Steve Kramer - Passport in Time

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Remembering Steve Kramer…

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Steve Kramer, head archeologist for the Colville National Forest. He passed away Monday (5/14/12) at the age of 59 after a battle with lymphoma. Many of us did PIT projects with him on the Colville National Forest and enjoyed his knowledge and leadership on the projects, as well as his dry wit and his guitar playing around the campfires in the evening. He had a big influence on all of us volunteers as well as the young archeologists who worked with him. -Elaine A. Clough

by Dianna Michaels

Stephen F. Kramer’s 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 lymphoma in recent months before passing peacefully out of pain at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, WA on May 14, 2012. His wife and daughter were with him.

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 outdoors.  

Following graduation at Vallejo High in 1971, Steve joined the USAF and served in Korea, Hawaii and Texas before his Honorable Discharge in 1979. During this time he married and divorced 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 subsequently 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 for teaching. He was patient, inspirational 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 Anthropology 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 Archeological Assistant for Oregon State University College of Forestry 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 “Fair Family” member for many years, returning to the Eugene, OR area each summer for a week or two to set-up, run and enjoy the festivities that only the OCF can provide. His singing, business skills and outgoing personality quickly surrounded him with many friends whom 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 managed 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 homestead restoration projects on the CNF. These projects often required a complete dismantling of the structure and re-construction using traditional methods and hand tools. A recent such project was finalized in 2011 at the Growden Changing House off Hwy. 20 near Sherman pass. A few excavation and survey projects were also conducted, most recently in 2007 near the Ferry Co. Courthouse in Republic. During the PIT projects Steve was both supervisor and educator because he believed in order to appreciate the past people needed to know the local history and use tools and materials as similar as the originals as much as possible. Many PIT volunteers returned year after year because of Steve’s personality, willingness 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 received 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 Newport 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’s Office for many years and each November served as auctioneer for the staff’s home made 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’s list to ensure a happy memory.

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 “Patti’s Pies” booth. She was welcomed by all his friends as being ‘good for him” and eventually he realized this himself and married Dianna 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 together or off pursuing their own interests. Steve loved children and took great care to love and nurture Dianna’s two girls and was happy to re-connect with his own grown daughter.

Steve was a member and Treasurer with the Dominion Meadows Men’s Golf Club. In 2011, he won the “A” Flight of the Men’s Tournament—some say by an extra long putt he sunk on the 7th hole. Golfing was his sporting passion to play and the OSU Beavers were his sporting passion to follow. He was also a SF Giants fan and never missed a Mariner’s game. If his teams weren’t playing, he was satisfied to tune in just about any football, basketball or baseball game and of course followed the Masters Golf Tournament. He often said, ‘a bad day golfing is better than a good day at work’ and seldom let golf cause him frustration. Steve joined the Colville Elks in 2011 and very much enjoyed his times at the “19th Hole” with his golf buds.

Steve was preceded in death by both of his parents and his good friend Patti (of Patti’s Pies). He is survived by his wife, Dianna Michaels; his daughter, Jennifer Lease and husband Rex and granddaughter Ella Rose of Hayward, CA.; brother Mike of Colville; step-daughters, Jessica (Keis) Cockerham and husband Paul, and Meghan (Keis) Lyons and husband Chris of Colville; mother & father in laws Nora (Light) and husband Elmer Rappe, and Larry and Dorothy Philmon of Okanogan, WA; sister and brother in laws Sharon (Philmon) and husband Jim Holland of Ephrata, WA; Dennis and Joan Philmon, and children Kendra, Leah and Cailey of Columbia Falls, MT; Leslie and Michelle Philmon and children in Alaska; and many cousins, friends and co-workers.

The outpouring of support from friends, co-workers and family during this difficult time that came upon us so suddenly is very touching. We are especially thankful for the good care provided by NEW Home Health nurses, Shannon and Patricia; that of Drs. Artzis, Mendez-Vigo and Waters; and also to Drs. Sienko and Andrea and all the nursing and office staff at CancerCare Northwest north offices, and his surgeon, Dr. Maryam Parviz and nurse Patty at the South offices of CCNW; his supervisor, Craig Newman and all of Steve’s co-workers at the SO’s office of the CNF.

Namaste’, Steve. 
Thank you for making us better human beings by sharing your light with us!
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