Stephen F. Kramer‚Äôs exuberant and passionate life inspired many to reach their goals, challenge conventional thinking, and expand their career horizons. Steve battled valiantly and with great humor and patience to overcome a recurrence of lym¬¨phoma in recent months before passing peacefully out of pain at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane on May 14, 2012 with his wife and daughter nearby.
Steve was born in San Diego, CA on Aug. 29, 1952, the first of two boys to Francis R. and Georgia Z. Kramer. Growing up in the Vallejo, CA area, his youth was filled with family and friends who inspired in him a love for golf, sports, and the great out¬¨doors.
Following graduation at Vallejo High in 1971, Steve joined the USAF and served in Korea, Hawaii and Texas before his Honor¬¨able Discharge in 1979. During this time, he married and di¬¨vorced his first wife, Ginger, and his only child, Jennifer, was born in Hawaii.
Steve then spent several years as an equipment technician with Houston Instruments, traveling throughout the western and central United States. Because of all the airtime he spent with this experience, he vowed never to fly again and subse¬¨quently enjoyed many long car trips with the music of Jackson Browne, Indigo Girls, Grateful Dead, John Prine, Bob Dylan and others easing the miles.
As a youngster, Steve wanted a drum set so he could emulate Ringo Starr. His wise parents gave him a guitar instead and his natural musical ability brought many friends together around campfires or living rooms, listening to Steve play and sing in his deep voice. Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls was a personal anthem for him and it was always requested because he sang it with such ardor.
Steve had a natural proclivity to teach. He was patient, inspi¬¨rational and always able to bring a little humor to any situation. In 1990, he was drawn to continue his education and enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. While there, he earned a BS Cum Laude in Anthropology in 1994 and was awarded the Kolervo Obert Award for Outstanding Senior. He went on to earn an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (degree awarded 2001) and often credited Professor Barbara Roth for much of his inspiration. His Majors included Anthropology, with emphasis in Historical Archaeology, and minors in Anthro¬¨pology in Pre-historic Archaeology and History, with emphasis in Western American History. During college, he held teaching assistant positions within the anthropology department and also taught computer courses at the Linn-Benton Community College in Corvallis.
In 1997 he began working in the field of his dreams as an Ar¬¨cheological Assistant for Oregon State University College of For¬¨estry Research and also obtained his first appointment with the U.S. Forest Service, working on the Lassen National Forest at Hat Creek Ranger District. In 1998 he worked on the Boise and then the Cibola National Forests at the Mountain Air Ranger District and then moved to the Willamette National Forest with the Middle Fork Ranger District in 1999.
During his time in Oregon, Steve met his good friend Patti and joined her and other friends in operating her food booth at the Oregon Country Fair. Steve was a regular ‚ÄúFair Family‚ÄĚ member for many years, returning to the Eugene, OR area each summer for a week or two to set-up, run and enjoy the festivi¬¨ties that only the OCF can provide. His singing, business skills and outgoing personality quickly surrounded him with many friends who are still in touch.
In early 2001, Steve ventured into Colville to accept his first permanent appointment as Forest Archaelogist with the Colville National Forest. He worked as such until his death and man¬¨aged his program with an integrity and passion that inspired and encouraged many co-workers within the extended agency.
Each summer he coordinated a Passport In Time (PIT) project at which volunteers from all over the US and his summer youth crews provided the labor to complete many cabin and home¬¨stead restoration projects on the CNF. These projects often re¬¨quired a complete dismantling of the structure and re-con¬¨struction using traditional methods and hand tools.
A recent project was finalized in 2011 at the Growden Changing House off Highway 20 near Sherman Pass. A few ex¬¨cavation and survey projects were also conducted, most re¬¨cently in 2007 near the Ferry County Courthouse in Republic. During the PIT projects, Steve was both supervisor and educa¬¨tor because he believed in order to appreciate the past, people needed to know the local history and use tools and materials as similar to the originals as possible. Many PIT volunteers re¬¨turned year after year because of Steve‚Äôs personality, willing¬¨ness to share his knowledge, and enthusiasm for preserving the history of the CNF.
Steve employed several college-bound youth each summer to manage the requirements of his program. They received not only a good summer income to support their education, but also inspiration and direction from him to continue in college. Many of these people became long-time friends and have gone on to major in anthropological studies and careers.
Steve developed good working relationships with other staff on the CNF, the Colville Tribe, utility companies operating on Forest Service lands, and the Republic, Three Rivers and New¬¨port Ranger Districts staff. He was recognized with many merit and achievement awards during his 11 years on the CNF and achieved his 20-year Federal Service pin.
He was a member and treasurer of the Employee Association at the CNF Superintendant‚Äôs Office for many years and each November served as auctioneer for the staff‚Äôs homemade goodie auction to benefit local food banks. His Rastafarian and Cheech & Chong imitations always got the brownies to sell for big bucks. His generosity extended to all, but he was especially mindful of children at Christmas and for several years took on the wish lists of entire families, purchasing every item on each child‚Äôs list to ensure happy memories for the less fortunate.
In 2003 he met the woman who would become his wife and introduced her to his Oregon Country Fair family as they worked together serving up raw fruit pies at the ‚ÄúPatti‚Äôs Pies‚ÄĚ booth. She was welcomed by all his friends as being ‚Äėgood for him‚ÄĚ and eventually he realized this himself and married Di¬¨anna Michaels on 12/31/2008.
They made their home in Colville where he enjoyed watching Dianna garden and bake cookies for him while he took on many DIY home projects that were creatively suggested by his bride. Steve and Dianna made a good team --whether working to¬¨gether or off pursuing their own interests. Steve loved children and took great care to love and nurture Dianna‚Äôs two girls and was happy to re-connect with his own grown daughter.
Steve was a member and Treasurer with the Dominion Mead¬¨ows Men‚Äôs Golf Club. In 2011, he won the ‚ÄúA‚ÄĚ Flight of the Men‚Äôs Tournament‚ÄĒsome say by an extra long putt he sunk on the seventh hole. Golfing was his sporting passion to play and the OSU Beavers were his sporting passion to follow. He was also a San Francisco Giants fan and never missed a Mariner‚Äôs game. If his teams weren‚Äôt playing, he was satisfied to tune in just about any football, basketball or baseball game, and of course, he followed the Masters Golf Tournament.
He often said, ‚Äúa bad day golfing is better than a good day at work‚ÄĚ and he seldom let golf cause him frustration. Steve joined the Colville Elks in 2011 and very much enjoyed his times at the ‚Äú19th Hole‚ÄĚ with his golf buds.
Steve was preceded in death by both of his parents and by his good friend Patti (of Patti‚Äôs Pies).
He is survived by his wife, Dianna Michaels; his daughter, Jennifer Lease and husband Rex and grand-daughter, Ella Rose, Hayward, CA.; a brother, Mike, Colville; step-daughters, Jessica (Keis) Cockerham and husband Paul, and Meghan (Keis) Lyons and husband Chris, Colville; mother and fathers-in-law, Nora (Light) and husband, Elmer Rappe, and Larry and Dorothy Philmon, Okanogan; sister and brothers-in-law, Sharon (Phil¬¨mon) and husband, Jim Holland, Ephrata; Dennis and Joan Philmon, and children, Kendra, Leah and Cailey, Columbia Falls, MT; Leslie and Michelle Philmon and children, Julila, Larry and Eljay in Alaska; and many cousins, friends and co-workers.
The outpouring of support from friends, co-workers and fam¬¨ily during this difficult time that came upon us so suddenly is very touching. We are especially thankful for the good care pro¬¨vided by NEW Home Health nurses, Shannon and Patricia; that of Doctors Artzis, Mendez-Vigo and Waters; and also to Drs. Sienko and Andrea, and all the nursing and office staff at Can¬¨cerCare Northwest north offices; and his surgeon, Dr. Maryam Parviz and nurse Patty at the south offices of CCNW; his super¬¨visor, Craig Newman, and all of Steve‚Äôs co-workers on the CNF.
A Celebration of Life will be held for Steve on Saturday, June 9 from noon to 4 p.m. at the home of his good friend and co-worker, Deb Gereaux. Please join us at 2280 Whitetail Lane (Pheasant Estates). Bring your own ‚Äėbrewski‚Äô, a side dish to share, your lawn chairs and a good story to tell on Steve. Co-workers at the Colville National Forest Supervisor‚Äôs Office will provide non-alcoholic drinks and a main dish.
Donations in his memory may be made to either the American Red Cross or to our local Relay for Life.
Thank you for making us better human beings by sharing your light with us.