On a warm September day in 1987 I walked onto the campus of Dartmouth College to start my quest for an MBA at The Amos Tuck School.  I came away 2 years later with something much more valuable than a fine degree.  I came away with a group of friendships that have helped shape and enrich my life for the past 21 years.  I am here now as a humble representative of those men and of our special friendship. 

I first noticed Steve in the Tuck dorms, hobbling on crutches after a recent knee surgery.  His knees were never his greatest strength I’m afraid.  We always wondered how a guy with chicken legs could be such a good athlete.

Steve was someone that you noticed, not just because of his quick wit, wry smile and boyish good looks, but more because he was just fun to be around.  People liked to be with Steve.  I always felt that wherever Stevie was …that was the place to be.   I was, we all were, honored and privileged to be his friend.

Steve’s timing was always pretty good too.  One night in Hanover after a heavy snowfall and a couple of beers, Steve, Michael and I decided it would be a good idea to do some donuts in Steve’s Chevy Blazer on the soccer fields down the street from the big house we all shared at 106 South Main Street.  After a few turns of pure boyish joy, it was Michael’s turn to play stunt driver.  Not more than 30 seconds after taking the wheel, the campus police arrived to put a stop to our fun; sending only Michael to the dean’s office.

Of course a guy like Steve attracted the ladies.  But once his sights were set on a pretty young undergrad from Westchester County…forget it.  Steve was off the market and happily so.

As most of you know, Steve loved sports.  From watching his beloved Skins to coaching the kid’s teams to Darien championships, Steve loved competition.  Our annual Tuck boys golf outing at the Seaview Resort in New Jersey is now in its 20th year, and had its genesis from Steve’s bachelor party.  No outing was more important to us all than this hallowed weekend at the end of spring each year.  I believe it was Closeman who a few years back, as we were arguing about strokes on the first tee, coined the phrase ”Let the bickering begin.”   And, while he would rib me without mercy if I missed a short putt, I was always happy to be his partner in our weekend long competitions, because win or lose Steve made it fun. 

Of course competitive people, who are also good athletes, can often be perceived as “cocky” or “arrogant.”  I doubt there is a person in this building today who would ever associate those words with Steve.   It just wasn’t his way.

He had a terrific, dry wit.  As I was reminiscing with Johnny V yesterday he reminded me of a Steve story from our single days in New York when Steve was working at TamBrands and shared an apartment with V and Westy.  Early one weekday morning, they met on the way to the shower.  After rubbing the sleep out of his eyes as only Closeman could, he smiled and said “Johnny, you ever have one of those days when selling Tampons isn’t the most important thing in your life?”

In his own way, Steve was a leader and a trailblazer for our little band of brothers.  Not in the loud, look at me style of yours truly, but in his own quiet confident way.  Steve was the first one of us to get married.  Together Steve and Barbara showed all of us what a positive, supportive marriage looked like.  He and Barb were the first ones to have children, and they taught us how much joy parenthood could bring into our lives and the sacrifices required to nurture a productive and positive family.  In short, Steve showed us how to do the big things, the important things, the right things.  The example was set in his daily life, including of course his battle with cancer that he and Barbara handled with a grace and humility that was simply an inspiration to us all.

Since settling down in Darien to raise his family, Steve of course built many terrific friendships beyond his Tuck buddies--although we frowned on this.  You saw in Steve what we saw;  were attracted to his good humor and good soul.  Friends from Tokeneke, from Hindley and other schools, from the kids soccer and basketball  teams, and friends from work, especially a man I now consider a friend,  Joe Lack, who along with his colleagues at Lack and Daily never waivered in their support and love for Steve, Barb and the children.  Good people have a way of finding each other I suppose.

Over these past 21 years we have come to know someone who was strong in his faith, loved his parents Marcia and Arthur, and his brother Tom;  adored his beautiful wife Barbara, and more than anything else, found joy and fulfillment in his children.  Although we are all dads now, none of us has ever been a prouder parent, accepting his children each as individuals while lauding their accomplishments big and small. 

Katy, Haley and Charlie… your Dad often called us brothers, and brothers were proud to be called.  Know that you will always hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of all of your Dad’s friends, for you are his legacy.  A legacy you can be proud of, gain strength from and build upon as you forge your own path in life. 

Not long ago Steve said that he and Barb were ready for whatever God’s plan had in store for them.  It appears God’s plan was to bring Steve closer to Him at this time.  But as Michael said to me earlier this week, “Jerz I miss him already.”  I do too Michael, wry smile, knobby knees and all.