barbara Morrison says:

    Gary, Patty and family: Our prayers are with you all during this time. God has a new mission for Chad to do. Be at peace. God is looking after you all. Barbara Morrison and family much love.

  4. My thoughts are with you and your family at this time; may your memories bring you comfort.

    “Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~~ Eskimo Proverb

  5. Beautiful testament of our Chad. No words can describe how sorry I am for your loss. Praying for peace and comfort in the days ahead.

  6. Courtney Saine says:

    Hurts my heart for your family to have to go through such a heartbreaking time. Gary and Patti always treated me like family. Chad’s easy smile will not be forgotten. Many prayers!

  7. Holding you all up in prayer. Life on this side of heaven is so very challenging. Your transparency in that truth shines a light on Jesus and the hope He gives. That matters so much. Chad’s life mattered and will continue to shine that light as his story is shared. May the peace of God envelope you all as you grieve.

  8. Micah Roseman says:

    I did not know this young man, but surely he was a blessing to others. Peace be with him, his family, and his friends.

  9. Danielle Sidorowicz says:

    Qwest is a loving gypsy soul filled with music and art. He was a true friend, a beacon of light, and a counselor to many. I will miss him always. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. May your loving memories and Chad’s jovial smile comfort you always.

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