This letter, from a complete stranger, was one of the first we received:
I do not know you, nor did I know Steve, but I was riveted to his obituary in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Sunday. My partner who is in the medical community here in Bozeman reads the obits every day, as some of them have been her patients through some unkind turns of fate. I seldom read them, and usually only after Donna hands them to me.
Sunday, for some reason, I saw Steve’s photo and age and read on. I have always wanted to go to Africa. To have passed away in Togo, I thought he must have been an adventurer. I guess one of the things that riveted me to the story was the knowledge that as a child, I knew I would never make it to be older than 25. Why did I know such a thing? It was my wanderlust. It was my crazy adventures. It was just a feeling. I wondered how my family would handle it.
Steve is a New Englander like myself straight from the Berkshires. I wondered why it was in the Chronicle? Was it for family? Is there another Berkshire family in Bozeman? I know a few. Like me, he attended prep schools and loved the out of doors through skiing and hiking.
Seeing that Steve attended MSU now clued me into why it was in the Chronicle. I too was a student here in Bozeman, though it was before Steve was born. Knowing the probability was high, I wondered if we unknowingly skied together at Bridger or Big Sky where I teach skiing in the winter.
Then, the obituary turned uncanny, as if I was reading my own while I read about Camp Becket. I did not continue my tenure at Becket as Steve did, but my fond memories of Rudd Pond have never been far away. I enjoy recalling the summer days in August of ’64 and ’65, of “Little Bear” running through life along the shores and swimming out to the 440 rock and back. The memories flowed like a broken dam. There was so much of Steve’s short life, that paralleled my own.
Though I feel confident he had a great life, I am sad for your grief and his untimely passing. I’m sure many, both family and non-family, will miss him. I wish you a speedy healing of these tumultuous days. I hope you find the great memories of Steve’s life to carry with you.
This e-mail is from Dave D:
I believe I've sent you an email like this before, but I thought you'd like to know.
I'm currently receiving applications for the aides program - I may end up with as many as 50 candidates for the 22 spots in the program. As always, a question on the application asks for the candidate to write about a counselor or camp leader that affected them.
No less than three applicants have written about Steven. Some of their comments:
"Steve taught me everything I know about leadership. He was a great friend to me and really introduced me to the Becket family. Steve was a wonderful person who had tons of friends in the Becket community and a very strong presence. I miss him a lot and I'm grateful for all he did for me as a counselor and a VD."
"Steve was just the coolest, most caring person I've ever met."
"Steve was my counselor and VD. He was an influence on me in so many different aspects of my life; the music I listened to , the sports I played - the list goes on and on. Anyway, I remember after I had gone home after 1st session 1999 I sent him a demo tape that some of my friends and I had put together. He asked me if I was gonna rap on the next one, and I started to write, which later turned to poetry - now a big part of my life."
I know that Steve will continue to be a positive force in the lives of these guys and so many others.
These are excerpts from letters from Steve’s campers:
Steve was the best counselor that I’ve ever had and he taught me so much about living the Becket way and about life. I will miss him deeply.
Steve was my counselor at Camp Becket during the ‘96-’97 session. He helped make that summer one of the best and most influential of my life. Steve inspired me with his leadership and his love for life. That summer at camp I had more fun under Steve’s guidance and leadership than I’ve ever had anywhere else. He inspired me to achieve when I was sure I couldn’t. He showed my friends and me the best summer any of us had ever seen. The world’s loss of Steve Grave is one that will be mourned by the other kids whose lives he touched and changed so positively. I cannot imagine your sadness, but I hope it will bring some cheer that he so changed my life. His influence during that summer gave me a new outlook on life. He taught me confidence, leadership, and most importantly, how to seize the day.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Steve for many years at Becket. He truly embodied so much of what Becket stands for. He could always be counted on to do anything for anybody.
I would like to share something with you about Steve. Steve knew the coolest, best fishing areas in camp. He told us if we guessed it he would tell us. We never guessed it. Steve was a good Village Director and a friend
Steve meant a lot to me, more than a friend, Steve was a mentor. I will never forget the fire that he made on Dad’s weekend when no one could sit in the first four rows of the Ranger amphitheater. Memories like that are what keep Steve alive in my heart.
I am thankful for the time I was able to spend with Steve.
This note, from a camper, was in Steve’s letter collection:
You were a great, great counselor. I learned a whole lot from you. Probably the most important of which being equinimity. I never saw you lose your temper and was amazed at how many ideas you had.
These letters (or excerpts) are from co-workers at Becket or other friends:
Dear Ted, Sally & Pete,
I am writing to express my sorrow over Steve’s death. I was a CIT in Frontier Village in 1997 when Steve was a counselor there, and was a counselor under him when he was a VD last year.
In 1997, although I did not work in the same cabin that Steve did, I knew I could always count on him for advise on how to deal with situations in a cabin group. Also, whenever we had time off at the same time, he always offered to take me along at times when I would otherwise be stranded at camp.
However, I really got to know Steve much better last summer. To me, he was the perfect VD, because he always offered great advise on cabin dynamics, but allowed counselors freedom to run their cabins with their own unique style. He was amazing with campers of all types, he seemed to be a magnet for them whenever he was hanging around the village. Also, working in the same village with him once again, I got to know him much better than just hanging around. Among other things, he taught me how to play backgammon, a game that I have in turn introduced to my family.
Steve truly loved Becket, and his love for Becket was contagious to campers and staff alike. I will never forget the last conversation we had on closing day last year, when he gave me a big hug and told me how much I had meant to the camp that summer. Coming from him, that was as nice a compliment as I had ever received.
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Grave:
(A Becket Friend) just called to tell me the horrible news about Steve. I cannot tell you how sorry I am. I only met Steve a few years ago at work week at camp, but it didn’t take long to figure out how special he was. Just listening to him talk with incredible enthusiasm about the fishing program he had started or think out loud about the ideas he had for being a Village Director, made it easy to see how bright, thoughtful and caring he was. I was thrilled to see Steve back at camp and leading young people again this summer. He was exactly the kind of young man that I wish every Becket camper would have as a counselor.
I remember with fondness the curiosity, energy and smiles of the young Steve, and I remember with admiration the strength, ease and serenity of the adult Steve. As are so many other people, I am thankful that he touched my life.
I wish you peace,
Love & amici
Steve was a great gift to all of us, and for so many reasons. He had a talent for finding and bringing out the best of any personality. He was honest and loyal, tough but a gentleman, and entirely original.
Steve was such a thoughtful listener. I often went to him with various problems.
I know I will never lose the numerous memories I have of Steven, he was entirely too amazing and beautiful of a person who always impacted the way I saw things.
Steve was unafraid and knew who he was, which is a hororable thing especially for someone so young. I will remember him for the things that he taught me. I will remember that he taught me to appreciate every day, every moment.
I feel very lucky to have been a good friend of Steve’s. While there are some individuals that passively drift through life from day to day, there are others that give the spirit of life to those they meet and interact with from day to day. Your son will always and has always affected others with strength, energy, and an approach to life that will always be real and alive with those that have been fortunate enough to know him. To me Steve seems very much alive in my heart as we drift through a field of bottomless powder (I’m sure Steve would have insisted that I go first)
The following letters (or excerpts) were from parents of Steve’s campers:
Steven was our son’s counselor in 1998 and Village Director in 1999. I got to know him on two Dad’s weekends, and I was thrilled that (my son) was under Steven’s guidance for those times. He was a fine young man, and made a difference in our son’s life.
Dear Ted, Sally & Peter,
You don’t know me, but our son was one of Steve’s lucky campers in Frontier Village.
(Personal text deleted)
Like many others, our son blossomed under Steve’s guidance. Steve was able to find the best in each boy and instill in them confidence and pride. He helped our son to take on leadership roles and nurtured in him a love for Becket that has made that month the happiest 4 weeks of the year. (Our son) returned after his session with Steve wanting to be a counselor, too. Steve was, far and away, the first “grown up” role model (our son) aspired to follow.
(Personal text deleted)
Boys like (our son) will spend the rest of their lives carrying a piece of Steve with them -- be it in their smile, their gentle grace, their humor, their nurturing kindness, their (couldn’t read their handwriting) their leadership.
(Personal text deleted)
Dear Ted & Sally,
(my wife) and I were so sad to hear about Steve. Our (child) was in the Togo trip with him. (Our child) was so excited about having Steve as one of his leaders because he was so much fun. I was equally relieved because Steve was such a responsible and trustworthy guy.
Steve was a wonderful young man, whose warmth and maturity were accompanied by a delightful sense of humor. I knew him from spending two Dad’s Weekends last summer with him as Village Director of Frontier Village. I particularly remember four things. First, he made it much easier for me when I was trying to spread myself between my (many) sons. Second, all the counselors appeared to be so calm and happy under his subtle leadership. Third, the campers really found him a great guy with whom to around. Finally, he had an unusually charming way of blowing his whistle and getting everyone’s attention. Of the dozen or so Village Directors with whom I have dealt, he was easily my favorite.
(Personal text deleted)
I hope that my boys will become more like Steve as they grow up. We are saddened by his early death and feel so sorry for your family. However, we will be blessed with the memory of Steve as a young man who was so full of life and so kind to my children.
We will remember him.
(Our child) said “ Steve was really cool” and “He didn’t talk down to us”
The first time I heard about Steve was when my husband returned from a Dad’s weekend and told me about this amazing counselor who on demand had gone fishing an hour before class was to begin and caught not one but two large fish which he would use for a demonstration for cleaning, cooking and eating. My husband was so stunned that Steve was not ruffled at all by the fact that he had only an hour before the class was to begin and he needed to come up with a fish. He said it was like Steve knew exactly where to go in the lake to find those fish and he not only caught one but two good sized bass. The fathers were all impressed, as many of them have fished numerous times and had caught nothing. As you can imagine my son had many interesting classes with Steve that summer and he thoroughly grew to learn to appreciate the outdoors.
This letter was from a good friend and fellow traveler:
Dear Grave Family,
I was on the ICEP Kenya program with Steve in 1993. I heard the news of Steve’s passing over an internet café in northern South Africa. I really didn’t really know what to think or do, I really couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that it happened in a place that had meant so much to him, a place that he and I, along with our other friends, had grown to love together,
Let me say that I don’t and can’t really understand what your family is going through right now, and that I am not writing this letter because I think it can take away your grief. I know it won’t. What I would like to tell you is a little about what I know Steve believed in. Of course, you all know Steve better than I. But I knew him and grew to know him in a place that no one who hasn’t been there can really understand. We try to explain it, but words fail us always.
Two summers ago, Steve and I were both counselors at Becket. He told me then that he still considered the trip to Kenya to be the best thing he’s ever done. I agreed with him. We often talked that summer in Kenya and the years afterward about how we all wanted to go back to Africa as the leader of an ICEP trip (this was after Steve gave up on his idea of being a Kenyan minibus driver).
I have memories of your son siting in the small rural village of Chavakali surrounded by little kids while he played rap music for them. I remember how happy it made him to interact with them, and how broad his smile was when he made them laugh. Every day we would wake up to something new and unexpected, and Steve thrived on that. That is one of the reasons I grew to value and respect him as a friend. His casual, laid lack style only thinly hid an individual with deep passion a person with what my college friends refer to as “fire”. Fire for new things and places, fire for new experiences and different ways of thinking. And his fire grew to mingle with the fire of Africa.
I’ll tell you now that I can’t say what it is, this fire of Africa, but I can tell you it has touched us all. One of us is on the Peace Corps in South Africa right now, another spent a year studying over here. For me, this is my third trip to Africa, and certainly not my last.
I know that Steve wanted to share his fire with the kids he took to Africa. He wanted to give them what he got a life changing experience. So many people, I think, go through life getting touched by fire and forgetting or neglecting to pass it on. The truly conscientious ones, the ones who truly have the fire, don’t forget. I think about this every day I’m here in this place what it can give and take away.
The fire burns still, lit by the memory of your son in the lives of the people he touched. That fire will burn for a very long time to come beyond the scope of our lives as those he touched touch others with the same fire. I am beginning to understand the Candlelight ceremony at Becket more and more with each passing day. My respect and admiration for those who take on the task of carrying and passing this flame grows ever deeper. I will always remember Steve as one of these people one who was not satisfied with simply having the flame, but who was insistent upon sharing it with others.
This is an excerpt from Steve’s ICEP Kenya leader. I believe Steve was 15 at the time:
Very often during our time in Kenya, Steve seemed to be full of adolescent hormones and bravado. But there were moments of such tenderness and insight, that it quickly became clear that quite a different young man lived beneath the swagger and show he sometimes put on. I remember a cabin chat one night when I asked the group, “If you could give any gift, who would you give it to and what would it be?” Most of the kids mentioned video games or material objects of other kinds light hearted, joke kind of items. But, when Steven’s turn came, he took the question seriously, and he wanted to give his younger brother a chance to experience all the incredible things he had been experiencing in Kenya. The seriousness of the reply and the obvious love he felt for his brother completely changed the tenor of the discussion elevated it in fact.
This last letter came back from Togo in a sealed envelope addressed to “Stevey B.” I guess Steve and Eileen had everyone write letters to themselves, to be opened and read when they returned. Steve wrote:
Howz it goin? Hope the trip was up to expectations. Don’t let some previous intentions slip. Possibilities.
Concerning Privacy: I have tried to avoid using last names anywhere on this site, to respect the privacy of those in the photos, those who spoke at Steve’s memorial service, and those who wrote some of the wonderful letters we received. I appreciate that the letters we received were private correspondence. I hope you agree that my avoidance of last names, and the deletion of any identifying text adequately respects your privacy, while allowing us to share the wonderful thoughts expressed.