Steve Shoemaker at Peace

With deep sadness but with great thanksgiving for his life and friendship, we share Steve’s CaringBridge post for readers of Views from the Edge:

Daddy died last night on October 10th, the anniversary of his own father’s death.

He is survived by his wonderful wife of 51 years, Nadja, two marvelous children, Daniel and Marla (as well as their spouses, Rachael and Craig), and two fabulous grandchildren, Carter and Grace.

Born and raised in Urbana, he played trombone and basketball at Urbana High School, while also wooing his future wife, Nadja. He then attended Wheaton college, where he participated in pranks, such as padlocking the chapel doors before a service. After becoming more serious about his studies (and receiving an ultimatum from his wife), he received a Master of Divinity Degree and Master of Sacred Theology Degree in 1969 from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. In a further pursuit of education, he then earned a PhD in Religion from Duke University in 1979.

Steve Shoemaker served as pastor at Pittsboro and Mount Vernon Springs Presbyterian churches in Pittsboro, NC, as well as campus pastor at North Carolina State University and McKinley Presbyterian Church in Champaign. He finished his career as Director of the University YMCA at the University of Illinois. For many years, Steve also taught one course a semester in Religious Studies at either Parkland College or The University of Illinois.

Devoted to his community, Steve served as Chair of the Committee for the Homeless, Co-Chair of the Men’s Emergency Shelter Steering Committee, member of the Dr. Martin Luther King Committee, member of the Muslim Committee, and served on the Champaign County Board, the United Way Board, and the local ACLU Board. He was also an active Urbana Rotary Club member since 1982 and acted as president in 2013.

With a passion for writing, particularly poetry, Steve was nominated for Illinois Poet Laureate in 2003 and has been published in a plethora of journals ranging from Christian Ministry to Judaism. After his cancer diagnosis, he published his first book titled “A Sin A Week.” He has also received thousands of Likes for poems posted through social media. In addition to the printed word, Steve reached out to the community through his weekly radio program, Keepin’ The Faith on WILL AM 580, which provided interviews and discussions highlighting relevant social topics.

Steve donated his rich bass voice to various choirs and was a member of the Real Fire band. He also donated his time to be an integral part in the lives of others as he joined couples in marriage, performed funerals, and provided counseling and support (while never accepting payment).

However, to this writer, Steven Robert Shoemaker’s greatest accomplishment was his role within his family. In over 50 years of blissful marriage, he modeled how to sincerely love and respect another. He gave corsages, coached soccer, and cooked Cheese Surprise. He took his children out of school to see baseball games and go to museums. And although his children did not always recognize it in the moment (as they were dragged to organ concerts or tours of Frank Lloyd Wright houses), Steve Shoemaker demonstrated how to embrace life (Fly kites! Eat dessert first!) and how to make the world a better place.

Despite a host of shortcomings, including but not limited to leaving used toothpicks around the house and eating other people’s chocolate bars, Steve was an accomplished author, compassionate pastor, devoted leader, and loving husband and father. He is greatly missed.

Memorial gifts may be made to the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, IL 61801.

Services will be arranged and announced as soon as possible.

There is a deep stillness in the Stewart household this morning. Even when I know death is coming, it still stops me in my tracks. The world is a smaller today.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 11, 2016

9 thoughts on “Steve Shoemaker at Peace

  1. Just now saw this, though later posts let me know of his death. A terrible loss for all his dear friends and acquaintances, but a blessed release for him. That this is, perhaps a too-much used expression does not mean it isn’t true. Praying for all who are bereft.

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    • Carolyn, your comment this morning – two weeks before gathering with the five remaining seminary classmates who gather annually for fellowship and reflection – takes me back to that moment of emptiness and helps me focus on one of the scheduled events for our days together in Maine (May 1-4): a service in thanksgiving for Steve. I miss him! The original group of seven is minus two now. Dale Hartwig, whose poems were also published here on VFTE, and Steve, also a poet-theologian, leave two large empty chairs in the circle now occupied by five. We will experience Otto’s mysterium tremendum et fascinans more profoundly this year with hymns, prayers, and remembrances of bread broken along with tears of sorrow and joy.

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  2. Steve sat with us for the rest of the night, the night we received word that our only son, a senior in college, had died in a mountain climbing fall. Steve delivered for us the first comforting words we felt were from God, “low I am with you always”. Steve has remained throughout our lives the most important contact we have experienced with God. Steve will live on in our hearts as long as we shall live. May the peace delivered to us through Steve bring peace to his beloved family for the rest of their earthly lives until they like us will all be together.
    Gerry Gilbert

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    • Thank you, Gerry, for sharing this very touching remembrance. Steve was that kind of person. Many of us were struck by how few words he used compared to lesser minds and bigger mouths. It was the poet in him. He spoke like a poet. He wrote like a poet. He saw like a poet. He listened like a poet. You were strangely blessed in your moment of horror by a humble psalmist and disciple of Jesus who put flesh on the meaning of presence.

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