Steven Conway Eriksen
28 August 1953 – 10 July 2009
To speak of Steve, in the context of his work, is to celebrate his serious nature. He could be the joker but, as a work mate, he was never without his serious backdrop.
He was one of those people who wake each day to the plight of others and an inescapable calling to do something about it.
For people like Steve, driven by a social conscience, settling to a vocation is often difficult, particularly in the formative career- path years. In the 60’s and 70’s Steve restlessly searched the market place (mining, hospitality management, carpentry) for his vocation until his underlying values meshed with youth work.
From 1984 through to 1989 he was, at different times, with the Community Youth Support Scheme in Devonport, Burnie’s Department for Community Services, and Fusion Youth Accommodation in Burnie.
Steve started with North West Res in 1989 as one of our first employees. He worked in our very first shared home in Burnie. He also started visiting people in their own homes, helping them to manage their affairs and join community life.
Steve excelled in close personal support where the ability to absorb anger and anguish was critical. He often calmed difficult situations with his guitar playing.
An early period of religious exploration developed the values he needed to drive his working life. He didn’t falter in those values as he protected and spoke for the people he supported.
Steve took a spell from North West Res in 1995 when he went to NSW to work as a Service Coordinator for Aged & Disability Support Service. From 1999 to 2001, still in NSW, he worked for Coastlink Respite Care as a Client Activities Coordinator. During this period he also worked for Home and Nursing Disability Service as a support worker. All of this, of course, in service to others as his nature directed.
He would come back to Wynyard to check on his house and friends and share a bottle of red. He might have left North West Res on paper but I always felt that his heart remained with us. This was born out in 2002 when he came back to us and stayed.
Steve’s last challenge for North West Res was a personal triumph for him and his team as well as a widely acknowledged success story for the organisation. Leigh O’Boyle had to wait twenty long and painful years to escape institutional life. When he finally reached our care, Steve and his team, working closely with Leigh’s mother, Noreen, brought comfort, stability and purpose back into Leigh’s life. Those who saw Leigh’s concern for Steve during his bedside visits saw the rewards of this work that led the organization to specialize in intensive support.
We all hope for bravery if death comes slowly and painfully. From the first realization of what he was facing, Steve’s courage never faltered. He acknowledged the journey that he knew was going to test every corner of his being, as an adventure. He applied himself to his fate for what he could reveal that might help us if we found ourselves on a similar path.
He traversed that last mysterious edge of life like a true pioneer and then showed us how to exit with grace and optimism.
Sometimes words were hard to find. I found myself in one of those moments near the end, and sent him an e-mail with a quote that kept coming into memory every time I thought of him.
I recalled this from a book by Peter Kocan who was thrust from an emotionally painful and misunderstood early life into many years of incarceration. He turned to writing to try and make sense of those lost years.
In The Treatment & The Cure, he had this to say about the fall of the dice:
“Romeo and Juliet had to face both joy and despair in equal measure, but most lives aren’t set in such a balance. The profound element in most lives is usually more on one side than the other. Person A is called on to have a happy marriage and to raise a family, whereas Person B is called on to die of leukemia at eighteen. Each of them is at their post, and each is engaged in the Battle of Honour. And somehow each of them is fulfilling something for the other.”
We thank you, Steve for the brave stand you took at your post, the way you upheld your honour and what you fulfilled for us.
This article was posted on 20/07/09.