Friday, July 10, 2009

Steve stories

Reposting with updates at the end.

From Andrew Harris, who we met in Lubbock and now lives in the Dallas area:

Hey there Steve (and Tyra) ... you guys probably know this, but you are partly responsible for my eternal happiness. As you remember, Joel and Cheryl got married on the South Rim at Big Bend National Park. Your passenger that day as you made that VERY long drive? One Pamela Dunsmore, my future wife and mother to my beautiful daughters. Thank you Mr. Ferryman for bringing my life to me. Hang in there buddy. God loves you, and so do we!


From Frisco friend & neighbor Debbie Pasha:

I remember in both Ms. D and Mrs. Brinlee's classes that he had a true talent in supervising the crafts at parties that dealt with food decoration! He kept the kids from reaching into the candies, and other treats being used to decorate cupcakes, etc. all the while making it a fun experience for them! He looked like he was having fun with it too!


From Jan Dove Guscott of Aurora, Colorado:

When Steve and Jimmy were little, I came down to Houston for the summer. I think they lived in Spring. I was kind of the big sister they never had, and although I lived in Denver we were close for a long time. I can still remember the house.

Jim and Betty were gone for day and a storm came over Houston. It was the worst thunder and lightning storm I have ever been through. The boys and I huddled together in the living room and watched the lightning and told stories. It seemed like the storm lasted for hours, but I am sure that it was relatively short. I even had my own room in their house while I was in college and a key to come and go. The boys were so active, it seems I almost never saw them. But I remember Houston having the biggest bugs I have ever seen. Jim used to keep a giant size bottle of bug spray handy. The boys were never phased and laughed at my sincere fear of these giant roach like bugs.

I’ve known both Steve and Jimmy since they were babies, I have read the blog every day with a catch in my heart for the super human strength and love I am witness to through Tyra’s words. Please know that my prayers are with you all every day and my love – always…


From Will Pry, who introduced us and is Katie's godfather:

I've known Steve for 26 years. I have tons of stories, many of which I will never tell his wife or children.

This is not one of those stories.

We've run a marathon and a half-marathon together, but my favorite race with Steve was the Wild West Relay in 2007 -- 12 runners, 195 miles in the thin Colorado air from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs. (We finished in about 30 hours.)

Each runner had three legs to run. And by the time we were running our final legs, we were pretty wiped out. I remember that a couple of miles into my leg, I asked the other runners in the van to meet me for a checkup about two miles up the road. I watched the van fly up the road, expecting it to disappear from sight.

Then it stopped, and someone got out. A good half-mile away, here comes Steve, walking in the sun and thin air, up the hill towards me. He and I were clearly the least athletic members of our team, and he needed to rest up for his last run, so I was really confused about what he was doing.

When he reached me, he had a bottle of cold water for me. Just thought I needed it. (He was right.) And he was full of encouragement -- at a time when my body was starting to win the fight with my mind. I played his words over and over in my head as I finished my run.

When I was going to spend the night with Steve in the hospital back in December 2007, my pastor prayed with me, encouraging me to be the "cup of cold water" for a friend in need.

I immediately pictured Steve, walking up the road to meet me on my last leg of the relay. That's the kind of friend Steve is: the kind you pray to have in your life.


From Sharon Grigsby, one of my editors and family friend:

(My lips are sealed about the stories Steve tells me of his University of Michigan years. Suffice to say, those give me hope -- when my own college-age sons recount their own hair-raising adventures --- that they WILL graduate.)

As dad: In the five years or so that I've known Steve he is A Dad First! There was the day he drove Cooper and Katie all the way from Frisco to Rockwall amid a day chocked full of "kid-related activities" -- just so Cooper could explore all the "old school" toys that our teen-age sons had long outgrown. Not to mention the countless trips he made to the car to load up all the games and books we sent home with them! Or the time after Cooper's soccer game (Katie was still in a stroller) when he sent me, Cooper and Tyra to the best ice cream place ever after the game and graciously took a very-worn-out Katie back home for her nap. (I still remember the look on Steve's face -- he REALLY wanted ice cream that day!)

As husband: Steve attended a newspaper get-together shortly after we had coerced Tyra into working with us for a bit in Editorial. I think that was our first meeting. And he literally spent the entire party singing Tyra's praises. It was oh-so-sincere. She is clearly his hero -- and his favorite topic of conversation! (P.S. Have you ever known another man who keeps his wife's bedside table stocked with chocolate?)

As friend: Steve remains my "virtual running coach." I have had many, many Steve Damm lectures about hydration. Not only is he my #1 cheerleader but, when I least expect it, I get a text from him -- or an email -- saying, "Are you drinking your water?" or "Drink your water!" Sometimes it's before a race, and it helps curb my jitters. Sometimes it's there when I wake in the morning for a predawn run. It never fails to produce a giggle from me! And, Steve, I'm drinking water (your favorite -- Pellegrino) right now.


From Liz Wohl, who met Steve at the University of Michigan:

So many Michigan memories include you - from those first weeks of our MMB reserve days (hobbling behind the band on our crutches) all the way through walking to Michigan Stadium together for graduation. Who knew that having a North Muskegon parental connection would be so meaningful?

I remember watching Robocop with you at Bursley (why we chose it I still don't know - except I'm pretty sure herbs had something to do with it), Beetlejuice at the old State Theater, and of course, Fletch at the Church St. apt. There were band trips, like the Illinois Pork Days game when I laughed so hard I spewed soda on an unsuspecting clarinet player when you said,"spooge from hell!" I think it was a floating cobweb, but who knows?

I will always remember the many scary chickies including (but not limited to) "Hell Fiend With Breasts" and "Tuna Juice." And who knows how many (probably hundreds) of times I relished walking past the Baskin Robbins on my way to class just to peer in the window and exchange our standard greeting (finger horns and outstretched tongue). How that gesture started I have no idea, but it was one of my favorite reasons to walk down South U. Stopping in to visit on slow days was even better (yes, even better than eating the ice cream).

I will never forget sitting in our Rise of the Novel class senior year attempting to stifle our laughter about the cannibals (why it was so funny I have no idea - definitely a Seinfeld Pez moment). I think I still have that notebook - I remember saving it just to look at the cannibal stick figure and remember that day.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was when you and Tyra moved to Dallas. Having you in my life again brought me such happiness and utter joy. I have so many happy memories of the four of us together - it was like extending our college years (but with disposable income and better beer).

I remember when you first moved to your Carrollton house and I helped you pick up your car from the shop - we sat on your floor looking at CD's, listening to Joe Jackson. It was like we never left Ann Arbor. The matching belts and shirts with E, all the silly Andersen parties, and laughing so hard at David Sedaris, movies, etc. that we almost spewed soda out of our noses (again).

I was so glad to share in Cooper's early days and all the other milestones we celebrated together. You are one of my most treasured friends, and no matter what, you will always have a special place in my heart. I will always, always think of you and remember these and so many other things.

I am so privileged to be one of your friends and to have had so many years of Dammness. I say all of these things with so many hopes for this horrible illness to disappear and for you to be around forever (well, at least until we're old and cranky).


From Laura Chollick, a Frisco friend and neighbor:

I remember when I first met you and Steve and the first thing I thought of was how loving and caring you both were. And as I got to know you I realized I had really never met a couple quite like you two.

You and Steve both have always been so supportive of Will and our fight and you two are the most unselfish people I have ever met. I remember thinking to myself when I would see Steve with the kids what a great dad he is. In Ms D's class he was always there helping with Katie and smiling the whole time.

I am BLESSED to know you both and so honored to be a friend!


From Sharon Harris, a friend from Holy Covenant United Methodist Church:

Steve single-handedly redeemed Monty Python for me when he sang "The Song That Goes Like This" (is that the title?) with Jennifer Baumgardner at our Holy Covenant choir show. Was it two years ago September or October?

And it was a supreme pleasure to sing in the madrigal group with Steve under Rocky DeLuna's leadership. I remember Steve's reluctant departure from the group's rehearsals when his symptoms first appeared. I love Steve's beautiful tenor. It gave me great joy to sit in front of him and the other tenors in choir. Long live song!

Do you have the Spam-a-lot tape? Does it exist? If it does, you should post it!


From Stuart Cutright, a friend since W.T. White:

At the end of our junior year, I think, several members of the WTW band went to Austin for solo and ensemble. I guess there was not enough interest to generate a bus trip, so parents and students drove down to Austin.

It was understood that we were all to stay together while traveling, so our band director, Mr. Long, could keep an eye on us. Huh. Steve, Chris Abel and I jumped into Steve's yellow-brownish Chrysler LeBaron. Well, this particular car was also a convertible. Once we finally got out of the rain showers (it pretty much rained the entire time on the trip down there and back) on the south side of Georgetown, Steve had the genius idea of opening the convertible and disrupting the caravan of cars.

Examining the scenario I, being the uptight band nerd, was totally nervous. Abel, well, who knows. Steve said, "Ah, what the hell." Though there was some light rain, we did make it to our second-rate hotel somewhere near UT.

The look of anger that Mr. Long gave Steve was unforgettable. Regretfully, I forget what Derle said to Steve, but one can say he wasn't too pleased. We were late, out of touch (oh my gosh, no cell phones! What to do?!?!) and considered outcast for the rest of the trip. Thanks, Steve.


Several months after Steve was diagnosed with cancer, I went for a visit to Frisco. Tyra was just leaving when I got there. The weather was mild, though breezy.

Upon leaving, Steve said, "Do you need a jacket, Tyra?"

I'm pretty certain she didn't hear it as the door was closing, but I thought to myself: Here is a guy who has brain cancer and could just give up and feel sorry for himself. His main concern was Tyra's well being, not his health. Though I am not in touch on a daily basis with Steve and Tyra, it was and is evident that Steve's only concern is the love for his wife and children.


From Diane Stem, a friend from Holy Covenant UMC:

When you asked for stories of Steve, I remembered one moment I glimpsed between the two of you. One Sunday the Adult Ed Committee was responsible for manning a table at the back of the sanctuary. You volunteered to help, but I could tell that you were a little uncomfortable with the idea.

You and Steve walked up together, and then he gave you the most beautiful kiss I have ever seen. If kisses were words, his would have been one of promise -- promise that he would be there; promise that you would be all right; promise that you are beloved.

Henri Nouwen said that one of the greatest responsibilities we have as Christians is to let others know how beloved they are. In that one moment between you and Steve, I saw God's presence in your love for one another. Tyra, you are so lucky to be loved by a man such as Steve. And he is lucky to be loved by you.


From Neil Rockind, an ATO fraternity brother:

Remember that nickname? Couch Squid...! Oy, my political career was destroyed before it even got off the ground. Lol. You have a beautiful family and while they no doubt bring a smile to your face, I thought that a quick flashback to that nickname and our college years together might do so as well.

I wanted to write to tell you how kind you were to me in college. I didn't always do things politely or delicately and often was downright difficult to stand but you were always kind. A guy like me never forgets people who were kind.

I didn't want to write to dwell on your condition. Lord knows you get enough of that and I've said my prayers to my God figuring that all bases should be covered just in case.

Instead, I wanted to tell how much you've inspired me as of late. I'm a criminal trial lawyer. I am a workaholic. I'd take piles of work home and work even when it wasn't necessary. I read your wife's blog and am inspired to change. Our time is precious and limited, be it for 20, 40, 60 years. But I was missing out on my life. I wanted you to know that. I'm enjoying more time with my family.

I am thinking of you and praying for you.

A brother for life.


From Ami Jones, Tyra's aunt:

I will never forget the first time we met Steve. We had only been living back in Texas, in Austin, for several months when Tyra and Steve made plans to come visit us. Tyra had told me about this special man in her life and even before I met him I had the idea that we would love him. He was obviously already making Tyra happy! She bubbled about him to me over several phone conversations prior to their visit.

Our two daughters, Sasha, then 5 years, and Tara, then 2 years, were both enchanted with Steve from the moment he set foot in our home. He had, and still has such patience and a genuine affinity with all children, and adults! Those of you blessed to know Tyra, already know she has always possessed these same qualities, and many more, the both of them.

That first weekend they visited, our youngest daughter Tara would not leave Steve alone for a moment. He graciously and genuinely endured this love fest from our affectionate and playful 2-year-old. She climbed on him like he belonged in a park, and he engaged her and was playful and sweet and kind, a true gentleman.

To this day they have a special connection, those two. On the front of our fridge is a photo of Steve with our Tara taken about two years later, and she is still hanging all over him and both of them are beaming sunshine. Steve has this same photo framed at home.

At some point during that weekend Steve found me alone in the kitchen cooking and proceeded to tell me how much he cared about Tyra, how much he loved her, how special she was. He went on to tell me that he knew how much Tyra loved my husband Rich and I, and how he was so thankful that she had us in her life, how thankful he was that we had been a stable and positive presence in her life through the years. This lovely gallant gentle man stood in my kitchen, someone I had not even known the day before, and made me feel beloved.

We all fell in love with Steve that first visit and we will always be in love with you, Super Steve. Not only because of the wonderful man and father that you are, but because you have brought such a world of happiness and joy to our Tyra, and of course Cooper and Katie.

You make huge ripples in the pond for all of us, Stevie. The world is a far better and brighter place because of you. The profound impact that you still make will always be present. I have often said through the years that if our two girls are blessed enough to find a man that is even half the man Steve Damm is, that we would be very happy. Steve, you have raised the bar for the rest of us, my dear, and we love you and thank you for that. You are beloved by so many, and always will be, you sweetheart of a man.


From Chris Stull, a friend from W.T. White:

I am an old high school buddy of Steve's. Steve and I haven't talked since high school, but I still consider Steve to be a close friend. When you share a liter (ofthe best beer on Earth), at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany, in high school, there is a bond.

I wanted to voice now and speak, not just for me and my family, but for all the long lost friends following the trials that you face every day, and who are inspired and amazed by it. Although you may not hear from all of them, let me say, we admire the strength and determination in both of you. And, Tyra, thank you for the blog that lets us in.

Steve, my friend ... It's been a long time. One of the strongest images that comes to mind when remembering so far back, is a road trip we took as seniors. I can't remember if it was a band thing or a German club thing, but I remember you.

You were sporting the spiked hair back then, with the Terminator shades, and the best part, driving a convertible. I remember your expression never changed. The wind in the open convertible was moving everything around you, but you were steady. I don'teven think your hair moved. You were focused, looking down that long dusty road, just cruising, the hint of a grin ... and I thought, "That dude is way cool."

You're fighting the good fight, Steve. Hang in there, man, and know that there are those of us out there that haven't told you that we care, but think about you every day.

God bless you and your family.


From Dana Cutright, family friend from Dallas

You may or may not know about Steve's motorcycle. My husband was a great motorcycle enthusiast. At any given time there were as few as six or as many as maybe a dozen motorcycles here at the house, or in storage elsewhere.

I don't remember what first interested Steve in a certain bike that Langdon had. There were trial rides, negotiations, etc. Steve finally bought the motorcycle. His plan I think, was to ride it back and fourth from Dallas to Brenham, and that he did.

I don't think Betty & Jim were too excited about the purchase. We never discussed it, but our friendship weathered that storm.

I was just remembering attending your beautiful wedding on that very hot day here in Dallas, 15 years ago today and I remembered the "motorcycle story," too.


From Laurie, of Freeman Photography in Coppell

I remember several years ago, when we were in our old photography studio, and Steve came in with you to order photos of Cooper and Katie (or maybe it was before Katie was born, can't remember!).

I was so impressed that he took the time out of his busy schedule to be so involved in ordering their photos. I thought at the time, "now, that's a loving, caring, involved Dad!" Cooper and Katie have been very blessed indeed!


From Nancy Arnold, a friend from Holy Covenant UMC:

I sat by Steve in choir at Holy Covenant. We're in the back row seeing pretty much everything that happens. A lot of goofy things happen on a Wednesday night after work. Some of the goofy things were just plain silly. Steve and I would look at each other, as if to confirm, "Did she really just say that?" Then, stifling laughing out loud, we would roll our eyes and try to be nice. Steve, I'm rolling my eyes just remembering.


From Dawn Ladny, a Frisco friend:

The only story I can share about Steve is after he had already been diagnosed with cancer. It brings me to tears, and it shows his true dedication to being the best father a child can hope for.

We had gone to a Scout weekend campout. I knew Cooper was going, but I heard that his grandfather was going to accompany him. At that time, I couldn't help but to think about my own kids who have missed out having their daddy with them at all of their functions.

At the campfire on the first night, I saw Cooper hiking down the trail with his grandfather...and his daddy was right there with him. I was so happy that Steve was able to go on that campout. I know it was important to him ... and equally as important to Cooper.

He was so tired and his gait was unsteady ... I was concerned for his safety. But he was there; his dad helping him to navigate where he needed to go. I know everyone was happy to see him there. It warmed my heart.


From Eric Wohl, who met Steve at the University of Michigan:

My favorite stories of Steve date back to our days at Michigan together. One of my earliest memories of Steve was the day he introduced me to my beautiful and talented wife, Liz, who has been my partner and friend for over 20 years now.

I’ll never forget the Michigan Marching Band trip we all made to Toronto (a lamely veiled excuse for a Molson tasting tour) where Steve and another old friend, Seth Friedman, introduced me to their cute friend Liz. It’s because of Steve that Liz and I first met and have him to thank for making the introduction and friendship blossom over the course of my senior year.

Steve, as some may know, had a different and very wacky side to him in his days back in Ann Arbor, and I think his fraternity rush to ATO is one of the best examples of the two sides of Steve. I remember encouraging Steve to come by our house to consider rushing for ATO and Steve’s general perception that fraternities were a useless waste of time for joiners.

I managed to convince him to come out anyway and Steve put on quite a show as the young eager beaver complete with carefully coiffed hair, navy sport coat, khakis, penny loafers, tortoise glasses and plaid bow tie. He made quite the impression as the polished, thoughtful, polite and funny young man I knew and loved.

Shortly after Steve was invited to join the house, the favor was returned in classic Steve style. As the chapter Pledge Educator at the time, Steve showed his true rebellious self by growing his hair out and made a habit of coming to the house with toothpaste-infused Mohawk, ripped jeans, Doc Martens and skeleton earring for the full effect. I still laugh when I think about the first time we all saw him and wondered if he had had an accident or suffered from a split personality disorder.

He was a great brother to one and all.

The other special story of Steve was his support in my working life when he helped me make the difficult decision to leave my job with Pepsi after 9 long years. Steve had leveraged his great talent in medical practice management (thanks to his hard-earned experience and connections at Baskin Robbins in college) and joined Arthur Andersen’s business consulting practice in Dallas.

He was a huge support in helping me think about a big career change and helped me navigate the maze of Andersen to ultimately land one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my career. Steve was there early and often to make sure I was doing well. When we were both in town (a rare event back then), we always had lunch together to catch up (the employee referral bonus for making it 90 days helped, too). No matter how busy we were or how long our lunches lapsed, we always picked up where we left off as old friends.

I cherish the friendship and memories we’ve built with the Damm family and join everyone else in hoping Steve’s horrible illness goes away and we all continue to have the privilege of being a friend to Steve.


I look forward to adding more from you all! Send them to or leave them in comments.

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