John Helding|May 23, 2020 (edited)
I am still in shock at the turn in Stephen's health and his sudden passing. I know I am not alone. Sitting here with my first cup of coffee on Lopez Island this Saturday morning and reading back through everyone's caringbridge entries. They bring solace and tears and a laugh or two. So. many. lives. touched. In so many ways. Wow. So much cheerful walking over the earth and seeing that of God in everyone and in every creature. So many lives helped inside those prison walls. I don't know what more to add on the themes of faithfulness and love and action and friendship to what has already been shared so poignantly.

But I am moved to share a small, unique, strange, mystical moment of Stephen's life that is of significance to me. I am sure there are other such stories. All I can think to add right now. Not sure if I am doing it more for Stephen, friends and family, or my own grief. Likely a bit of all and thanks for your forbearance if I go on too long.

Over the past 14 years since I left SF to be with my partner Lisa here on Lopez, Stephen a number of times came up to the island as a part of his visits to his parents on Hood Canal. Always of course via, train, bus, ferry, and bicycle. Loved meeting him at the ferry landing and together riding the last five miles to our house in the center of the island. Always amazed after the distance he'd already ridden I'd have to pedal hard to keep up with him. And in his faithful visits, his out-of-the-way visits, his didn't have to go those extra miles visits, he was such a welcomed ongoing connection for me to my former life in the California. And he'd help work on the land too, of course. A most cherished guest and friend that we looked forward to seeing every year or so.

And his connection to Lopez Island was one of the reasons I was able to hear God's call to move north to Lopez in the first place. That's because in 1978, Stephen made his first visit to the cabin in the woods that is now my home with my partner Lisa. A Seattle high school friend of Stephen's was partnered with the man who'd cleared a meadow in the mid-island forest and built a small cabin. In the summer of 1978, Stephen came to visit his high school friend and her then partner for a weekend.

27 years later in the fall of 2005, Stephen shared that story at a dinner gathering in my then home in Cole Valley/SF. Lisa and I had just started dating (we had reconnected at a college reunion earlier that year) , she was visiting SF, and I was introducing her to my friends in SF. At the end of dinner as we were having dessert (Stephen always had dessert!), Stephen asked Lisa what island she lived on. Lisa shared "Lopez." And Stephen then shared his story of his one weekend visit to Lopez. Lisa instantly recognized the description of the place and the man -- as he was her future husband, Hugh. And the cabin Stephen had visited her current home. Moreover, at the time of Stephen's visit to Lopez, 1978, Lisa and I were choirmates at Oregon State University in Corvallis. We all kinda of sat back in our chairs amazed at the coincidence -- or maybe not the coincidence .... And I remember in that instance in time, I knew, I just knew, that way was opening for me to leave SF and join Lisa on Lopez. One of/the best move I've ever made in life. And now, in a tragic twist to this continuing story of intersecting circles, 15 years later, Stephen has been taken from us by a brain tumor -- the same disease that took Lisa's husband Hugh from this world in 1998.

I don't know by any logical process what to make of any of this. But I do know, so clearly and in so many ways, that Stephen is one of those 'thin places' in life -- a person in whom, through whom, you can see a shining, bright, and encouraging glimpse of the beyond. Not from words, but from how he walked and biked and served and lived in this world. And so why wouldn't he be helping God open my eyes to so many many things and ways of being -- including following my heart and leaving all behind in SF to move to a cabin in the woods in the San Juan Islands. Just a small aspect of Stephen's presence and dare I say work in this world. All in a day of Stephen's and God's work.

His last visit to Lopez, in 2019, he had to get up real early to make the ferry, then the bus, then another ferry, and then a ride to his parent's home on Hood Canal. A chilly and foggy dawn as he loaded up his panniers, launched himself onto his bike, and pedaled down our gravel driveway that weaves between the tall island firs. He waved over his head and I waved and shouted goodbye as he disappeared into the thick fog, his small red tail light visible a few feet more ....

Appreciating the chance to share this story here. It helps me at least. Stephen met so much to so many people. My condolences to his dear and wonderful family. Thank you for sharing him with all of us. And I know he is waiting in the world beyond. Just a bit ahead of us all, his big lanky frame on his bicycle leading the way home. Godspeed dear loving and faithful friend.
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Don Willenburg|May 23, 2020
David, thank you so much for this, for your support of your brother, and for sharing with us what have been a difficult message to write a few days ago. I knew Stephen through the weekly Federal Building vigil against wars. He was an anchor and inspiration for all of us there. As others have posted, we are all better for having known him, and will be better going forward as we try to act as he would. Peace, Don
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John Helding|May 23, 2020
Dear David, I too would appreciate your parent's mailing address. Thank you and blessings, John
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Wolfgang Schreiber|May 23, 2020 (edited)
Dear friends,
On the 17th I created a Padlet web page where we can share our most precious moments with Stephen. I had hoped Stephen would still be able to see these photos .... that's why I asked him questions ...
Now it is a loving memorial for Stephen.
The past two days I have been looking through my photos from the early nineties on (those pictures I found in albums I had to scan), it is my way to cope.
Please have a look at
It is private, just for us.
If you like the idea: Please share some photos, post comments, so I can print the Padlet later and send it to Stephen's parents.
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Susan Rickert|May 22, 2020
Please tell us if and when there will be a Memorial service or gathering to honor
Stephen's memory. His spirit is still so fresh in my mind.
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Muriel Edgerton|May 22, 2020
Da vid, I too would like to have Bill and Judy's address. I remember them from long ago. My email address is
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Larry Knopp|May 22, 2020
David, I know the street addresses on Hood Canal changed recently. Can you share your parents' address? My email is
-- Larry
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