Steven Lopata - Little Rock AR
5/24/1942 - 3/5/2018
The world lost one of their grand storytellers on March 5, 2018, when Steven Lee Lopata succumbed to a long battle with Cardiac Disease at St. Vincent’s Infirmary in Little Rock, Arkansas, going peacefully to sleep. He was provided expert long-term care by St. Vincent’s distinguished Cardiac Intensive Care Unit to whom the family is deeply indebted.
Steven was born on May 24, 1942, to Stanley and Lucy Mayer Lopata in Newark City, New Jersey. He is survived by his spouse of 41 years Frances Gabelmann Lopata; children Lyle Cameron (& Zoe) Howell of Gonzales, Texas and Sammi Howell (& Chuck) Owens of Los Alamos, New Mexico and “borrowed” daughter Marcia (& Kyle) Lambert; grandchildren Christopher and Arielle Owens of Albuquerque, New Mexico; siblings James (& SuAnne) Lopata of Chicago, Illinois, Roger (& Cynthia) Lopata of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania and Lusette “Andy” (& Ed) Smith of Great Falls, Virginia; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and extended family members whom he loved very much.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
He had many informally adopted kids that he helped through college. He was a volunteer teacher at LOGOS high school in St. Louis. He was known as “Grampa Stevie” to many kids in New Mexico since he and Fran traveled to New Mexico frequently, never missing a grandkid’s birthday and attending many of their sporting events. This included an above-and-beyond the call of duty trip to Boise, Idaho, for a championship high school girls’ hockey tournament carrying all the stinky hockey bags in his vehicle. He fondly reminisced about serving as a chaperone for the girls’ rugby tour through Ireland where the girls were undefeated on foreign soil!
Steve graduated from Horton Watkins High School in Ladue, Missouri, and attended chemical engineering classes at Washington University in St. Louis before volunteering to serve in the army in Viet Nam. He served 3 years attaining the rank of Sergeant before returning and graduating from Southern Colorado State College in Pueblo, Colorado with a Bachelor of Science Degree.
He was the Director of Latin American Operations for the Carboline Company providing corrosion engineering, technical service, and maintenance support for corrosion resistant coatings in nuclear plants, oil rigs, tankers, and other smaller facilities. He authored American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) Standards on Corrosion Protection. He had to scuba dive to check out the condition of protective coatings on oil rig legs. One of his many funny stories was that a rig was having problems with the coating staying in place and while diving to investigate the issue he found sharks were rubbing their bodies against the rig legs and decided to see if rubbing against him felt as good!
We are mostly a family of engineers and physicists who know energy can't be destroyed, so Steve’s energy force is still spinning around us without his physical body limiting him anymore. We are sharing Steve stories and encourage you to do the same, so he knows we are thinking of him.
Steve loved to travel, had visited all 50 United States and 46 countries, and liked to be able to speak a few words in the native tongue of everyone he met. He claimed to be fluent in Spanish, French and Portuguese because he “could tell jokes in those languages”.
He was a private pilot and owned a Cessna 210 for many years. Fran and Steve loved to drive and claimed the honor of having traveled the length of almost every US highway. His final trip shortly before his heart failed was to Iceland and Finland for the 75th Science Fiction & Fantasy Worldcon in Helsinki.
Steve was a proud veteran of the United States Army earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star and was an excellent marksman and swordsman. He participated on championship trap and skeet teams for Winchester Operations in East Alton, Illinois, and was proficient in fencing with sabre, epee and foil. His family did have to make sure that if they were moving around the house after he went to sleep they had to step forcefully because if they tried to sneak quietly around, he was liable to have a flashback and introduce you to his combat defense skills! He also was an unnaturally loud snorer and his Viet Nam platoon mates used to joke that the enemy shelled them every night just to shut him up!
He loved literature and art with a large collection he loved to share. He was a friend to many writers and artists, providing technical assistance and book reviews with many citations and acknowledgments in their published works. He himself was a writer published in Soldier of Fortune magazine. He absolutely loved science fiction and fantasy, attending his first science fiction convention, St Louis Archon, early in his life. From then on he was hooked, attending almost every local convention and most Worldcons (where the Hugo and Chesley awards are presented). He helped setup and run the security and medical response teams for most of the Worldcons around the world over the last forty years.
As a lifetime Master Gardener and active member of the Gardenia Garden Club in Little Rock, Steve provided technical support and labor for the Curran Hall and River Market Master Gardener Projects and manned the Master Gardening helplines.
He shared his love for classical music and Broadway musicals by supporting the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and by treating his family to season tickets to the St. Louis Municipal Opera in Forest Park for many years. His favorite opera was Carmen, particularly enjoying the song Habanera.
He was an expert photographer and one of his son Cameron’s favorite memories was Steve teaching him how to do a timed exposure to see the track of the stars for a class project. Steve was an obsessive photographer with a dark room in his house and always carried around little albums of photos that he would show anyone at a moment’s notice regaling anyone who would listen with long funny tales behind the pictures.
He was a strong advocate for higher education, served for 15 years on the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Board for the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology and was a long-time patron of Washington University-St. Louis. He served on their library board, provided financial support, and was a dedicated athletics sponsor. His dedicated support of their volleyball team assisted them to several national championships. When Steve’s parents would throw fancy parties, Steve became the most popular man on the campus by hand-delivering all the party leftovers, like caviar, to the starving engineering students (which included daughters Sammi and Marcia).
Steve loved animals especially big cats and was an avid supporter of many zoos and wildlife rescue sanctuaries. As a volunteer caretaker, he worked with lions and tigers for several years at the SafariPark near Greenbriar, Arkansas, and got to bring home tiger and lion cubs for home care over the Holidays much to his own house cats’ dismay. He frequently told people that tiger spit made the best hair gel and we have pictures to prove it!
Steve was a strong supporter of charitable donations and volunteerism.
A donation to the charity of your choice would honor him or remembrances can be made to the Pulaski County Master Gardeners, the Little Rock Zoo or the Little Rock Council of Garden Clubs. Hugs would be in order as well.
Steve wished to be laid to rest with military honors beneath a tree in Kansas at the 1890’s original limestone farmhouse he and Fran restored. A private service will be held there in May. Individuals wishing to celebrate Steve’s life and swap tales are welcome to visit the family home in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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Service will be 2:00 P.M. Saturday, May 26th, at Hall Funeral Home, Lincoln, KS.