On the morning of Feb. 22, 2018, Stephen Van Rensselaer Crain, age 64, went out for a five-mile walk to see the dawn in Naples, Fla. It was his favorite time of day. When he returned, he laid down for a nap during which he suffered his third and final heart attack quietly and suddenly. He just didn't wake up.
Steve was born to Dr. Richard C. and Louise (Allen) Crain in Rochester, N.Y., on Aug. 7, 1953, the third son in 4 years. Steve grew up on Knickerbocker Hill, Pittsford, N.Y., as his family grew to include two younger sisters. He learned ballroom dancing that he and Lisa randomly put to good use in the fruits and vegetable section of the grocery store and his family had a large repertoire of camp songs that Steve sang often, especially in the early morning. Over time, he often got the words wrong and then he just made them up.
Upon graduation from Pittsford Sutherland High School, Steve chose to attend Wooster College in Ohio, a destination chosen in part for its proximity to his home: close enough to reasonably hitchhike to but far enough away that no one from home could reasonably pop in unannounced. Steve left Wooster following the death of his father in 1976. He spent time on the road, picking up restaurant jobs along the way, traveling mostly alone, exploring places like Banff and Boulder and the Florida Keys as well as an extended stay in St. Croix. It was during a pause, in 1981- a trip home to make a little more money- that he met Lisa Booth after his mom kicked him and his German Shepard puppy out of the house after that unfortunate incident with an antique lamp. Louise always took full credit for their meeting. They married the following year in Plattsburgh, N.Y., where Steve chose to make his home near the shore of Lake Champlain. Surrounded by Lisa's family, they raised two fine sons.
In the quiet way that a gentleman does, Steve always put Lisa first. He always made sure that Lisa had the more comfortable chair, the choicest part of dinner served, abundant encouragement to pursue her interests, and a warm jacket on a cold walk. Steve did all of the math and the heavy lifting and reached the stuff on the high shelves. In exchange, Lisa spelled everything that needed spelling, found the stuff in plain sight and shopped for the gifts and wrote notes on all the cards.
Steve found support and strength in the rooms of AA. In March 1988, he made a strong commitment to live a sober life, 24 hours at a time and he walked his talk for 30 years.
Steve loved being a father. Through his enthusiastic example, his sons know the magic of an unexpected pun, why it's important to have a dog, how to survive and even thrive during every calamity-filled camping trip, how a good book can make all the difference. He was enormously proud of the men they have grown to be.
While raising a young family, Steve earned a CAS in school psychology. He began his career in Saranac Lake and after several years there, accepted a position with the Plattsburgh City School District. Over the course of his career, he dedicated his time and energy to his colleagues and his students, K-12. He earnestly approached his work with wit and logic and compassion. He provided a steady voice for those who struggled to speak for themselves. He retired at the end of the 2016 school year.
Steve will be remembered for his loyalty, his tireless work ethic, his infectious laugh, his willingness to play, his sense of adventure, his devotion to his family and his deep and abiding affection for his core group of friends from childhood. He could whap a golf ball pretty far, play an impressive hand of bridge, and read the water to easily find safe passage; he caught a few fish along the way. He was well known for his perfectly timed zingers and puns which often turned any gathering into a laughter soaked event that left our cheeks aching. Wearing that no-good smile, he cracked himself up telling stories.
Left to tell the stories are his wife, Elizabeth (Lisa) Booth Crain, his son Stefan and companion Kate Hart and his son Chip and his wife Anna (Purtell) Crain. He is also survived by his brother Tom and wife Barbara and niece Vanessa (Joachim), his sister Susan and husband Chris and nephew Blake and niece Alex, his sister Becky and husband Bruce and nieces Amanda (Mark), Jessie (Ben) and nephew Jake (Laura), sister-in-law Betty Crain, nephew Cullen (Danielle) and their children and nephew Jason as well as his Aunt Carol Crain, Aunt Cynthia Stokes, and all of the dear cousins of the Stokes family, the Blume family, the Wickes family, the Jacobs family and the Crain family. In addition, Lisa's extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins who loved him dearly, especially the Wold family; Lisa's parents, Kit and Sally Booth, her brother Chris and his wife Janet and their children Katie and Lindsey miss him already.
Those who preceded him in death include his mother and father, his dear brother, Richard, Harriet and Frank Blume, Eric Stokes, Bill Crain and all five dogs, Austin, Bucky, Ranger, Jimmy and Chance, as well as a few plants that he may or may not have overwatered.
Cremation has taken place in Naples and a memorial is being planned in Plattsburgh for sometime in the summer.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Adirondack Mountain Club to support and protect the park he loved so well.
Published on March 11, 2018