I first met Steve as a neighbor living just around the corner from our home in Derwood, MD. My wife Andrea had encountered Steve’s wife, Liliane Floge, at a nearby YMCA facility that both our families used. Shortly after that, we met Steve. He and Liliane had just moved down into the DC metropolitan area from Frederick, MD after Steve started a job with the National Governors’ Association in downtown DC. They had recently adopted their young daughter, Pascal, from Vietnam. Andrea and I had adopted two older children from Brazil around the same time. As aging adoptive parents, we had a lot in common.
My first real encounters with Steve occurred while we were both working in downtown DC. We would frequently connect on our Metro commute and had many good conversations about our work and our lives. Steve and Liliane were both former academics, both highly credentialed in the social sciences. Steve’s job at the Governor’s Association gave him a lot of high-level political connections which he was happy to talk about. I found out that Steve himself had made a run for Congress, but the conservative Frederick district he ran in wasn’t quite ready for a liberal Democrat like Steve.
Andrea and I shared with Steve and Liliane a similar left-of-center political perspective and we all shared our interests during election time. Steve was highly informed about local, state and national issues and I learned a lot just listening to him. He read voluminously – the New York Times as well as the Washington Post, and a slew of magazines and public policy books.
Andrea and I also shared with Steve and Liliane a mutual love of classical music. After the Strathmore Music Center opened in our county in 2005, we attended a number of Baltimore Symphony concerts together.
Liliane was an avid gardener and I remember spending a day working with Steve to break ground for a vegetable garden next to their home. A friend of ours helped them build a 6 foot enclosing fence to keep out the neighborhood deer. Andrea and I would look after the garden during their annual summer vacations in Maine and we still recall the sweet, succulent tomatos we got to partake in then.
Our friendship with Steve deepened during the Obama presidency when we shared many hopeful conversations about the future of our country. We both despaired after Trump’s election in 2016. When Andrea and I decided to start a small Indivisible group in early 2017 to try to counter the rightwing ascendancy, Steve was happy to join us. We met monthly with a half-dozen other politically motivated neighbors and friends for over five years, initially in each other’s home, but on Zoom after Covid appeared. We mobilized to help secure a $15 minimum wage in Montgomery county, and also lent our energy to a number of country, state, and national issues and candidates.
Another important commonality with Steve and Liliane was our shared interest in spiritual growth. Andrea and I were longtime meditators, and were impressed when they started a Buddhist sangha within the Rockville Unitarian Church that they attended. Steve and Liliane had both visited Thich Nhat Hanh’s spiritual community in southern France. Andrea and I had read a number of his books, and had even attended a talk that Thich Nhat Hanh had given in DC in the 1990’s.
Steve had served as an officer in the U.S. Army in Vietnam during the late 1960’s. He trained paratroopers and also served in combat, receiving a Bronze Star. But he returned from Vietnam utterly disillusioned with the war and joined forces with John Kerry in the early days of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Like many veterans, Steve returned to Vietnam after the war seeking to offer positive help and support. He and Liliane were big supporters of Vietnam Friendship Village, a social service agency there, and eventually decided to adopt from Vietnam, bringing home Pascal to share their lives with. Steve recalled how the adoption helped him convert his bad feelings about the Vietnam War into positive feelings for the Vietnam that emerged from the ashes.
I vividly remember Steve joining Andrea and me one evening to watch part of the Ken Burns’ riveting documentary series on the Vietnam War. At one point, Steve broke down in tears, reflecting back on his own horrific experiences in combat during that ill-begotten war.
After Covid hit and social life was dampened, Steve and I still got together regularly for walks and bicycle rides. He walked the cute little family dog, Jojo, past our house most mornings and he’d often stop to chat about the day’s news. Even though he was half a dozen years older, I was always impressed with his physical vigor and stamina. To the end, he was playing tennis three times per week.
Our last encounter with Steve occurred only a week before his sudden and unexpected death. Andrea and I had moved into a nearby retirement community in March, and sold our Derwood home in late April. The day after our closing, we had a memorable evening at Steve and Liliane’s home. They wanted to affirm their friendship for us after so many years as neighbors. It was a delightful evening, with a fine dinner and a special French gourmet cake for dessert. We left feeling closer to Steve, Liliane and Pascal than ever.
We were shocked to hear of Steve’s accidental fall and subsequent heart attack and strokes just one week later. It’s taken us this long to begin to emerge from our grief over the loss of a beloved neighbor, friend and political ally. It’s been heartbreaking to witness Liliane and Pascal’s deep grief as well. We attended Steve’s funeral at historic Mt. Olivet cemetery in Frederick yesterday. Another Buddhist sangha leader, a personal friend of Steve and Liliane, led a deeply soulful and gracious remembering of Steve and his rich contributions to family, friends, and community. She read a poem of Thich Nhat Hanh that called for our tears of grief to be converted into nourishing rain. She affirmed Steve’s depth of soul and his commitments to the highest ideals of justice, peace, and love.
One of Steve’s last contributions to our political group was his recommendation that we watch the short video on the life of Thich Nhat Hanh called “A Cloud Never Dies.” Andrea and I sat down to watch that video on the night after we learned of Steve’s passing. We took consolation that Steve’s life, like that of his Teacher’s, partook of the eternal nature of spirit. He will remain in my heart for the rest of my days.