At Stephen Swope’s memorial Jan. 8, 2005, at the Yacht Club in Riverside, Conn., where Stephen and Susan lived on and off since 1965, the overflow crowd formed a fitting site for a man whose life was, to a large extent, extracurricular. One speaker captured what all the others said, “Our lives were enriched because of his passion.”
Stephen graduated two years later than our class (his “time out,” having something to do with a sawn telephone pole at the intersection of Routes 9 and 116). After receiving his MBA from NYU, he had a successful business career on Wall Street with important stints in London and then Tokyo, serving as manager of the Kidder Peabody Asian office. But it was outside the business world where his life took on special meaning – to himself, his family and his many friends along the way.
He was an accomplished sailor, whether it be frostbite dinghy racing, offshore competitions in his beloved yacht, “Seraphos,” or simply cruising the Baltic Seas with compatriots of his adopted Royal Scandinavian Yacht Clubs and the Nylandska Yaktklubben, of which he was post captain of the North American Station.
One of his U.S. sailing friends spoke to the “pleasure of being shipmate with Steve” and noted “his complete confidence on board, his seamanship, his wonderful warm smile and satisfaction of task, and his modest, tactful way of expressing the skipper's decisions.”
Skiing was a second love, the steeper and the deeper the better. Alta and Taos were two of his favorite destinations, where he and Susan led many expeditions of friends and family. At Taos he introduced the Clarks and the Petersons to the Texas two-step, New Mexico-style, and one band in particular that made each evening as much fun as the day of skiing.
Stephen was significantly involved in two civic activities –Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, N.Y., the nature preserve that is on land donated by Stephen's late grandfather, Gerard Swope, former head of General Electric, and Tabor Academy, on which board he served with his brother, John '60.
He was a prime mover in helping Teatown go through a recent restructuring and financial upgrading. The director of the preserve noted Stephen's “rare quality of not drawing attention to himself, rather to what was being seen and experienced.” His hobby of painting, which he took up later in life, and his excellent photography reflected this characteristic.
Tabor's headmaster spoke to Stephen’s three terms as a board member and his focus on the school’s present and future without waxing sentimental about the past. He recalled a conversation shortly before Stephen died, where Stephen told him, “I’ve really led a charmed life ... my wife, my children, my health...” The headmaster commented, “Charm, I suppose, is a sometimes misunderstood term these days…. I think, now, it was the most understated and dignified expression of the chances of fate I’ve ever heard; his way of asking all the questions, wherever they might lead.” He added that Stephen enjoyed “a metaphorical way of looking at life,” what Stephen said was "a nostalgia for the future.”
|Stephen with two of his three grandchildren, in|
In another metaphorical reference, Tabor’s headmaster said, “It seems to me, Steve’s brain was something like that big work of art over the mantel in his house – very large, full of strange knowledge, odd arcane dancing figures and animals creating a tapestry. You have to stand back a bit to get the whole of it in perspective.”
Common to all the commentary at the memorial was Stephen's mischievous sense of humor, what one speaker called his “soft charisma,” and his generous spirit, devotion to friends, compassion and zest for life. These were the hallmarks of a full life and qualities that will keep him dear to his friends' hearts forever.
Stephen died at 68 of acute myelogenous leukemia. He had battled the disease for over a year, ending up with what appeared to be a successful stem cell transplant, only to have the cancer suddenly roar back and take his life.
In addition to his wife, Susan, Stephen is survived by three children: Stephen Swope Jr. of Seattle, Lindsey Swope '86 of Carton, Wash., and Andrea Swope '89 of Seattle; two brothers; and three grandchildren.
Stephen Park Swope died Dec. 8, 2004, in Seattle.