Richard F. Stepien passed peacefully from this world to the next on September 2nd, 2018.
Richard was born on July 2, 1931 to Michael and Victoria Stepien, who had emigrated to the United States from Poland. Richie (as they called him) was the youngest of 4 children, with two older sisters, Blanche and Ceil, and an older brother Henry. He grew up in a small house in an industrial section of Buffalo, New York during the great depression, where values of frugality and hard work were instilled in him that stayed with him throughout the rest of his life. He was educated by Jesuits, and graduated from Canisius High School and later Canisius College. After college he spent two years in the army, where he was stationed in Germany. On his return to civilian life he went to work for the state of New York, where he met and fell in love with Arlene Stablewski. They were married on September 6, 1958. Shortly thereafter he moved to Rochester to work for the IRS, where his three children were born, and the family spent 4 happy years.
In 1963, Richard was transferred back to Buffalo. He built a house on the edge of suburban Tonawanda, New York, and the family moved into the comfortable split level home that the kids would grow up in. Life was the quintessential middle class American experience, with dad popping a fedora on his head and heading downtown each morning, putting in a hard day’s work, and returning home to a hot meal and a house full of rambunctious kids. Weekends were spent with the extended family, with large dinners and football always on the TV. Each summer the family would pack into the car and head north to the Adirondack Mountains, where a cabin on a lake would be rented and time would be spent swimming, boating, and swatting mosquitos.
Richard was a man of great faith. Throughout his entire life he believed fervently in the teachings of the Catholic church, and took great comfort in them. One of his greatest joys was seeing John Paul II, a Pole, elected Pope. That also translated into a preference for a certain college football team, and he was a huge fan of Notre Dame, which his youngest son and two grandsons attended.
After 30 years of service to the IRS, Richard learned of a program where agents could retire and take up a new position in the US Virgin Islands. It sounded like a great adventure, and that the climate might be a bit more agreeable than Buffalo’s, so he and Arlene packed up and moved to the island of St. Croix. They bought a condo on the beach and settled into a new phase of life, considerably more laid back than what they had been used to. But paradise came with a price, and in 1989 category 5 hurricane Hugo zeroed in on the island and destroyed it. For several months they were cut off from the outside world, yet their building was one of the only ones on the island that survived. The trauma passed and life slowly got back to normal, but in 1995 Hurricane Marilyn landed another blow, and they decided it was enough.
Richard and Arlene moved back to the mainland, and a real retirement ensued. Richard spent the next few years piloting a 27 foot fifth wheel around the country, visiting campgrounds and National Parks and making new friends along the way. After 2 years on the road, they settled back down in Florida, where they worked part time at Disney World, which their grandchildren certainly appreciated. They moved again to Dunnellon FL, where Richard was active in the Knights of Columbus, achieving Grand Knight status, and then again north to Ohio to be close to their son Rick, where they spent 5 years. In 2018 Richard made his final move to Williamsburg, VA to be close to his daughter Elaine.
Richard is survived by the love of his life and wife of 60 years Arlene, and his children, Christian Stepien and his wife Melissa, Elaine Dials and her husband David, and Rick Stepien and his wife Peggy, six grandchildren (Katie Lavell, Chelsea Lavell, Colleen Lavell, Rick Stepien and his wife Madi, Christopher Stepien, and Patrick Stepien), a step grandchild (Latimer Smith and his wife Megan) a great grandchild (Char Stepien) and 2 step great grandchildren (Reed and Emery Smith).
A mass will be held for Richard at St. Olaf Church in Williamsburg, VA on Saturday September 8 at 11 AM. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the University of Notre Dame for the Stepien Scholarship Fund, and mailed to Donor Services, University of Notre Dame, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556.