Stephen Jack Vander-wood, 73, died peacefully at home with his family on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020. Steve was born in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Sept. 11, 1946, to Lucille Miller and Jack Vanderwood.
Steve was sharp-witted and artistically inclined with diverse interests and talents. He ran marathons in his youth. As a student at Orange Coast College, he studied fine and performing arts. He was cast in a stage production of “Bye Bye Birdie” with fellow acting student Diane Keaton (then Diane Hall), and he kept her laughing with his Jonathan Winters style of humor. He continued to produce art for most of his life, including drawings, paintings in oil and watercolor, and wire sculptures. After college, Steve learned how to tune, refinish and rebuild pianos, and this skilled craft became his primary profession.
In 1989, Steve met Susan Burr while attending massage school in San Diego, where he charmed her with his dry sense of humor. After several years and a slow move up the West Coast, Steve and Susan settled their family on Whidbey Island, Wash., and were married on Sept. 17, 1994, in Freeland, Wash.
Steve enjoyed life in the Pacific Northwest. In 2001, he and Susan bought an unfinished house on the island, and it became an anchor. A lifelong learner, Steve finished the house gradually by teaching himself home improvement skills with the help of books checked out from the library. He also studied Biblical Hebrew independently and taught himself to play guitar.
Steve was a fiercely devoted father and made his mark on the community. He designed the Island Dance logo and performed several times in the Whidbey Island Dance Theater production of The Nutcracker, getting laughs from the audience with his humorous portrayals of an uncle or butler. He played guitar in a Christian band called “Forgiven.” He was a trusted piano technician who built up a large clientele that included private clients and performing arts institutions.
In his later years, Steve most enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren (whom he adored), tuning pianos and tending to his property with his riding lawn mower and chainsaw. He took pride in maintaining clear paths through the woods so that Susan could enjoy daily walks.
Steve is survived by his wife, Susan; children, Rachel, Ben, Graham and Zane; stepchildren, Amanda Burr, Andrea Burr and Max Burr; his sisters, Madelon Isaacs (Mark), Jackie Westerman (Bud), and Jan Vanderwood; his grandchildren, Athena, Jack, Jude, Clark, Sahar, Ellie and Ethan; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
There will be a celebration of his life at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at 6070 Cultus Bay Road, Clinton.