As I stood in the receiving line at the funeral home yesterday, I was humbled to receive condolences from hundreds of people. Hundreds of people came out on the 4th of July to honor my brother and his legacy. Hundreds more are here today. To say that he touched the lives of many would be a broad understatement. He willingly wore so many hats that I dare say he is remembered fondly by thousands. We all have many happy memories of Steve and these we must hold dear in our hearts and cherish them, as Steve cherished us.
Life started for Steve just 42 years ago. We lived in Southern California as small children. We lived very close to Disneyland and spent many days visiting Mickey Mouse at a simple time where you paid your admission and received a ticket book. It was not unlimited rides-you had to plan out your trip and decide which rides to go on. It was an early lesson in budgeting-thanks to Walt! A favorite ride of ours was always Dumbo's Flying Elephants. As we got older, Steve's favorite ride was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Living in Southern California, we spent lots of time at the beach. Body surfing, building sand castles and hunting for hermit crabs were just a few of the memories I have from our days on the beach.
In 1976, we moved to North Carolina. We lived there just long enough to learn to talk funny. 1976 was a great year-the 4th of July celebrations were incredible. Everyone was so proud to be an American, and we were no exception. The fireworks display was amazing-at least from the perspective of a five year old. The 4th of July has always been a big deal in our family as Grandpa Mount was born on the 4th of July, so we were used to celebrating HIS birthday each and every year. From now on we will also celebrate Steve's life and legacy on the 4th of July.
We only lived in North Carolina for a few years, leaving just at the end of Steve's 4th grade year. We moved to Montreal, and ‘lucky' for us, school was still in session when we got there, so we got two bonus weeks of school. We followed that with three full years of school, where Steve excelled and also had the opportunity to experience French firsthand. Learning French in 5th through 7th grades was helpful later in sailing through French classes in America. In fact, when we moved to Vermont in 1982, the school evaluated Steve and skipped him ahead a grade. As I worked towards my own graduation, I was always jealous that he got to miss an entire year of school.
Steve graduated from Burlington High School in 1985 at the age of 16. That fall he started college at UVM just before his 17th birthday. Mom studied journalism and dad was an avid reader. Mom's love of writing and dad's love of reading gave Steve a firm base to stand on as he studied Political Science. Steve has many memories of his time at school and in particular with the Vermont Cynic, the UVM student newspaper. He worked his Sophomore year as a Reporter, his Junior year as the News Editor and his Senior year as the Managing Editor. His love for writing led him to publish many articles in his college days as well as write many short stories and poems. Most recently he wrote a bi-weekly column in the Williston Observer for four years and he has authored five short novels, including two published books-"Janie" and "Firmness of Rock." Steve also dedicated many hours to his website usconstitution.net, where he shared his passion for and knowledge of the Constitution with children and adults from all over the world.
When I was 16, I started working at Martin's (which you all now know as Hannaford's). Soon after, Steve started working there as well, and was quickly a Jack of all trades. There was nothing that he was not willing to learn-something that gets you far in life. He worked in the grocery department, he made donuts, and he even cleaned the meat room. In his own words "I needed some extra cash, so I asked the manager of the meat department if he needed any extra help." This offer turned into an immediate shift cleaning up after the butchers. The grocery manager, Rick, spotted Steve working in the meat room and they had a brief conversation. When asked about working in the meat room, Steve replied, "Yeah, it's pretty macho work, running around in the steam, getting blood on your arms." Rick replied "You never cease to amaze me" to which Steve jokingly added "I get the same feeling about myself too."
While in college, Steve proudly joined the National Guard in 1987. He served his country until 1992, when he was honorably discharged due to a medical diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. His diagnosis changed his life and gave Karen a few scares along the way, but through diet and exercise Steve led a very active lifestyle. His diabetes did not define him; it was just an un-ignorable part of who he was. Nothing could stop him-in fact in recent years he was extremely active, competing in the 100-on-100 race, partial marathons, multiple fun runs and a biathlon.
For the past few years, Steve was very active in an exercise class. In the class, he also served as the DJ-making a custom mix of music for each session. Steve was very passionate about his music, and his taste in music is very eclectic. If you were to borrow his iPod and put it on shuffle, you would expect to hear a wide variety of tunes-80's, 90's, current hits, rap, reggae, classical, hip hop, country and more. Steve loved his music and really enjoyed seeing bands perform live. He took me to my first concert when I was in High School-we went to Montreal and saw the Human League. A few years later, Steve and Karen and Kelly and I went to see Bon Jovi at Saratoga Raceway. After the concert-Kelly and I camped and Steve and Karen stayed in a hotel-we were on a tight budget, and soon after it was Steve and Karen staying at campgrounds, and Kelly and me staying in Hotels. Karen, Brittany, Jacob and Ryan have many fond memories of spending weekends and vacations camping. I think the fondest are the times that the boys could not fall asleep, so one parent would camp with Brittany and the other would go home with the boys.
A few of my favorite memories of Steve are random. Steve, Rob, our father and I all share a love for a movie from the 80s-Midnight Madness, about a scavenger hunt. For those who have seen it… "FAGABEFE?" For those who haven't-know that you honor Steve's memory by watching it.
Before the twins were born, Steve and Karen had twin cars! They each had a Pontiac LeMans-Steve's had a vanity license plate which read "MYRIDE" Not quite as cool as my first vanity plate, which reads "MOUNT." I am just glad that I thought of that one first.
I think Rick from Martin's summed it all up 23 years ago. Steve never ceased to amaze. Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Nephew, Uncle, Grandson, Friend, Neighbor, Student, Teacher, Guardsman, Journalist, Poet, Writer, Co-Worker, Citizen, Advisor, Athlete, Webmaster, Child of God. You wore many hats and did an amazing job no matter the role. You were amazing, and I am proud to call you brother and friend. We all love you so much and your legacy will live on forever…until we meet again.
Thank you all for coming today to share in our celebration of Steve’s life. It’s a very important step in our grieving process, and for that our family thanks you.
I’ve always looked up to my brother Steve. I wanted to be just like him growing up. So much so in fact, that I used to steal his clothes and wear them to school. Steve was in high school when I was in middle school, and he had to leave the house earlier than me. Once he left, I’d creep into his room and rummage through his drawers looking for something to wear. Steve used to get irate when he saw me come home with his clothes on.
One time, on a week-long class trip to Florida when I was in 8th grade; I took some of Steve’s clothes with me. Upon my return, I shared some of the photos taken with my family. Steve was none to impressed to see me standing next to Mickey Mouse wearing a pair of his shorts (Jams)!
My brother is the original "Mount family geek." In 1982, as the Mount family was making a southerly migration from Canada (and were between homes), we had no place of our own for Christmas. So we did the next best thing, and went (over the river and through the woods) to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Concord, New Hampshire.
As a gift from our parents that year, we received a Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer or "CoCo" as it was affectionately called. In the one week’s time we spent in Concord, Steve had already started writing computer code for the CoCo in a programming language called BASIC. Our family watched in awe as Steve bent the CoCo into doing new and amazing things, he even had it displaying a picture of Santa Claus!
He’s the first person I know of to own a laptop – that was in 1986. It soon proved to be underpowered for his needs, so he traded it in for a PC, the first PC our household would have. It was a Tandy TRS-80 Model 1000 (with not one, but THREE floppy drives!). At the time, Steve was studying Russian (yes, Russian) and Political Science at UVM. In his spare time, he’d write computer programs in the same language the CoCo used: BASIC. And also began to dabble in another more powerful language simply called "C."
Back in 1982 with the CoCo, I’m sure my parent’s had no clue they were setting into motion something that would change Steve’s life.
1990 was a banner year. Steve got married, and while trying to find a job in Journalism, took a temp job at a little company on Shelburne Road called IDX. But more importantly (at least for me), I got my own room (James took Steve’s old room – which I wanted) and I also inherited the old Model 1000 (with THREE floppies), now nearly five years old, and in non-working order. I spent some time tinkering with it, swapping parts with other computers (at this point we had several) until I got the thing working. I was obsessed with the innards of this computer. I’d take it apart and put it back together just to see if it would still work (it did). Eventually, I tried my hand at writing computer code, but to me, it was like Russian! I liked tinkering with the hardware much more.
I used that computer (when it wasn’t in pieces) for typing papers in high school, and a little later on, for "poking holes" in the UVM network to use a new tool they had called "Gopher" (which was a predecessor to the World Wide Web).
In 1990 Steve found his true calling (writing software) and married his true love. And giving me that old computer, I’m sure Steve had no clue he was also setting into motion something that would change my life.
I went off to college in 1992, determined to study History and become a high school history teacher. That year I finally replaced the clunky Tandy 1000 with a zippy 386 that ran something called Windows. My first year of college was rough; I found the extracurricular activities way more fun that going to classes. I was also hooked on computers. I earned extra money fixing people’s computers.
I had the only printer on the floor of my dorm (which was a hand-me-down from Steve), so I made cash printing papers too. Sure, you could go to a computer lab and do it, but Rob’s NEVER closes. I could also do some paper "wizardry" and make a 2 ½ page paper into 3 pages just by adjusting the font size. I like to think that I’m the reason professors now ask for a word count on papers and not a certain number of pages.
I quickly realized I was in the wrong field. But unlike Steve, I made the decision way before spending four years on a degree I wasn’t going to use. Following in Steve’s footsteps, I changed careers to something I loved. And so was born the infamous Mount computer geek team. As my father always likes to say "Steve does the software, and Rob does the hardware." But Steve was the original geek, and he was geek before it was cool. Steve made geek cool.
In 2007, I took a position at GE. I’m in a different department than Steve, and also in an entirely different building. From time to time at GE, when introducing myself to someone, they’d ask me "are you related to Steve?" Whenever I heard that question, my shoulders would straighten up and my face would brighten as I replied "yes, he’s my brother" because I knew what was coming next -- "What a great programmer" or, "that guy’s a genius". I took pride in knowing that Steve was making a difference in people’s lives.
Yesterday during the visiting hours, several of Steve’s co-workers approached me and said he was a "role model" or the "go-to guy", or a "mentor" to them. And that’s what Steve has always been to me as well. It was in his nature. He touched the lives of many people. He was an amazing man.
To Brittany, Jacob and Ryan, as your pain subsides, I want you to know that I would be honored if you’d consider coming to me for fatherly advice. I’m a lot newer at it than Steve was, but he was a great mentor to me, and I think that will show. Please remember that I (along with your entire extended family) are here for you anytime and for anything. We all love you very much.
To Karen, manly advice is available to you as well. Plus, I can work a plunger, mow the lawn, fix the washing machine, kill wasps, and even fix your computer. My door will be open 24/7, remember Rob’s NEVER closes. We all love you very much.
Last night on the ride home from the funeral home, my 7 year old David said out of the blue "I can’t believe Uncle Steve is dead, he was like… one of my favorite adults."
He was one of my favorite adults too. Steve, thank you for touching all of our lives. I love you Steve, and I miss you very much.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of cleaning a large portion of the Mount family attic. Though messy and a bit tedious, it was really like sorting through a time capsule of the last thirty years. I found old school notebooks, family pictures, retro clothing and toys, artwork… And what really struck me, was that without a name to identify the owner or creator of these objects they all blended together… From the handwriting to the doodles in the margins, they were so similar it was eerie.
Growing up I idolized my brothers… all three of them. And I would absolutely say that more than a little piece of me was inspired by all of them. But it is hard to see what parts come from where; they all blend together.
When we're young we all possess an independent spirit that convinces us that everything about us is unique in some sort of way. As we begin to age, and mature, we realize that people often share the same experiences, and perhaps more so, as siblings, we realize that we respond to those experiences in similar ways; though we are different, we are very much the same.
Steve, you were born a lifetime before I was. By the time I came into this world you'd been here for more than a decade; you were the de facto leader of our little group of siblings.
More than just a "big kid," you always seemed like an adult to me. It is in that way that my earliest, and easily fondest, memory of you is recalled. It was such a simple interaction, but it does a great deal to explain the impact you had on my early life.
I was in Kindergarten. I sat in the front passenger seat of whatever car you were driving at the time. You were driving me to school, but we were in no hurry. It was there, in the car, parallel parked in front of the house that you taught me something important; something that I could never forget. You taught me how to spell my name… "R-I-C-K: That spells Rick!" You had me repeat that over and over for the whole car ride. "R-I-C-K: That spells Rick!"
Now, I'm sure that it is a little hard for some to remember, but imagine for a minute how liberating it felt… to suddenly possess an almost tangible part of your identity. I'm sure it wasn't the first time that someone had tried to teach me… but it suddenly clicked, and I never forgot that car ride.
I remember being so young, and thinking how amazing it was that you could drive… that you had a job… at Arby's, and I could get free kid's meal toys anytime I wanted. I remember being that little fidgety kid at all of your school and social milestones that just couldn't quite grasp the significance of those moments… but I'm glad I was there.
The reality is that it was all too easy for an impressionable child to idolize you. After all, you built massive elaborate train sets, creating whole new worlds in the attic… you drove and shot a tank, a real tank… you built amazing plastic models of spaceships, and you let me play with them… you could do anything with a computer… you loved comic books… but perhaps coolest of all, you had a bow and arrow. Nothing was cooler to eight year-old me than a bow and arrow… and I got to hand you your arrows… big helper.
As the years passed, you moved out and started your own family… I got your room, which was cool, but our time together grew more and more infrequent, and that was unfortunate. But what we lacked in quantity, you made up for in quality: I still remember staying with you and Karen at your house in Starksboro. The long drive and long conversations on the way there and back, where you made an awkward teenager feel completely normal for thirty minutes at a time. Though we were different, we were very much the same.
Patience in practice is not a skill that can be easily taught. But it occurs to me that if demonstrated properly, its effectiveness cannot be ignored. Steve, I thank you for showing an annoying mischievous baby-brother patience. I love you, and I will think about you every day.
To Karen, Brittney, Jacob and Ryan, you are a strong unit – a team, and I have no doubt that you would thrive on your own. But you don't have to. You're not alone. There are dozens of people in this room who would drop everything to help you, because we love you. And personally, I'll be there to hand you your arrows anytime you need it.
Steve was 14 years older than I. He was the only one of my brothers who didn't really pick on me, but he was also older enough that he was like an icon of coolness. He could drive, leave whenever he wanted, show me how to dance to Love Shack (one of my favorite memories ever), and show his teeny innocent sister rated R movies when mom and dad were out... When he got married, I was only 7. He lost his power for awhile then, because Karen was actually bigger than I and gave me her hand me downs-- she was super cool.
It was in recent years that I really came to know Steve, not as a person who you idealize, but as a real human being with flaws and strengths. He sure had a great deal of strengths. He was 99.9% gentle, generous, and generally wonderful. Family meant the world to him, and he showed that by doing dishes after large gatherings, giving bear hugs, and leaning on us or letting us lean on him for anything. Nick and I helped Steve and Karen move, and he repaid the favor not only by helping Nick and I move into our home, but by helping us paint it for hours and hours. We saw each other at the gym twice a week for two years and some people didn't even know we were related because we're both the quiet, reserved type and didn't chat much. Lately, though, we'd been getting into long conversations about politics, religion, family, etc.
We'd had lunch together recently and planned to do it again "soon". We were just getting to know each other in this rich, deep way, and I am so sad that out opportunity was cut short. Once upon a time, 14 years felt like a lifetime of distance. I am now proud to say I had a close, loving relationship with Steve, and if not for all the wisdom he was able to impart upon me, I never would have known there was an age difference at all. I will miss him greatly all the days of my life.