The world lost a great man on April 25. Having just celebrated his 80th birthday on St. Patrick’s Day, James Patrick Stephens suffered a massive stroke -- with no warning -- and passed away peacefully.
He leaves behind a network of family and friends who were not ready for life without his wit and wisdom, and probably never would have been.
Jim was born in Karns City, PA in 1939 to parents Lillian May (née Cunningham) and Everal Dean Stephens. He spent his childhood in Lakewood and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science from California State University, Long Beach, and a Master of Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton. In 1962, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served for precisely one year, nine months, 23 days, and a wakeup, as he would so often relate.
Jim worked for 35 years for Rockwell International, from which he was able to retire early — at the wonderfully young age of 55. In his retirement, he worked as a consultant for Space Access.
In 1974, he met the beautiful and adoring Elizabeth Jo Calderone. The lovebirds married in 1976 and had two children, Denise and Kelly.
Jim spent nearly 40 happy years with his family at the home he bought in Orange in 1979. Throughout it all, he enjoyed being a husband and a father, going to car shows, seeing musicals and plays, going on family vacations, golfing with buddies, singing in the church choir, reading books, and seeking out the best oatmeal raisin cookies in town.
The heart of Jim’s existence was his family, especially his wife Elizabeth. He loved to dote on her and put her above all else. Jim was always ready to work a problem, and his daughters presented him with plenty (car accidents, work transitions, car leases, moves). Jim was the person you went to when you needed confirmation that an idea was either brilliant or stupid. While he was known for his dry sense of humor, he was also thoughtful, full of empathy, and somehow always knew the right thing to say.
He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Rita Hammond, son-in-law Don Cook, and at least six beloved cats.
So many people will hold him deeply in their hearts forever, namely Elizabeth Stephens, wife of 43 years, who will miss his laugh, his gentlemanly ways, and even the stale cookies in the pantry from him leaving everything open; daughter Denise Phillips, who will miss the way he took care of her mom, their long phone calls, life advice, and his love of green Jell-O; daughter Kelly Hernandez, who will miss his voice, his funny stories, and most of all, his expert advice; son-in-law Chris Hernandez, who will miss their spirited but respectful political debates; and granddaughter Hannah Hernandez, who will miss snuggling with him in his recliner and bossing him around. He is survived by many others who will dearly miss him, including son-in-law Gary Phillips; granddaughters Samantha Cook, Carlye Cook, Mackenzie and Makayla Phillips; nephew Darin Boyd; niece Wendy Wilson; sister-in-law Jill Beatty; brother-in-law Mike Beatty; and nephews Doug Beatty and Nick Beatty.
Oh to have five more years — heck, we’d all take five more minutes — with such a wonderful man.
James “Jim” Patrick Stephens
1939 – 2019