Quotes taken from Stefan’s Obituary written by Madison Schaefer.
Stefan conquered cancer by the way he chose to live. As Stuart Scott said, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” By all regards, Stefan certainly won. Not only did Stefan beat cancer, but he won the hearts and love of so many. “The number of people who surrounded Stefan in his final days, from family and friends, to teammates and coaches, to doctors and teachers, was a testament to who he was and the number of lives he touched.”
“While Stefan fought cancer, he remained a true friend, son, brother, husband, and inspiration. His strength and fierce embrace of life, conquering and making the most of each day, leaves behind a legacy that continues to teach the importance of friendship and love.” The tributes left on Stefan’s Facebook page reflect his genuine and kind spirit, and his humble and positive manner. His outward display of living with gusto, a smile that engulfed any room, and his full throttle attitude to whatever endeavor the day brought about, were qualities that attracted so many to Stefan. But once you came to know him, not only did you realize he was “a man of action, you realized that his actions in life stemmed from the qualities he embodied. He was the best, if not the most stubborn, at whatever he set his mind to and affected those around him with his intellect, passion for life, and his genuine interest in others. Stefan lived life on such a high; anyone who came into contact with him were attracted to his charisma and his character.”
The closest of friends came to understand why Stefan lived life with so much enthusiasm. His younger brother, Ian, struggles with many disabilities. Stefan felt that he was fortunate to be given the gift of movement, a gift that included a very coordinated body as well! Stefan’s perspective made him determined at a young age to achieve what he set his mind to accomplish. He became a gifted athlete, playing soccer, skiing through the glades and later gates; doing back layouts on the trampoline; and water skiing with grace. It helped that he was fearless, but more importantly, he showed by example, that determination, patience, and boundless resolve was necessary to be good at something and achieve what you set out to accomplish. Along the way, Stefan gained another perspective at an early age. As a strong competitor in middle school, Stefan was often able to score from outside the box and bring the team to victory; but he came to realize that others on the team did not leave the field smiling. Stefan’s focus shifted to encouraging inexperienced players to be in the proper position and together they would be a better team. Stefan opted to pass to a forward in position, even though he did not have the strongest kick, instead of attempting the score himself because in Stefan’s words “that is how a team plays. If you were a forward on the team and in the best position to score, you would want to be passed the ball.” Stefan’s character at a young age was beginning to shine.
Stefan’s spunk and charm seemed to be something that he was born with, as he displayed this at a very early age. As at toddler, his brilliant blonde head of hair and his mischievous grin, along with his coordinated little body constantly on the move, were too much for many to resist. He giggled and grinned almost continuously, except when he was pestering his older brother, Seth. Stefan always wanted Seth’s attention so when Seth would be intently thinking about something he was building, Stefan would most often annoy Seth to get his attention and get some action going. Those of you who know Stefan, know one of his favorite sayings was, “the more you think, the less you do.” Perhaps this was how this thought was formulated! At a young age, he seemed to know just what to say and when to deliver the best compliments. On the way home from a lemonade social to greet the incoming kindergartens, he told his mom she was the most beautiful woman there! How could a child at such a young age be so smart when it came to getting a smile from across the car?
One of the roles that Stefan was most proud of was being a big brother to his sister. Since he could not play rambunctiously with Ian, he was happy when Maria joined the family. He played rough with her but at the same time he was very protective of her. Jumping on the trampoline on a fall day was getting too cold for Maria, so Stefan took off his socks and put them on her hands. The smiles he got back were what made him happy. Many of the stories that friends wrote in a journal during his final days, talked about little things that Stefan did to show that he had a connection with them or that he was thinking of them. Not big things that were seen by everyone, but small gestures that I’m sure put a smile on both their faces – and that is what made Stefan’s generosity and kind nature continue to grow.
It was likely Stefan’s charm that first got his wife’s attention back in Chemistry class, but it was most likely his kind nature, love of the water and outdoors, and his fortitude that made them so compatible. On their wedding day, the smile on Stefan’s face as he watched Alexandra walk down the aisle, told the world that he felt he was the luckiest man alive. The unwavering love and devotion the two shared was a blessing and a lesson for all.
Stefan was a very clear thinker and as one of his teachers said, no matter what side of a debate you gave to Stefan he could always argue a good case. His intellect and ability to talk to young and old, professional and inexperienced, along with his genuine interest in people were what made him liked by so many. As Stefan moved through life, he began to realize that his character was more important than his physical abilities. In his college application essay, he writes about his change of perspective after a delicate surgery to remove a benign tumor on his vertebrae. He reflects about his grandfather and realizes his grandfather’s character set him apart and drew people to him. Stefan writes, “My physical skills define much of who I am today, but it is my character that I want to distinguish me in the future. I want to earn the respect of the ball boy, the referee, the rookie, and the best soccer player on the field; the janitor in the school and the principal; the athletes and those in wheelchairs. Ironically it was the fear of losing my physical abilities that gave me the insight that I want my non-physical qualities to define who I truly am.” And little did he know, he had distinguished himself long ago, not only as a person who effortlessly accomplished any physical feat, but as a person who shared himself selflessly and easily with a welcoming smile, a contagious love of life, and an unquestionable generosity of spirit.
In this spirit, we are creating a foundation that will enable those, like Stefan, who imbue these qualities, to overcome the limitations that cancer has dealt them; a chance to conquer the day.
Stefan’s College Application Essay titled “Reflections” can be read here.