Monday, July 16, 2007

A Tribute to My Sister


Stephanie was born on Tuesday, November 1, 1955, at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City. When Grandpa Coray came to see her, Mom and Dad went on and on about how beautiful and perfect she was. Grandpa looked her over and said, “She is cute, but I see some room for improvement.” And improve she did!

Mom and Dad loved the name Stephanie; however, no one else did—they received a lot of grief from family and friends regarding her name. In fact, Grandpa Tate asked, “What do you have against this poor child already to give her a name like Stephanie?” Regardless of the opposition, they decided Stephanie was the name for her. As a young child, she had trouble pronouncing her name and began calling herself, “Nenny.” To this, Dad added “Pooh,” and for many years, she was called “Nenny Pooh!”

Even as a baby, Stephanie was always on the go. She never officially crawled but rather scooted around on her behind. When she was 14 months old, Grandpa Coray tended her one day while Mom and Dad were away. When they came back to get her, Grandpa said, “She just up and walked, and I swear she walked 10 miles!”

Steph attended Scera Park Elementary School and Lincoln Junior High. Her buddies were Debbie Curtis and Valerie Lewis, and they were always together—even getting into mischief now and then (once they were chased by the police for throwing water balloons).

Stephanie was very smart and always did well in school. In fact, Mr. Title, a teacher from Scera Park Elementary School, thought she had perfect handwriting—and he actually escorted her on a Daddy-Daughter date when Dad went with Liz.

As a teenager, she had a crush on Davy Jones of the Monkeys, and as she got a bit older, she created and kept a very detailed list of the necessary qualifications her future spouse must hold—down to the type of skier he was—sloppy skiers need not apply.

Steph was a Tigerette when she was a senior at Orem High—something she was very excited about. She graduated with honors and went onto BYU where she earned a degree in Early Childhood Education.

When she went on her first job interview for a teaching position in Alpine School District, the interviewer looked at her with surprise and said, “You’re here.” To which she replied, “Of course I’m here.” He continued, “You looked so perfect on paper that I thought you might have been translated.” Of course she got the job!

Stephanie loved to travel and had a great sense of adventure—Mom said she would just get in the car and drive—often convincing others to join her on her journeys. She even traveled to Europe 1975.

It was at the beginning of her second year of teaching that Steph met Dale—at a Family Home Evening group activity. They were playing touch football—Steph injured her thigh, and as Dale had knowledge of sports medicine, he asked her if she wanted him to take a look at it. And so it began . . .he offered her a ride on his motorcycle to the next activity—she initially said no, but ended up going with him.

Their first official date was to Pioneer Park—Dale picked her up in his MG—they bought Grenadine and 7up to make Shirley Temples, stopped at Burger King for burgers and fries, and ate on a park bench—complete with candlelight—and afterward, they swung on the swings and talked.

Steph’s first impressions of Dale were that he was a nice guy, but a bit too short and short on hair. Luckily, she listened to her heart and focused on the nice guy part!

After a brief courtship, Dale decided to ask Stephanie to marry him. He knew that if he didn’t do it right away he would lose his nerve, and as it was late in the evening, he just picked up the phone and called her. He told her, “I know I love you, and I want to marry you. Will you marry me?” Steph replied, “I think so, but let me think about it more.” Dale called the next morning and said, “Well?” After a short pause, she said yes!

They looked at rings and picked one out. Dale got it earlier than anticipated and surprised Steph by showing up to her school, getting down on one knee, and proposing in front of her class. She said yes again!

Steph and Dale were married on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 1980, in the Salt Lake Temple.

Brooke joined them on April 7, 1981; two years later, Jaime arrived on April 30, 1983. They had planned on having their kids two years apart, but Briana was a bit of a surprise—a wonderful one, as Jamie says—and arrived on December 6, 1984.

Steph was a devoted mother and very involved in her children’s lives—her three daughters were her pride and joy. She used to wake them up in the morning by singing to them—songs that she made up as she went along. (This is a trait she surely got from Dad.) If they didn’t get up, she would get a cup of water, dip her hand in it, and flick the water on them for extra incentive.

Stephanie had a great yet subtle sense of humor. Once when they were out boating and camped on a beach, Steph and Brooke were sitting on lawn chairs, and Briana was playing in the sand in front of them. Brooke noticed that Briana’s swimsuit had crept up, exposing one side of her derriere. Brooke said, “Mom, look at Briana—we need to fix her swimsuit.” Steph got off her chair, walked over to Briana, pulled up the other side of her suit, and said, “Now they’re even!”

After Briana died in June of 2001, Stephanie began working at the Provo Temple—it was in the temple that she felt true peace and solace. She had a strong testimony of the gospel. It was solid and never wavered. Through trials, sickness, and deaths, Stephanie showed tremendous spiritual strength, and faced her challenges with faith, not fear.

Stephanie cared deeply about others—often putting their needs before her own. This past summer, after her retirement, she was busy reading an educational book. When asked what she was doing, she said, “I know a teacher who is struggling with some classroom issues, and I want to help her.” She truly was a mentor and inspired not only the hundreds of children she taught throughout her 29-year career, but also those teachers she helped learn to become better teachers.

About the same time she was to begin her interferon treatments, she learned that her first grandchild was on the way. What a blessing that was in her life! For the last three months of Brooke’s pregnancy, Stephanie called her every day with a countdown to Parker—“Only 56 days left!” She was so excited for his arrival. Despite being in the middle of treatments that left her fatigued and with little strength, she traveled to Seattle to witness his birth and help with his care, and she was the second person to hold little Parker after his Dad.

Stephanie was comfortable with who she was—she was very real and very true. When she knew that she was going to lose her hair to the radiation treatments, she decided to take charge and cut it off, and she did so with a smile on her face. She rarely wore a wig—preferring a simple hat instead.

In June of this year, Steph and Dale went on a cruise to Alaska with Mom, Dad, Amy, and Tyler. One evening when they were docked in Juneau, Steph decided that she wanted to do some shopping. Amy and Mom thought t-shirts and post cards, but Steph had something different in mind. She had always been quite sensible. In fact, before buying her first new car, a light blue Fiat, she did extensive research to make sure she was making a good decision. In Alaska, she threw all caution to the wind and purchased a diamond bracelet, pendant, and earrings—just like that—to the shock of her travelling companions. The next day she said, “I don’t know what got into me—I went a little crazy last night.” But she had no buyer’s regret and enjoyed wearing the jewelry.

Stephanie loved to learn—she was always taking some class—often certification courses for school, but earlier this year, she took a Spanish course so that she could speak and understand some of the language for the trip she took to Spain with Dale and Jamie.

Steph always maintained her positive outlook—she never complained. Even at the end of her illness, she would always say, “I’m okay,” “I’m fine,” or “Sounds good!” She was an eternal optimist.

Stephanie was always supportive, always present, but never sought attention or recognition. She had a quiet way of going about things. She didn’t have to be the life of the party, but she certainly radiated a great deal of light to any room she entered.

Stephanie lived what she believed—she lived her convictions. What you saw was what you got! When she retired earlier this year, her school gave her plaque that read: Simplicity—to be simple is to be great. That was Stephanie to a T!

Although the 51 years she spent on this earth seem far too short to us who dearly miss her, they were full, rich years of a life beautifully lived. And we are truly fortunate to have loved and been loved by Stephanie.

4 comments:

Brooke said...

Janet, this was very thoghtful of you! Thanks so much for doing it and for helping us to remember Stephanie.

Andrew Barnes

Jamie Densley Fieber said...

I still can't get through reading this without crying but I'm so thankful to have it on here! Janet gave such a wonderful talk that really describes my mom to a "t". Love you and am grateful for all you have done for me, Brooke and my dad.

LinneaSirman said...

I just wanted to let the family of Stephanie Densley know how she definately made a defference in the world. I am 23 years old and I remember Mrs. Densley was such an amazing kindergarten teacher to my brother and I. She would meet with her students before the big day arrived and made everyone comfortable in the class room. I remember her teaching us how to read simple words and learning the letters and their importance in the alphabet. She definately showed a great love for her kids in school. I will always remember that love she gave. If it weren't for her I may have never made it to college or even graduate highschool with a 3.5 gpa. I was sad to see that she passed as I looked to give her thanks. But I know she can see that now as she is in a better place. She was a great blessing in my life. Sorry for your loss may many blessings come your way.
~Linnea Sirman (a student 1992-93)

Erin Mumford said...

I am a stranger to your family, but I wanted to thank you for this beautiful tribute my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Densley. I was a student of hers at Cherry Hill Elementary from 1990-1991. For a long time, I have wondered what happened to my sweet teacher, and I am grieved to learn of her passing. Once again, thank you for your tribute. I look forward to thanking her in person one day.