Stories and Tributes

What follows on this page are (and will be) writings by various friends and family members on their memories, recollections and impressions of life with Steve.  What he meant to us, how his presence affected us, stories from our day to day with him – everything.

The first pieces of writing you will see are actually presentations made at Steve’s memorial service last March 24, 12 days after his death.  They will be uploaded periodically.    After those will come more recent writings.

Currently on this page (please scroll down for the following pieces):

  1. Steve ………………………………………………….. by Brenna Kelly-Adams
  2. Steve Kelly – The 5th Member of our Family …………by Maureen Adams
  3. Steve Kelly – Requiem ……………………………………..by Bill Armstrong

 

Throughout the following piece for her uncle Steve, my daughter Brenna has used many lines and phrases from several of Steve’s songs in order to convey her message.

Steve                                     by Brenna Kelly-Adams

Steve, the word “Uncle” doesn’t nearly describe what you were to me. You were my strong and sturdy second father, my wild and witty big brother, my gentle and ever-present friend. You were an old soul with the most youthful of spirits.

I see Steve, rising and dipping in the lake, soaked in sunlight. Steve, when I’m hung up all alone, I promise to feel the sun and think of you.

I hear him crack a joke, quick, slick, and brilliant. I hear my dad’s resounding laughter. Steve, I promise to let my frown unravel at the people along the way, I promise to kick that ball wound up with hate, and to laugh a little more for you.

I hear his rugged singing voice, deep and warm. Steve, I promise that when some echo is bouncing back to me, I’ll play it loud it for you.

I feel Steve in the vibrancy of every stroke of his brush and the vibrations of every strum of his strings. I feel him in the night sky that we gazed at 100 times over together. In all those moments that laid the foundation for my childhood and built my stepping stones into adulthood. Steve was there for all of it. Life without him feels impossible.

I think of Steve now and I feel unbearable pain. But I take great comfort in some of his wisest words. I remind myself that Steve had long ago given up the notion of some immortality. That he’s just continuing on his journey and he’s going where the sun shines bright all day.

Steve, although your soul sails away, I know your spirit hovers near the earth.

Brenna

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Steve Kelly

The 5th Member of Our Family                               by Maureen Adams

 When our daughter’s, Brenna and Deirdre were in grade one, they brought home a project that was designed to describe their family. It was a picture of a house and their task was to make windows and put photographs of their family members in each one. We were a family of four but in the girls’ minds we were always a family of five. They put Dan and me in the windows on the main floor, the two of them in the windows on the second floor and Steve was perched in the window at the top of the house. Their picture was a true reflection of our relationship with Steve. He really was the 5th member of our family.

Steve is Dan’s brother, best friend, soulmate and musical partner. Steve meant the world to Dan and Dan meant everything to Steve. Deirdre, Brenna and I adored Steve. He was the person we most enjoyed spending time with – whether in conversation, joking around, or listening to his beautiful voice and music. Our family would have done anything for him and he for us. Steve lived with our family for a period of time when the girls were growing up. There were endless nights on the front porch and the back deck. When the girls were young, they lay in their sleeping bags, falling asleep to the rhythm of the conversations that Steve and Dan and I had over the years. And as they grew up, they joined in, spending many nights on our front porch with Steve laughing the evening away. When you were around Steve there was always laughter. He was so funny – his timing was exquisite, his impersonations hilarious, and it was always Dan who laughed the loudest. Steve also had the most gorgeous smile. It lit up his face and it was sexy and sensuous. You can see it in all the photographs of him around the room. Photographs with his family, friends, and with us.

Steve vacationed with our family almost every summer for over 15 years. Those vacations at Lake Huron or in the Kawartha’s were some of the best times of our lives. Steve loved the sun, the lake, paddling in a canoe at sunset, campfires and the beauty of the night sky. He was as attentive as any parent when Brenna and Deirdre and their friend Alexandra were in the water or near the fire. And if they tried to sneak out of the cottage at night to go down to the lake he was fiercely protective – scolding them and scooting them back inside. It was the only time he ever said a harsh word to the girls. During those cottage years, Steve played hundreds and hundreds of games of Charades and Taboo. Sometimes we laughed so hard at his antics that we were driven to tears. It was also during those summers that Steve took some exceptional photographs of sunsets and the shoreline of the lake. They became the inspiration for some of his paintings that are displayed here tonight.

And Steve really loved everything about the night sky- the constellations, solar eclipses, full moons, meteorites, falling stars, and especially the northern lights. We often were on vacation when there were periods of activity in the sky and we had wonderous discussions about the magic, majesty, and mystery of the universe. For this reason, we have decided to make a donation to an Astronomy Research Institute and we will have the opportunity to name a star after Steve.

Last week, I was thinking about an evening at Lake Huron when we stood in awe, watching the dancing northern lights flashing across the sky. Right after, an article popped up on my news feed and I learned that amateur Canadian scientists had discovered a new northern lights phenomenon. They named it Steve. NASA and other scientific bodies have decided that Steve will become its permanent name. This brought a smile to my face as I imagined Steve cracking a joke about this that would have had us all in stitches.

Where Dan and I now live in Prince Edward County, the night sky is spectacular. We had always hoped that when Steve retired he would build a cabin on our property and live with us into old age. And Deirdre and Brenna dreamed of Steve meeting their children when they had their own families. But this is not to be and is perhaps the greatest loss we are feeling as a family.

However, we will always have the night sky. And when we look up we will see Steve’s star- and if we are lucky enough- he will wink at us. And for us, all northern lights will be forever named Steve. And when they burst across the sky we will know he is with us.

Maureen

March 24, 2018

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Steve Kelly – Requiem               by Bill Armstrong

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Bill Armstrong and Steve was my oldest and dearest friend. Like so many of you I struggled this week to prepare a fitting tribute to Steve. It was as if finishing this speech would somehow finalize the fact that Steve had truly shuffled off this mortal coil and that I would never get to see my friend again. After much thought and reflection, it occurred to me that this was typically Steve. He left us quietly and when we least expected it.

The word requiem is a noun that refers to a musical composition setting parts of a requiem Mass, or of a similar character or an act or token of remembrance. This day, this gathering, is our requiem for Steve.

We are here to celebrate the life of, Stephen Joseph Kelly, born April 18, 1960 and I can think of no greater tribute, no greater honour, than to say Steve was my friend.

I decided that I would research quotes from other formidable and talented Stephens who shared many of the traits of our Steve in order to summarize my feelings and highlight his many talents. Strangely enough, the first quote that came to mind comes from one of the world’s most successful novelists, Stephen King:

“I never again had friends like I did when I was twelve. God, does anyone? ”
– Stephen King, from the novella, “The Body”.

This pretty much sums up how I feel about our early years together, when the world was full of possibilities and we were not burdened or hardened by the cynicism of age and experience.

  • I first met Steve when I was just 5-years old. Our families had recently arrived on Monmouth Court in what was, at the time, the newest part of Scarborough. While it is hard to recall exact details from this very early part of our lives, I do know that we very quickly became thick as thieves and best friends.
  • We attended St. Richard’s School together and spent the summers of our youth hanging out with our gang – Sean, Brian, Ray, Kevin, Chris, and of course, Danny, as we called him back then.
  • We spent our time playing road hockey; burbee in the school yard; shooting hoops under the Kelly’s carport (they had their own basketball net); spending inordinate amounts of time trying to “freak each other out” by locking each other in dark rooms or sneaking into each other’s houses and flickering light switches and creaking floor boards when one of us was “home alone”!
  • While we weren’t bad kids, we got into our share of mischief and pranks gone horribly wrong – terrorizing the neighborhood (moving planters into swimming pools and balancing jugs of water on rooftops to come crashing down on unsuspecting neighbours) and doing our best impersonations of virtually everyone and anyone (Steve was particularly adept at impersonating everyone from cranky neighbours, Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson or even Mr. Bunt or Mrs. Greer, two particularly cranky teachers at our school). I can still hear Mrs. Greer’s Scottish brogue as Steve does a perfect imitation of her saying, “Stephen Kelly, you’re a lazy article and you can’t take a telling!”
  • We climbed through abandoned houses and into dumpsters at the decal factory, smoked illicit cigarettes in the schoolyard, and drank a few warm beers that had been carefully liberated from siblings’ private stock. Not bad street cred for a couple of straight “A” students from the hood.

 

The next Stephen quote comes from the recently departed physicist, Stephen Hawking, another kind; brilliant and humorous Stephen lost to the world recently, in reference to the performance of actor Eddie Redmayne in the movie, The Theory of Everything:

“Unfortunately, Eddie [Redmayne] did not inherit my good looks.”

  • I’m sure our Steve would say the same thing about whoever plays him in the movie of his life. I can hardly wait for that one.
  • In the summer following Grade 6, Steve announced that he and his family were leaving for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. His Dad had taken a two-year contract with CIDA to plan roads in East Africa.

This phase of Steve’s life, I call – Steve does Tanzania.

  • I was devastated to see my best friend leaving, but very soon after his departure, I realized that Steve would not forget me. Airmail letters soon began to arrive in the mailbox with full accounts of this great new adventure that was a life of privilege in east Africa. Tales of International School, a Swedish girlfriend, a Yacht Club, servants, stolen windshields, thieves in marketplaces, and travel to the grasslands of the Serengeti and the pyramids of Cairo. Pretty heady stuff for a kid from Scarborough who hadn’t previously travelled much further from home than the little town of Wilberforce in the Haliburton Highlands.
  • Steve’s letters (complete with illustrations, photographs, along with contributions from Dan) were the hit of the St. Richard’s schoolyard as I read them aloud to a rapt audience of 12-year olds. We lived vicariously through Steve. It was like having a personal connection to James Bond.

 

  • When the Kelly’s returned to their home in Scarborough, two years later, Steve seemed beyond his years and definitely way ahead academically. As we were now entering secondary school, Steve was shocked to hear that I had been talked into enrolling at Neil McNeil High School when we had planned in our long-distance conversations to start at Woburn Collegiate together.
  • Our paths diverged, first, during his Tanzanian adventure and again upon his return, Sean, Brian, Ray and I all headed off to Neil. Steve’s academic career came to a rapid conclusion in Grade 10 as he became bored with the high school scene. With Steve, it was never a question of his intelligence, but rather his willingness to wait for others to catch up to him.
  • The thing that always amazed me was Steve’s ability to permeate all crowds and all groups. He seemed to slip in under the radar and before you knew it he had a new group of friends. With no fuss and very little effort Steve became a known quantity with friends from Neil and eventually from U of T, St. Mike’s. Everyone loved Steve and in particular his wicked wit and quiet humour.
  • Perhaps the most important element of our youth was music. Listening to music in the Kelly’s basement. Playing guitars, debating which music truly sucked and which music was worthy of being dubbed relevant. Eventually, the formation of the band, Rude Awakening. The boys in the band played the local bar scene and even showed up at our U of T St. Mike’s Freshman Orientation overnight at Hart House Farm and put on a high wattage performance and stayed on to party the night away (even after the organizing committee asked me to have the band leave the party). My response went something like, they’re from Scarborough and they are staying for the party! Of course, I’d had a few, at the time so my response may have been a little more pointed than I remember. I’m from Scarborough after all.
  • As the years passed, Steve was there for me, always a better friend than I probably deserved. He was present at my wedding, my father’s funeral, and even after I had been out of touch for many years, he was there for my 50th. There was no judgement or hard feelings. We simply picked up where we had left off and as Dan said, there was a natural comedic connection to our conversations as we sat in Dan and Maureen’s kitchen during one of the Friday night music sessions. We read each other like hockey line mates who instinctively know when to move the puck to open ice with the knowledge that their partner will be there to pick up the pass right on the tape.
  • His knowledge of film and music was astounding and his recall of events far better than my own. His musical tastes ran the gamut from the Stones and Neil Young to the blues even classical music.
  • We were together when our buddy Sean passed and it was comforting to know that we were there Stand witness to his life and all too early passing.
  • If I know anything about Steve, I know that he would not want us to grieve his passing for too long and he said as much during a conversation over beers at the Irish Embassy not too long ago.
  • To honour Steve’s wishes, I have collected a few funny quotes from a few notable, funny Steves – quotes that reflect some aspect of our Steve:

“I look like a casual, laid-back guy, but it’s like a circus in my head.”

“Babies don’t need a vacation, but I still see them at the beach… it pisses me off! I’ll go over to a little baby and say ‘What are you doing here? You haven’t worked a day in your life!” – Steven Wright (Steve and I went to see him perform and I came to the conclusion that our Steve’s insights were equally hilarious and the first quote is Steve)

“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.” – Steve Martin (definitely the same sense of humour as our Steve)

In closing, I thought I would take the liberty of using one of our Steve’s song lyrics to sum up his brilliance, his life, and his insight into the human condition from the song, Brushin’ Off the Dirt:

“Someone say

Stand by the gates and wait for me

‘Cause I’m on my way

Give me a smile and then a wave

Back in the day

I was on my game and ever brave

But now my soul it sails away

I’m born today”

 

Thanks, Steve. I will always be grateful for your friendship and somehow I believe we will meet again a little further down the road.

March 24, 2018

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