SUMMARY: September 1954 - June 2011June 12, 7:30 p.m., added more (flagged below).
Last Tuesday, my friend Stephanie lost her battle with cancer, and it's been hard to think what to say.
I've known her since the late 1970s through mutual college friends here. She moved up to Reno and worked as a dealer and then as a pit boss in a casino, and then was actively recruited to move back to New Jersey when the Atlantic City casinos opened, which she did for a while, too. Came back to San Jose, got married, moved to Maryland (where I visited her once), got divorced, moved to Berkeley to finish her computer science degree as a 30-something returning student. Worked at Apple and a couple of other high-tech companies. I just learned that the founders of Cisco attended her wedding, back before there was a Cisco.
She never recovered enough from her last rounds of chemo, and the cancer's steady advance, to take the road trip that she really wanted. But she did get a chance to spend money on herself, things she'd been wanting to do for years but, being sensible, had put it all away into retirement funds. She had the whole interior of the house cleaned and painted. Replaced the old leaky, sticking, cracked windows with beautiful, new, smoothly-operating, double-paned windows. She got to enjoy them for a few short months, and that was very important to her.
She always avoided having her photo taken, so although we did lots of things together, I have almost no photos of her. The one time we actually sat together, up at Henry Coe, and had a passer-by take a photo of us together, dang, my camera malfunctioned and I never got that photo (and didn't double-check until I got home).
Mostly I have photos of her covered up to protect herself from the sun (some of the treatments she got made her more sensitive to sunburn), often with her camera--we went off together to take bird photos, flower photos, nature photos, mountain photos, anything.
It's too bad there aren't more photos of her--she was a handsome woman. She did pick one of my photos of her to use as her official Facebook photo for quite a long time:
Added following paragraph and photo: June 12, 7:30 p.m.
She liked taking photos, though; her digital SLR was a pretty new thing for her that she researched carefully and was given as a gift by her family. She got some great shots of birds in particular. Here's one she particularly liked (and I do, too), of avocets up at the baylands--I didn't get my camera up in time and missed the cool pas de deux that she captured.
Steph was a good and generous friend. She could sometimes be a little overwhelming, but she really did seem to place other people's needs higher than her own. She spent a lot of time in the last couple of years doing really excellent genealogical research for people to whom she wasn't even directly related by bloodlines, and working hard to make sure that it would be easy for her family to take care of her and her estate.
Her love for, and knowledge of, birds and flowers and all things natural were amazing. She could cite common name and scientific name. She could identify many birds by their song. (She had similar encyclopedic knowledge of just about anything that she ever paid any attention to at all, and she wasn't shy about sharing it.) She could strike up a conversation with anyone and wasn't afraid to do so (here with a volunteer trail worker on one of our wildflower hikes at Edgewood Park).
When she decided to fight the cancer by being as healthy as she could be, she arranged regular weekly walks with two or three different people--I was Friday Walkies. She liked dogs, too; because of her illness, she hadn't gotten another after her last one died. But she was always willing to hang onto my doggies while I and my camera got up close and personal with various plants.
She also approached her cancer with as much humor as she could muster. She had quite a variety of shirts like these.
Sparky—her midsized "doglet"—and my Remington joined our respective households at about the same time. Sparky manifested cancer of the anal gland at a too-young age, and Steph went to amazing lengths (washing the backside sometimes several times a day with special treatments and so on) to try to make Sparky's life as pain-free and fun as long as possible, a couple of years at least. She had a Sparky cancer diary while I had Remington's, and both dogs moved on out of this life at about the same time.
Her last posted photo of Sparky she titled "Heavenly dog." I do hope they're back together now.
Steph's web sites:
- Sparky's Cancer Page
- Steph's web site with brief bio, links to photos and notes
- Free-Range Turtle, her blog mostly about gardening and nature, lots of photos
- Kicking Butt, Taking Names, the blog she started with the cancer diagnosis but covers her life in general, too--trips, genealogy, hikes, whatever, although the last few months it's just been her health status. (In the teeny tiny font list of tags on the left, scroll to the end and click on "View My Tags Page", then click, say, genealogy to get posts mostly about that.)
- Her Facebook page