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March 28, 2006

David Stemple
Posted by Patrick at 07:16 AM *

David Stemple—scientist, outdoorsman, world traveller and paterfamilias—was sharp, funny, irascible, generous, kindly, impassioned, profane, and great company. He could talk your ear off about Scottish history, growl terrifyingly about the iniquity of bad database design, and in the presence of a bird he wanted to observe, he could bend reality itself. He believed in knowing things. He was a man who, when you met him, you thought “That’s right, that’s how a human life should be lived.”

He was the husband of novelist and poet Jane Yolen, and father of novelist and musician Adam Stemple, both of them friends, colleagues, and co-conspirators in multiple areas of our lives. He died last Wednesday after a long illness. This morning we’re in western Massachusetts for his memorial. Normal weblog service (such as it is) will resume later in the week.

Comments on David Stemple:
#1 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 07:38 AM:

I am so sorry to hear this and my thoughts and prayers are with Jane and Adam and their families. Her collection, The Radiation Sonnets were not only lovely and moving in their own right but a great source of strength to my family and I during a difficult time.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 07:45 AM:

That is a wonderful eulogy, in a very few words. He was, clearly, a man who was deserving of the highest praise.

#3 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 09:21 AM:

I wish it were happier times that brought you here to Western Mass. I never met Mr. Stemple, but I learned a long time ago never to miss an opportunity to hear Jane when she was storytelling, and I am not at all surprised to learn that her husband, likewise, was a remarkable and fascinating human being. I am very sad to hear this news, and I am sending all my good thoughts and best wishes for comfort over the river to you all.

#4 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 09:56 AM:

He was a good one. I'm glad we had him. He will be missed.

#5 ::: Soli ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 10:23 AM:

I never met him, but I met Jane a few times doing writers cons when I was in college. Love to them both.

#6 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 11:09 AM:

The condolences of a stranger may not mean very much, but I'd like to offer them anyway. It sounds like the world lost a fine person. My condolences to his friends and family.

#7 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 11:19 AM:

The world has lost a goodly man. You know I wish I could be there in person; I am surely with you all in spirit today.

Condolences also to Heidi and Jason, Adam's sister and brother; and to all of David's grandchildren. They will surely miss him as they grow up.

#8 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 11:24 AM:

send my love to all.

tnh, i sent you a package at work; heads up!

#9 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 12:01 PM:

I did not know David, but I met Jane a few times at conventions. My profound sympathy to her and to Adam, and to you both on the loss of a dear friend.

#10 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Oh, I am so sorry. Please let us know if there is any kind of memorial or charity in his name.

#11 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 12:26 PM:

And Jane Yolen is way ahead of me:

"He wanted any memorial gifts to go either to Mass. Audubon or to the Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University."

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 12:42 PM:

My condolences to all his family and friends: my heart to your heart.

#13 ::: James Goodman ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 12:59 PM:

My deepest condolences to his family.

#14 ::: Bill Hooker ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 01:23 PM:

[what Harry said]

For what they may be worth, I offer my condolences also.

#15 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Someone needs to do something about this death thing. It's horrible.

#16 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 02:17 PM:

I'm very sorry to hear this; my condolences to Jane and her family.

#17 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 04:02 PM:

I only met David a couple of times (he often didn't join Jane at cons), but he always struck me as being a very decent, very interesting guy, and I was always sorry I never got to know him any better.

#18 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 06:24 PM:

I met David only a few times - but he made quite an impression on me, and I've retold that story of my introductory lession to retsina many times. I haven't been able to come across any book about birds without thinking of him either - pretty impressive for such limited exposure.

I can only echo what was said above: my condolences to Jane and the entire family.

#19 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 07:09 PM:

The memorial service was as lovely and good as such a thing can be and then some. It was filled with birdsong, laughter, tears, live music, photos, flowers, love, grief, support, and the sheer exuberance of Wee David Stemple, Adam and Betsy's young son. Most of all, it was filled with David stories, told by family and friends, layer upon layer as we celebrated his accomplishments, his love of Jane, of family, of owls and birds and birdsong, his love of language, of teaching and learning. Always learning, ever learning.

As mentioned above, David wanted any memorials to go to Mass. Audubon and the Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University. (The latter has changed its name to Macaulay Library in conjunction with their expansion into video recordings.)

It was a beautiful day. A beautiful, hard day. One clearly spent with love all around.

#20 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 11:39 PM:

David Stemple was also an outstanding teacher, one of the best I had in my college career. I'm very sorry to hear of his death, and would like to offer my condolences to his friends and family.

#21 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2006, 08:18 AM:

Thank you all. Heidi, Jason and I went out this morning at 6 am to David's gravesite to listen and look for birds in his honor.

There was a robin singing his heart out in the tree over David's grave. A cardinal glowed on a tree a football field away. Crows harassed the local redwing hawk. And the drill of woodpeckers filled the air. It was a David moment and I was moved beyond speaking.

Jane

#22 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2006, 08:21 AM:

I'm terribly sorry to hear.

#23 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2006, 12:22 PM:

...yet another good and wonderful person I will never get to meet. There were already far too many of those. Daniel Klein is right.

My thoughts and prayers to Jane and Adam and the rest of the family.

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2006, 03:46 PM:

One of the speakers at the memorial service referred to David as the Owl King, which seems right.

David's home page. There are recent pictures.

Jane Yolen's bio, with less-recent pictures of David.

If you've ever read Jane's book Owl Moon, that's David going owling.

UMass Amherst's obituary.

Two books at Amazon.

#25 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Around 140 people were at the memorial service. SF folks (pro and fan) included John Crowley, Holly Black, Tony Lewis, Bruce Coville, Allan Steele, Esther Friesner, Jeffrey A. Carver, Allan Steele, Debra Doyle, James D. Macdonald, Gregory Feeley, Geri Sullivan, Priscilla Olson, and ourselves. David's life touched a lot of people.

It was great to see various members of the extended Yolen/Stemple clan that we haven't seen in a while, including Adam's wife, the redoubtable Betsy Pucci, who took one look at Teresa and me, gestured to us and to herself, and said, "Ah, we're all beefing up for the Apocalypse, I see." An immediate demonstration of cataplexy followed.

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2006, 05:02 PM:

I thought Betsy was addressing me and Geri. Whatever her intention, she very nearly brought me to the floor.

The only time I've done a flat-out cataplectic fall at a funeral was at the cemetery when we were burying Granny. My brother Victor told me about my sister-in-law Bev's first meeting with my family -- in part because I hadn't heard the story, but also because some of the younger family members had never gotten to see Aunt Teresa's party trick. It was thoughtful of him. I was just glad he'd picked a spot where I'd land on grass, not mud or windfall olives.

#27 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 12:35 AM:

There are too many people I never had a chance to meet, but who echo so strongly through their friends and family members that I get a sense, however attenuated and secondhand, of what I missed.

David Stemple is one such.

Thank you, Patrick, Teresa, Jane, Geri, and everyone else who has shared their knowledge and love of David here.

My condolences to all of you.

#28 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 10:08 AM:

I never met the man, but I read one of Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple's books to my daughter this month, so I just emailed my wife (I enjoy and admire Jane Yolen's work--my wife is a fan) links to our local library's editions of Owl Moon.

#29 ::: MplsMichelle ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 04:24 PM:

I don't know any of the family well, but there is one good thought - I know he got to meet at least one grandchild in this world . . . (Adam's not-so-little-anymore one . . . ) It's an amazing family.

#30 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 07:31 PM:

Got to meet all six of his grandkids, including Adam's youngest who was named David after him. And Jason's twins who were the last born.

And loved them all tremendously. Goofy about them actually.

Jane

#31 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 07:56 AM:

Auch ein Klagelied zu sein im Mund der Geliebten, ist herrlich.
Schiller - Naenie

#32 ::: Nalini ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2006, 08:30 AM:

My deepest sympathies to Dave's family.
I had the honor of working with Dave when I was a graduate student at UMASS Amherst.
I will always remember his wit and his absolute passion as a teacher and be thankful for having had the opportunity to work and learn with him.

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