Amherst Magazine

DAVID ROCKWELL STEPHENS ’58 

Dave Stephens and Anne Smaridge met at a Mount Holyoke College “social” three days into Anne’s freshman year, the beginning of Dave’s senior year at Amherst.  They married in 1958, and, after Dave served in two years in the U.S. Navy as an air intelligence officer, they settled in Seattle, Wash. Dave studied forest engineering at the Univ. of Washington and later worked in various investment firms before forming his own business, Trace Athletic, which manufactured athletic equipment.  In 1994 they moved to Vershire, Vt. There, Dave was able to pursue his wide and deep love of the outdoors, which included farming. He loved training a set of draft horses to help work their farm. Dave played a significant role at the school, assisting in business issues and maintenance and instructing students about horses and farming.      

Dave came to us from Putney School in Vermont where early on he distinguished himself in athletics, among other things, winning the state downhill skiing championship.   

Dave was unquestionable the best athlete in our Class. His accomplishments in baseball and football are legendary.  When Amherst celebrated its 100 years of playing collegiate baseball, Dave was one of nine players selected for the centenary team.  Dave’s success in athletics grew not just from his flat out natural ability but also from his ironclad discipline in conditioning himself, his dogged determination, his high intelligence and his tremendous versatility. In baseball he was our catcher as a freshman and could and did play infield or outfield on the varsity. In football, Dave was an outstanding defensive and offensive end and punter. Many of us remember Dave’s miraculous catch in the end zone, our junior year, resulting in Amherst’s 6-0 upset of long-undefeated Tufts. Dave had to dive and stretch out to make that catch before hitting the goal post, causing a broken tooth. In the ’57 game, Dave recovered an early Tufts fumble that led to our first touchdown in a 19-6 victory. Dave had that elusive “extra something” that marks winners.  As Tom Gorman put it, “Dave was a highly skilled athlete who improved each year through hard work and attention to details . . . extremely capable, a ‘rock,’ one you always count on for maximum effort and positive results.”
    
Dave and Anne’s life was rich with many wholesome activities and interests. They maintained farms in both Seattle and Vermont. When Dave was 11, he spent the first of three summers working on a farm in New Brunswick, Canada. This experience cultivated his deep and long lasting love of farming, draft horses, animals and the rural landscape.

Dave enjoyed cooking, soccer, volleyball, canoeing and bird watching in waterways of the Pacific Coast of British Columbia and later on the Connecticut River. He and Anne danced to Harold Luce at Mountainview, to country western music at bars, and, in their farm home, to the Beatles. They canoed and hiked extensively in the Maine Islands, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and on the dangerous seas on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Later in life, they grew to love “looking” and “educating themselves about art” as they frequented museums and art shows.    

Anne wrote this of Dave for our 50th Reunion book. “Dave has always been a New England Yankee: tough, contained, unselfish, responsible, understated and relatively undemonstrative emotionally, competent, diligent and hard working.” This description of Dave fits so well with those us who were lucky enough to know him.

Dave Stephens died on Nov. 15, 2008, after a four-year battle with Lewy Body Disease, a progressive neurological disease manifested by progressive dementia and Parkinsonism. Dave and Anne have two boys: Benjamin ’81 and Tim ’85 and five grandsons. Ben majored in psychology and was a soccer star (was drafted by a pro-team) and also, at one time held the indoor high jump record. He is now a lawyer and works for Intelligent Ventures in the state of Washington. Tim majored in economics, played soccer, was a three time All-American, went to Tuck Business School and is now an executive vice president for Fidelity.

—Marsh McLean ’58

Comments

I have often wondered who the resident genius was that placed me on 4th Floor James with Roger Mayer and Dave Stephens.  Could there have been a more unlikely combination?  I doubt it.
While Roger and Dave had athletics in common, I had practically no points of tangency with either one.  Yet, somehow, mysteriously, Dave and I hit it off.  Not that we were the greatest of friends while we were at Amherst – far from it.  We rarely saw each other.  But when we did, we were glad of it.

A few years later, when I was teaching at St. George’s, in Newport, RI, Dave and Ann were living across the bay in I believe it was Kingston.  I spent some wonderful evenings with them during those two years, and they are treasured memories.

After that two-year stint, I motored across country with a friend, moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, and we stopped off in Seattle for the World’s Fair and a couple of days with Dave and Ann.  I remember little of the details of that visit, but recall vividly the fine time we had with them, and the strength of Dave’s and my relationship that was undiminished from the past.

I mourn his passing, and I celebrate his having been among us.

-- Peter Strauss ‘58

This is not your usual comment; I really didn't know Dave while at Amherst even though his father and my step-father were close.  But we were in different fraternities -- I know, poor excuse.  Anyway my step-brother Tom and his wife became good friends in Seattle with Dave and Anne and there was mutual love on both sides.  Anne came to our family reunion in September and we exchanged some nice thoughts.  Marsh will never acknowledge this, so I will -- she really appreciated his obit and getting to know him in the process. 

Thanks, Marsh

 

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