Thoughts & Well Wishes

Adrian Card | Apr 12, 2020

Hi, Stephen, it sounds like things are going fairly well and that's good. I wish I could join you for MfW, but we just don't have the bandwidth up here for that to be feasible. I'm there in spirit though, and I'm glad you're getting such good care.


Ruth Wilson | Apr 13, 2020
Hi Stephen,

Just learned from Kathy (via Emma) about your health issues - so sorry to hear it. Sending you good wishes from across the Atlantic. I've not come across Caring Bridge before - what a brilliant idea. One of the wonderful opportunities opened by technology - making such a difference to us all at the moment during the lock down.

I've just come off Zoom with Jane, Pete and Emma. We've started a regular slot where Pete interviews Jane about her life and the rest of us mainly listen but chip in occasional questions too. You can record on Zoom too, so we'll have a lasting record of the interviews. It's one of those things we've been meaning to do but never quite got round to before. We've just been hearing today about Cambridge University in the 1950s and when she first met William. She can remember a lot of details considering it's more than 60 years ago. Still now I come to think of it, it's 43 years since I last saw you, and I can remember quite a lot about the time I spent in the US in the 1977! 

Happy Easter,

love Ruth
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Terrill Keeler | Apr 13, 2020
Greetings, Stephen,  Robin and I send our Love and support as you navigate this journey of healing.  We pray for the best possible treatments and for Peace and Joy of Spirit.  Your entries are inspiring.  Thank you for your generosity in sharing your thoughts and feelings with us all, and keeping us updated.
Emma Dogliani | Apr 15, 2020
Hi Stephen, Ruth got there first but I just wanted to add our love from the London branch of the WWs.  I know a bit more about what you are going through as a close friend of mine was diagnosed last October with high grade most aggressive Glyoma (not sure I spelled that right) and I had been hanging out with him a lot.  Hard to imagine what you are facing with the added complications of C19 but I'm beyond impressed to hear you have even been sorting out your tax!! Lovely to picture you with David and Carol under the trees.  We had great fun hanging out with them what seems an age ago now, was it only last Summer??  I had been meaning to at some point ask you about your prison work as you may have heard through the family grapevine that I have become involved at HMP Pentonville one of the UK's worst prisons (and I'm afraid many here are really terrible).  It is frustrating not to be able to go in at the moment and the men are under 23hr lockdown with no visits or activities.  Meds and showers if they are lucky.  The staff numbers are terrible at the best of times so now horrifically low.  Anyway I am trying to content myself with writing to my regular guys and more fund raising for music workshops when this is all over. Funny to think that our families originally connected over prison reform work. I think you are no longer involved with the prisons and am indeed interested to hear more about the turn your life has taken in the last couple of years.  Still I will enjoy following this journey and reading more of your lovely updates.  Serg is well, working flat out from home as his libraries are closed but he is involved with Covid related support of various kinds for Hackney Council.  Zaki and his delightful Catalan girlfriend Clara are locked down in her South London flat also working hard remotely for a big charity.  Izzy is in Glasgow with Art student flatmates coming up with various creative occupations and poor Rocco (17) is stuck with me and Serg but thank goodness for on line gaming with his mates every evening where you can here them (via head sets) having a lot of fun. Sad though as he was to have been off with them inter railing around Europe, but hopefully it will happen eventually, for now we just wait and I at least am enjoying the slow down amidst all the worry... Anyway lots of love from us all Emma X
Gretchen Mary Laue | Jun 12, 2020
This appeared in our local paper, the Imperial Valley Press today.  I thought some of you would want to read about Stephen

A Reader Writes: Fading asterisms and COVID-19


May was a rough month.


We lost four in our constellation of consanguinity and friendship. Not all were COVID-19 related, but the virus doubled the count and has made grieving almost unbearable. We are unable to visit, to touch, to give and draw sustenance from each other. Electronic prostheses attempt to reach out, but texts, emails and Zoom are no match for human contact at the most important moments of love and connection.


Gabriel Romero is family. Every week for the last 10 years he has helped around our small ranch, fixing things and creating watering systems for our desert plants. Indulging our capricious wish list, Gabby has built a raised bed here and a book case there. One day soon he’ll build the treehouse for the grandkids. Gabby gladly helps friends and relatives when they need a drain cleaned, a playhouse built, a wall painted, or some simple but overwhelming “cleaning up.” Gabby always comes with a smile and an idea, his portable radio tuned to El Show de Pioln, listening to romantic songs and raucous, sometimes off color chistes that make him laugh out loud.


Gabby’s brother Fito had been sick for months. In March, he got worse. As the virus progressed, Fito was in and out of the hospital. Sent home one last time, he told his wife she should “start looking for a coffin.” Within a week, on Cinco de Mayo, Fito was gone. Gabby sent us a text: “Ya se nos fue mi hermano en la mañana.”


My husband, Mario, has known the Romero family for close to 50 years. The family has always been close. Over the years, they have met their many trials and joys together. Family members gathered from near and far to say their farewells to their brother. They had heard the coronavirus warnings. Maybe they weren’t loud enough, or perhaps, like many, they didn’t really believe it would make a difference at such an important moment in their lives. They couldn’t let their brother go without being there, without celebrating him. Within a week, two sisters, Carmela and Margara, and one brother, Pierre, were in the hospital with COVID-19. Within 10 days Carmela and Pierre had died. Gabby would text me: “Se nos fue mi hermana.” Then, “Fallecio mi hermano Pierre.” One sister and two brothers in less than a month.


For over 40 years Stephen Matchett has been a close friend. Stephen lived in San Francisco. In January he came to El Centro to celebrate with us at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative luncheon. On a sunny Saturday, he rode his bike from our house to the Old Eucalyptus Schoolhouse where the event was held. Shortly after Stephen returned home, he called and said he was having trouble seeing. Stephen’s trouble was a brain tumor that didn’t respond to radiation or chemotherapy. Within three months he was gone. Three months during the coronavirus shutdown. We couldn’t be with him.


A stroke during the tumor biopsy made speech a struggle for Stephen. Unable to easily converse, and with strict restrictions on visitors, he typed. Using his computer, phone and a website, Stephen provided many friends and family a journal of his last journey – “I wanted to tell you about the wonderful new person on my care team who I met a couple of days ago,” he’d write. And, “The day is done and tomorrow is another. You are a big part of mine, I know that. Love all of you ❤️ Stephen.”


Stephen encountered many obstacles in his life. He coped by giving. He gave until he could no longer, and then, before we could say goodbye, Stephen was gone.

We couldn’t hug Stephen and hold his hand in his last days. We couldn’t be there to comfort and be comforted by family and friends. And Gabriel and his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews couldn’t not hold each other. COVID-19 is leaving its indelible scars. Gabby will never be the same. Nor will we.


Our losses are multiplied by a 100,000 in the United States, and well over a quarter of a million worldwide. Each loss, each family sphere connected to a community, asterisms of families and friends. The connections, the circles and the losses continue.


Through all of this we wear our masks, social distance, limit our trips from home and have no idea who is next. If there is something good that comes out of this virus it is that it reminds us how precious time is and how important we are to each other.


Gretchen Laue lives in El Centro. She is working on a book about the Community Service Organization (CSO), including its history in the Imperial Valley. She can be reached at

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