Hello Everyone -- from our family to yours -- thank you for your friendship and caring. Below is the note that I sent to my colleagues and students at Seattle University to announce mom's passing, followed by the obituary that will appear in the Contra Costa Times. We/I also want to share this with you. Thank you for all you gave to Mom/Ellen over the years -- she loved people, her community, her family, and her God -- and now is in heaven -- her new home -- probably rallying/talking with all the angels to get some important initiative under way -- that would be her style!
Many of you know that my mother and I were the best of friends, sharing so many life adventures together. Whether traveling the world (she often joined me at conference presentations or cooperative learning trainings to share in my professional passions), or quietly sitting together at home, coffee in hand, talking about current issues (she relished reading the daily newspaper cover to cover, had a keen sense of fairness, and always championed equality and justice—so those were the types of articles/stories we discussed)—we loved our time together.
Recently, her mobility and mind both were becoming more seriously challenged. When visiting, I would load her into the car and we would drive to Martinez, a historic city in the Bay Area not far from the our family home, pick up a latte at Starbucks along the way, then proceed to St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Cemetery dating from the mid-1800s, perched high on a hill just outside of town. My mom loved everything “history”—so from our vantage point, we would look out over the sweeping view of the Bay Area Delta waterway, watch the ships and trains pass below, sip our coffee, and enjoy the feeling of “being immersed in history” among those “present”—Mom believed that each headstone had an important life story to tell. She would ask me to get out of the car, read this or that headstone, take a photo so that we could investigate further, or “tidy up” a set of flowers that had fallen over—after all, she would say, “Isn’t that what you would want if that were your spot?” (Mom was big on the Golden Rule!). This is what she and I did last week, our final life adventure together—and at a time when the cemetery was filled with colorful flowers and hundreds of flags in preparation for Memorial Day.
My mother passed in her sleep near dawn on Saturday, May 30, at age 94. We had transferred her to a long-term care home just 2 weeks prior. I am grateful that I was in California, so that upon her passing, I was able to sit with her, hold her hands, and tell her one last time the special saying that was “just ours”—from daughter to mother: “Mom—I love you up and down and all around, forever and for always!” BIG HUGS—from me to you!
Ellen Marie Rowley Stevahn, born February 23, 1921, in Minneapolis, MN, passed peacefully in her sleep May 30, 2015, in Pleasant Hill, CA, at age 94. She loved teaching and learning; graduated from St. Paul Central High School, Macalester College (bachelor’s), and University of Minnesota (master’s); taught physical education, recreation, dance at White Bear Lake High School, University of Washington, Lewis & Clark College; was active throughout her life supporting youth programs, especially Camp Fire, Girl/Boy Scouts, Luther League, Little League, and Rodgers Ranch Round Up. Embraced the “great outdoors” hiking/skiing and pioneering Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness all-women expeditions led by Ruth Schellberg in the early 1940s. Served in the American Red Cross, stationed in Japan after WWII.
Met Leo “Steve” Stevahn at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, OR; married December 27, 1952; a loving partnership filled with shared interests—faith, family, sports/athletics, waltz/polka, movies, road trips—they truly enjoyed each other’s company and had lots of fun together. Former resident of St. Paul, MN, and long-time resident of Pleasant Hill, CA—active in civic affairs and the PH Historical Society, instrumental in placing Rodgers Ranch (c. 1867) on the National Register of Historic Places—her dream was to see the restoration of its farmhouse and wheat barn completed as a center to educate the community about local history and sustainable living. Served as President, Friends of Rodgers Ranch, for many years; received numerous honors, including PH Citizen of the Year and PH City Mayor’s Award.
Preceded in death by Myron/Edith Rowley (father/mother); Howard/Helen (brother/wife); Lee Pates (step-father); Don/Lenora, John/Marie, Robert/Virginia, Rev. Richard “Dick” Pates, S.J., and Mary/John “Dr. Bud” Galligan (step-siblings/spouses); William Rowley (nephew); Anne Galligan (step-niece); Reinhold/Ida Stevahn (father/mother-in-law); Barbara/Kermit, Edna, Erna/Robert, Ina (sister/brother-in-laws).
Survived by Steve (husband), Laurel Ann “Laurie” (daughter), Michael "Mike" (son); Douglas/Lila Rowley (brother/wife) and Michael/Cynthia, George/Sue, Michelle, Robert/Julie, Eric (nephews/spouses); Thomas/Patricia, Timothy/Marsha, Richard, Dennis/Lori, Kate/Tom, Nancy, Brian/Jean, Kevin (step-nephews/nieces/spouses); Ruth, Leona/Norbert, Verlin, Reinhold "Reiny"/Judy (sister/brother-in-laws); and numerous children in the Rowley, Pates, Galligan, and Stevahn families.
Celebration of Life service will be July 8 at 7:00pm (reception following), St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 3051 Putnam Blvd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. Private burial. Memorials preferred to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church; Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center, P.O. Box 23381, Pleasant Hill, CA, 94523; or youth/education program of choice. (hullschapel.com)
The Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center's Board of Directors is excited to use our blog, Ranch Posts, to keep members and the public informed of the latest activities at the ranch. We invite you to comment, ask questions, or muse on the heritage center, both its historical past and its thriving present.