Eulogy for Robert Duncan Stevens

Graduation photograph - Robert Duncan Stevens upon graduation from University of British Columbia
Robert Duncan Stevens upon graduation from University of British Columbia

Rob’s Eulogy

as written by our brother Dave. Dave did a great job of it.

This copy was provided via our sister Marjorie.



We’re here to celebrate Robert Duncan Stevens, a unique and creative man whom we loved.  If we’re honest in our appraisal, though, we would have to start by admitting that Rob could be a real pain in the anatomy, but he was our pain in the anatomy.

In describing Rob, it occurred to me that he was like Clark Kent/Superman.  During the day he was a friendly paint retail salesperson, but on the way home, he would slip into a telephone booth and transform into a ball of creative energy.

Here are a few things you may not know about Rob:

First, he was a music composer.  He had a large number of original compositions on his computer exploring various styles.  In December, he worked with my son, Peter, who had written a composition for a class at school.  Peter ended up with a stronger price and a deeper appreciation of his uncle.

He was working with another nephew, Derek, writing a new comic book with super heroes and villains.  They collaborated on ideas and Derek was the illustrator.

He also thought up cartoons that I was illustrating.

In addition, he had been writing a fantasy novel for years.

He researched and developed theories about subjects such as Atlantis in Indonesia, Arthur and Camelot, the Agglutinative language group as it originated with the sons of Noah in Asia Minor, and even a connection between the Plains of Nazca in Peru with Antarctica.

He also wrote and had partially produced a video explaining his theory of how A. A. Milne had used Winnie the Pooh as a means of propaganda for the British Empire. He hired an actor and a video crew to shoot the footage at the Burnaby Village Museum, where Colin is the curator.

He was athletic and over the course of his life, he played hockey, skied, did scuba diving and was the proud owner of a sail board.  (Mom seems to recollect that whenever he went sail boarding, the wind would disappear, giving him practice at paddling around.)  At Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island, he played soccer and rugby; in fact, he captained the second rugby team in his senior year.  His coach described him as a tenacious tackler, but it was this tackling that caused him to only play in the first and last game of the season because of a broken collarbone.

He was an avid, well-informed hockey fan.  One of the nicest gifts that he received from Mary and Gord was a set of four tickets for the Canucks playing Chicago in January of this year.  He took Ashley, Derek and myself out for the evening. He was pretty sick, but he enjoyed the evening.  All we needed was for the Canucks to have won.

In many ways, Rob was a Renaissance Man, perhaps born outside his time of choice.  He would probably have felt more at home as a chivalrous knight in the service of a fair and noble king, or as one of the fellowship from Lord of the Rings.

Robbie was born special.  He was born in ROME, ITALY, July 18, 1962.

We all remember the cute little blonde who was added to our family, but Mom remembers the nights spent under the Italian stars trying to quiet down a colicky baby.

In Nova Scotia, he was a bright, happy child, who loved the park down by Lake Banook.  Somewhere in those years, he developed a tendency to sneak down on Christmas morning to open presents early.  Colin set a battery-operated doorbell in a wrapped box with the instructions, “To Be Opened First”.  Mom and Dad were awakened early by a loud ringing that Rob could not shut off.

In Winnipeg, it was the summer cottage at Lake-of-the-Woods that gave Rob his fondest memories.  He loved to swim, fish and wander in the woods.  This desire for solitude in nature continued throughout his life. When the cancer in his esophagus had grown to the extent that he could not swallow, he longed for water; to be surrounded by it; immersed in it.  So, on the May long-weekend last year, Rob, Gordon (another nephew) and I went swimming in Whonnock Lake in Maple Ridge.  Aside from the hypothermia, it was great.

Rob inherited intelligence and a quick mind from his parents, as was well demonstrated in Germany where he was placed in a German-speaking school without any preparation.  He did well in his courses and Marjorie even remembers his ability to communicate early on with the German police when he got himself in a little misunderstanding.

During this time, he and I wrote letters to each other while I was in college.  We both loved Lord of the Rings, so part of our letters were translated into Elfin Runes from Tolkien.  He must have memorized them, because I had pages to translate, whereas all I sent was a paragraph or two.

At Shawnigan Lake, he was awarded the Most Improved Student of the Year for Grades 11 and 12, while in his first year.  He had many stories to tell about the school, but one of the better lines he had was in a phone call home:  “Dad, the car is wrecked … but the DEER IS OK!”

In 1985, with Andrea, he became the proud father of Ashley, his own cute little blonde baby.

Rob attended Langara and UBC, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History.  Probably the best thing about these years, though, was that he met Cynthia Chew at Langara.  They were married in 1994.

Rob and Cynthia spent part of a year in Singapore with her family where he developed a real affinity for Cynthia’s grandmother on her father’s side and for Linda Chew’s father, a retired sea captain.  A generous gift from Cynthia’s parents, Robert and Linda, was the use of a beautiful apartment on the 27th floor overlooking False Creek during Rob’s battle with cancer.  He had some days when he was difficult, but we saw how bravely he fought his final battle.  We’re proud of our Rob.

Mary remembers my family’s last visit to the Palliative Care Facility.  She watched Rob interact with each of my children and was particularly struck with how he talked to my youngest child, Andrew.  Rob was worried that Andrew would be overwrought with anxiety about him.  He was perceptive to Andrew’s fears and, after defining the word “overwrought”, encouraged him.  Mary later wrote in her journal, “I sit in quiet amazement and wonder when my “baby” brother had grown up to become the caring, sensitive man I now see.”

Family was very important to Rob, and he had special interest in his nieces and nephews. Neil imagined that he would encourage each of you by saying, “Carpe Diem”, or “Seize the Day”.

Three of the special people in Rob’s life were his mother, Estelle, his third doctor; Ashley, his beautiful daughter; and, Cynthia, his loving wife.

One day in December, I had a long talk with Rob about his spiritual journey and when he finished, I asked him, “Where are you at now that you’re facing death?”  He responded by saying, “I just want to be in God’s kingdom.”  We prayed together for that.  Now Rob can take all his questions right to the source.

We love you, Rob.  Rest peacefully, my brother.