Precita Neighbors Gather to Remember Stephen

On Sunday morning, a group of Bernal Heights neighbors gathered to participate in a memorial service for Stephen, the gracious resident of Precita Park who died on January 20.

It was a simple but warm affair. There were some cookies, and some coffee, and a modest shrine set up on the table where Stephen often passed the days. There were grey-haired old-timers on hand, along with families with kids, dogs with their owners, and a few Precita Park merchants. I overheard one young attendee say, “When my mother came to visit, I took her to meet him.”

Stephen died of complications from alcoholism, but he made a strong impression during the many years he spent living in the park. He’d apparently lost track of his real family, but he’d adopted the people of the neighborhood as surrogates. “Over and over I’d ask him, ‘Why don’t you get a room somewhere?'” one neighbor recalled. “Every time he’d say the same thing: ‘It’s the people. I look out for them, and they look out for me.”

One man said, “some people may have had a problem with his being here, but his presence made this a safer and more family-friendly place.”

Then someone pulled out a guitar, and everyone sang “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”

Stephen is also remembered via an eerily modern memorial: During a late stage of Stephen’s illness, while he was confined to a wheelchair, the Google Maps car apparently drove up Folsom Street on a sunny and pleasant day. As the car passed the intersection with Bessie Street, its cameras captured Stephen resting in the sun, in the very spot where his many friends and neighbors would gather to remember and appreciate him months later, after he was gone:

11 thoughts on “Precita Neighbors Gather to Remember Stephen

  1. I tried explaining that Steven died to my 4 year old son, who had seen the man almost every day of his life. I told him that he’d been very sick, and my son asked if he’d been to the hospital. I told him that yes, he had, but he still probably needed to spend more time in the hospital than he had, and that it also wasn’t good for you to be living outside.

    My son is a little to young to understand what an alcoholic is. As a recovering alcoholic myself, it breaks my heart to have witnessed the way Steven went like that. It also provided a reminder to me of what could become if I don’t keep my own addiction in check. So god bless you Steven for that gift, I just really wish it didn’t have to go down like that 😦

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  3. I am not surprised with any of the accolades coming from the neighbors of Precita Park. Nor am I surprised how Stephen has lived since I saw him last. I had hoped he would pull it all together but feared that he couldn’t. Stephen, and never call him Steve, loved his family, was a good friend, an uncle who loved my boys…and they him. He was kind, talented, interesting, fun-loving and intelligent. Other than the fact he liked his steak over-the-top-well-done, I loved him. He made every family gathering that much more interesting. But the combination of his steadfastness and alcohol got the best of him and sent him off on a different track.

    Stephen and I spent many, many hours talking about…stuff. We’d meet at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Milford, bars in Boston, and we’d spend entire weekends on Cape Cod sitting by the wood stove just talking…about life, self, friends, family, work, marriage and of course…religion. What I walked away with was that Stephen had very strong beliefs in all the above where, for him, compromise was not an option. We had our differences but at the end of the day we were still friends and respected each other.

    The saying is, “You judge a man by his actions”. Well, in Stephen’s case his actions often betrayed how he really felt, actions of which I don’t believe he had much control. I hope a place exists where Stephen can finally reconcile his inner struggles. May he rest in peace.


  4. Stephen’s gentle heart is silent. His good soul lives on in our memories and prayers. His life remains a lesson to recall and share. His home is now in another place. His memory lives on in his former home, Precita Park with his friends who visited him daily.

    Thank you for publishing his life’s story. His growing number of reader-friends will include him in their prayers, share his story and believe he has earned his eternal rest.

    Rest in peace, Gentle Soul Stephen.

    Jacqueline Beusse

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