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Phillip “Dean” Stephens, 59, died Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at home, surrounded by love and family.
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Kimberly; his son and daughter, Austin (wife, Hillary) and Rachel (boyfriend, Michael); his grandkids, Charity, Emi and Ivan; his siblings, Holland, Rick (wife, Terry), Eric (wife, Vaughn) and Diane; best friend, Marvin (wife, Janet); many nieces and nephews and countless friends. He is preceded in death by his parents, Otto and Erma, and brother, Mark.
Dean was born on February 27, 1956 in Wichita, Kansas to Otto and Erma Stephens. He was a mama’s boy from day one. His childhood was full of happiness, mischief, adventure and love. His siblings remember him as the golden haired boy, but it went beyond the blue eyes and the white teeth. He was a kid that would always impress you. He was a happy and considerate child. He became the kind of person that any mother and father would want their child to be.
In the third grade, Dean met the love of his life, Kimmy, as he affectionately called her. His first means of showing his feelings for her was to apply his used chewing gum to her pigtails to stick them together. Clearly, his romancing tips needed some work. As the time went on, Kimmy grew to know the person that Dean truly was, and she too found the love of her life in Dean. As their love grew, Dean’s brother Rick said, “His relationship with Kimberly gave him a new perspective…a new sense of direction that provided him with all the tools he needed to succeed in life.”
With Kimmy by his side, they welcomed two children into their lives and hearts and raised them to be kind, great people. He loved them unconditionally. He taught them to appreciate the lessons in failure and to celebrate the lessons in success. He taught them patience and to promote and encourage one another. He taught them to seek the good in others and that giving is always better than receiving. He taught them the value of a dollar, the importance of a kind word and what it meant to be truly loved. He protected them. He cherished them. His family was his pride and joy.
His son remembers him for his protection and dedication to his family and friends. Austin says, “Every year we would go snow-skiing as a family. On my junior year of high school I found myself in a serious disagreement with a snowboarder on Breck’s Peak 8. Just about the time I started looking up at this snowboarder, who, was soon to be handing out a pretty good whoopin’ to me as he was a good five years older, my dad, flying in out of nowhere, like the alpha lion of his pride, came in and sent him packing down the hill. I always loved the way he protected us.”
His daughter remembers him for his comfort and compassion. Rachel says, “When I was young I would fall asleep on the couch and he would scoop me into his arms and carry me up the stairs to my room to tuck me into bed. He would rub my back until he knew I was in a sound sleep. Many times I would pretend to be asleep just to feel the comfort of his arms and be carried to bed. I cherished every second I was able to spend with him. As I grew older and became too big to be carried to bed, I began to appreciate his compassion for others. He always took the time to wholly get to know my friends. When he asked them a question, he was genuinely interested in their response. He always looked to find the place where he could provide comfort in their life as well. He was known for his hugs. His embrace was always home for me.”
He exemplified the kind of person that makes the world a better place. He was a man of his word and always took care of his commitments. He had a way with words and providing advice before you even knew you needed it. He knew what to say and when to say it. He was the kind of person that was bigger than life. He made you feel good.
He loved so many things in life: naps in the middle of the day, the sound of the rain and the smell of it as it hits the pavement, a long run in the middle of the day, the smell and taste of burnt toast (he got that one from his mom), barbecue, Chiefs football, the Jayhawks and the Royals. He loved to take road trips and listen to the same song over and over. He was a creature of habit; when he found something he liked, he stuck with it. He would chew at least eight pieces of gum at once. He made everyone laugh with his Donald Duck impression. He was a terrific athlete. He loved to read.
Kimberly recalls, “He once changed the wrappers on our tacos from Taco Tico without me knowing. Dean always loved hot sauce so I ended up eating his taco which was loaded with hot sauce. My mouth was quickly on fire and Dean laughed and said, ‘I’m a bad boy. I’m a bad boy.’ Once my mouth wasn’t so hot, I laughed pretty hard.” He loved to make you laugh. And he loved to smile. His smile really lit up the room.
After his ALS diagnosis, he told his brother, Rick, “Life threw me a curve ball, but I am going to swing the damn bat as hard as I can.” And that’s exactly what he did. He lived his life with enthusiasm and happiness and he taught so many people how to be strong when faced with adversity.
Even though he is gone, the best of him remains alive within those who loved him so dearly. We will hear his voice in the rain, find his eyes in the blue of the sky and feel his warm embrace in the light of the sun and the moon.