Saturday, July 3, 2010

Steven Menefee 1981-2010

I just found out today that Steven Menefee has passed away. I only just learned that he had cancer last weekend, though I gather he had been fighting it for a while. I first met Steven at the Workshop for American Indigenous Languages at UC Santa Barbara in 2008. He and a couple colleagues from University of New Mexico had come to present on creating linguistics terminology in Navajo. After the talk I went up and introduced myself, told them how much I was interested in what they were doing, etc. That probably would have been the end of our contact, but Steven was such a friendly guy that when he saw that we were staying at the same hotel he shouted across the courtyard at the Super 8 to see if I and my University of Montana colleagues wanted to join them for dinner. Steven knew the area, so he was our guide to a rather wild night that summer weekend in 2008. The only other time I had the pleasure of his company was in Albuquerque at the High Desert Linguistics Conference that fall.

I saw his name on a presentation at SILS last weekend, so it was an unpleasant surprise that when I got there and asked his UNM friends if he was there, the answer was crestfallen faces and an explanation about Steven's cancer. Steven was one of the most caring, friendly people I have met, and a linguist who cared deeply about the people who spoke the languages he studied. He was a man of strong convictions and above all open, warm-hearted compassion. He laughed easily and always created a positive atmosphere with those around him. He struck me as the kind of person whose goal in life was to make the world a better place, and I can say without a doubt that it is indeed a better place because of him.

We'll miss you Steven.


henway said...

You only knew Steven for a short time but it seems like you knew him very well. You hit the nail on the head. He was a bright spirit, and he will be missed.

Joey Alexanian
University of New Mexico

Ryan Denzer-King said...

Thanks for your comment. I think it's a testament to Steven's loving and compassionate nature that someone like me, who spent no more than a few days with him during two linguistics conferences, would feel his loss so heavily. I've been looking at his Facebook profile and his CaringBridge journal today, and I can see how many people he deeply touched during his life. Even though I still don't know much about his life, I do know that he made me feel like an old friend from the first time I shook his hand.

Hari Har said...

I remember Steven telling me about the adventures you all had together in Santa Barbara. If my memory serves me correctly, it is better that I leave that night in Santa Barbara unmentioned. I am Hari, Steven's wife (girlfriend at the time you met him). Thank you for writing this beautiful testament to him and your friendship. You saw him very clearly, and he indeed had an incredible ability to connect with people and make them smile and laugh.