David y el juego de palabras

Me reencuaché, posiblemente para muchos esta palabra no tiene sentido, para David el juego de palabras, su creatividad y buen sentido del humor creó una forma de expresar lo que pasaba a un momento dado en su vida profesional. Quería decir que optó por una nueva capa de conocimiento para enfrentar las nuevas demandas del mercado laboral.

Muchas son las historias que podría contar sobre mi amigo David, el haber compartido la vida de arquéologos en la Baja Cuenca del Río Guayas y el haberse declarado “el rey del río Daule” dio paso a una estrecha amistad que nunca será igualada. Sólo el pudo pensar en la Oda a los Calcetines como un lema de vida. Muchas veces traté que plasmara su creatividad literaria y relatara la vida de los “arqueolocos” en el campo, pero yo estoy segura que desde “allá”estará creando nuevos juegos de palabras y relatando sus historias de “don pantaleon”a las aburridas almas y jugando un partido de basketball con ellas.
Luego que dejó Guayaquil juró que los Cotopaxis de arroz que comió a orillas del río Daule no serían nunca más parte de su vida, pero yo se que esos recuerdos siempre fueron parte de su vida.

Adios amigo David, gracias por haber sido parte de nuestras vidas y los hermosos recuerdos que nos has dejado. Por todo tu saber que me trasmitiste cuando estaba dando los primeros pasos en la arqueología. Por todo tu aporte por recuperar la historia del Ecuador. Pero sobre todo por tu generosidad como ser humano, fuiste un gran amigo y una bella persona.

Con Gloria hicieron un equipo inigualable llenos de amor hacia los que les necesitara. No se quien era más latino de los dos y su acento colombiano rebasó a los de Gloria, “no pues”era una de sus frases favoritas.  Yo utilizaré su frase para decirle no pues amigo nos has dejado muy tristes con tu partida pero siempre estarás con nosotros.

— Paulina Teran

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El Quijote nórdico

En 1973 conocí a David, Big man Davy, como yo le decía, cuando fue mi alumno en un curso de Teoría Literaria. Cambió para siempre el concepto que yo tenía de los gringos y de paso me regaló una de las amistades más hermosas que yo haya tenido en mi vida. David era sensibilidad e imaginación, ensoñación y aventura, afecto y sentido del humor. Pero sobre todo, era un enamorado de Latinoamérica: de nuestras costumbres, de nuestra literatura, de todo aquello lindo y sorprendente que hay en nosotros. Aún recuerdo los muchos y agradables ratos en que departíamos sobre los libros de Gastón Bachelard y la visión poética del mundo, sobre García Márquez y lo “real maravilloso” que el sabía descubrir en las experiencias diarias.

Luego aprendí de él la amistad leal, constante y generosa, su amor por las cosas sencillas y su sentido práctico de la vida. Era un quijote nórdico, de imagen inolvidable, uno de “aquellos abuelos de cara blanca”, como llamaban los indígenas a algunos conquistadores de los que conservaban inborrables recuerdos. Un niño grande que quería absorber el mundo de un solo trago; un norteamericano que hubiera querido haber nacido aquí, pero que todavía conservaba su afición a las hamburguesas y al basquetbol. Hizo de su vida una novela de aventuras en la que tú y yo tuvimos la fortuna de ser personajes importantes. Dios lo tenga en su gloria porque vaya si se lo merece. Seguirá viviendo por siempre en nuestros corazones irradiando la infinita bondad que compartió con nosotros.
Gildardo Lotero fue profesor de David en la Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana en Medellin en 1974-1975

David llega a Colombia

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David the Eagle Scout

David and I met in the Boy Scouts probably in 1962. We were in Troop 272.  We          shared many a tent together on camp outs,  and we enjoyed the misery and fun of
Scouting.  David eventually achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and forever set the foundation for achieving higher goals for the rest of his life.

I knew David throughout Jr. High and High School.  We did the Teen Club, the pool hall known as the Pastime, the house parties at the beach, the parties at the river,
all kinds of school functions, and there was always a little beer to keep us from getting bored.

David was arguably one of the most popular boys our senior year of high school as on many an occasion, he would lead the Senior Class into the auditorium to the cheers of hundreds of underclassmen.  Pep rallys were never the same.
I’m sure I can speak for a lot of us that graduated with David in saying that he will be missed terribly, and he surely made a difference in this world. Hope to see him in the next.

Sam and Wendy Ewing
Class of  ’69

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Poems honoring David Stemper

Three poems honoring David posted on The Blarney Crone,  by Marge Piercy, Langston Hughes and Pablo Neruda.

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David the environmental educator

David was a very active volunteer with the DC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. While I have lots of stories about his participation with the chapter, my favorite is from this past March. We were asked to present our watershed education program to a series of classes at a DC public charter school–five hours talking to middle schoolers sounded daunting. David had never taught this program before, but I sent him the materials and we spent 20 minutes reviewing the equipment beforehand, and he seemed sufficiently prepared.

That day came, and we had to carry these tubs of “sand” four or five blocks from where we’d parked, in a cold, blowing rain. When we finally got to the classroom, there was no time to sit and rest. I led the beginning of the presentation to the class; when we split the class in half midway through, I could hear David’s group having a grand old time across the room. For the second class, he took the lead. I was curious to hear his approach. At first he seemed to ramble on for a while about tangential topics, but eventually I saw where he was going, and that the topic he started with really was a foundation for everything else.

And so it went. By the end of the day, we were both exhausted, but the kids seemed to have learned a lot. I know I did–the way he talked to the students and introduced the subject was so much smoother than my style, and I hear his words when I give the presentation now.

A few weeks later, I received a package in the mail from the school. It was full of thank you cards, hand drawn by the students. Several of the kids said they liked David’s sense of humor the most. I shared them with David the next time I saw them, and he was so touched.

I’m going to miss how he arrived at every event with a new idea or observation. And how he so adeptly asked provocative questions during slow spots in our meetings, to help keep things moving. It was obvious that he thought about Surfrider often, and that just possibly we meant as much to him as he did to us.

– Julie Lawson is with the Washington D.C. chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit environmental group dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans and beaches. Memorial donations can be made in David’s name to the group, located at 1777 Church Street NW, Washington, DC 20036

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David, John and Nina

John Tracy, David Stemper and Martina in Wisconsin, 1979

The picture is old –from 1979 –but you can see John Tracy and a young David Stemper.  They were the very first friends I made in Madison, Wisconsin when I came from Ecuador to teach Kechwa.  David was always smiling and joking and somehow made me feel like I was in a familiar place — though it was as strange as Mars.

Both David and Gloria became real friends, always respectful, fun, considerate, and supportive, in every circumstance.  David was a good man.  I will always remember him.
Nina

Originally from Salasaca, Ecuador, Nina Kinti-Moss (formerly Martina Masaquiza) teaches Kichwa at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

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Los gringos que gozaban echar carreta – Beatriz León Vda. de Dermota

David Stemper and Ken Dermota at Ken's 40th birthday party in Havana Village, 1998

Hablar con David y Ken conjunta o separadamente – como decimos los abogados — siempre fué un gran placer que no voy a poder a repetir por lo menos en esta vida.

Estos son los únicos gringos que conozco que se gozaban como locos echar carreta conmigo en la cocina y literalmente se morían de risa con los refranes de antaño que son parte del reportorio de los que crecimos y moriremos con la provincia adentro.

Escribir no es nada fácil y menos con lágrimas en los ojos y a palo seco para acabar de completar. Sin embargo, los Dermota-Leon en pleno, o por lo menos los que aún estamos por estos lares, queremos dejar constancia escrita de nuestro profundo afecto por David.

Estuviste allí con nosotros al pie del cañon en esos momentos desesperados en los que uno está que tira la toalla, y en esos otros en los que celebramos el Bar Exam, la vida, la muerte, y hasta los primeros signos de la primavera a las orillas del Potomac.

En realidad fue una delicia haberte conocido, David. Los recuerdos me pasan por la cabeza como una película, pero en realidad lo que me queda en el corazón es la solidaridad para conmigo y el cálido afecto para con mi hijo Eddie.

– Beatriz León de Dermota

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Eddie Dermota and the turtles

FROM BETRIZ ELENA: Este es un mensaje fechada marzo 22, 2010 que David me envio para compartirlo con Eddie.

DAVID TO BEATRIZ ELENA: Estimada abogada y Gran Santandereana con reciedumbre de las culonas y cabras,

Thanks for the invitation for lunch. Please print and share this poem with maestro Eddie, the upcoming wildlife biologist who thinks turtles are “boring,” reminding me of the young Colombians who always say “que jartera”

Abrazos,

El fiel servidor

Turtle / by Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
a packing case places, and almost any slope
defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
she’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
to something edible. With everything optimal,
she skirts the ditch which would convert
her shell into a serving dish. She lives
below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
the sport of truly chastened things.

“Turtle” by Kay Ryan, from The Best of It: New and Selected Poems.
Grove Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

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The Three Amigos

Like many people in the Washington D.C. area, I’m a transplant. I came here in 1997 after four years on the border with Mexico, via California and Peru. A friend from the University of Texas at El Paso, Manny Campbell, told me to contact his friend as soon as I arrived. “David Stemper is a close friend from anthropology grad school in Wisconsin,” Manny told me. “He’s fluent in Spanish, married to a lovely Colombian woman named Gloria, and is muy buena onda.”
Indeed, soon after arriving I called David and Gloria, and they became my first friends outside of work in D.C. (aside from a high school friend).  David and I quaffed beers at a quiet pub on M street in Georgetown that has since given way to a noisy college hangout, and watched Indie films at the now-defunct Foundry theater by the C & O canal. We watched Latin American films and several Akira Kurosawa flicks at the American Film Institute, which has long moved out of the Kennedy Center. It was always a treat to enjoy David’s sharp insights, his keen wit and occasionally ribald humor, and Gloria’s warm company and friendly presence.
One evening David dragged to a birthday party at Havana Village, a Cuban-themed restaurant with salsa dancing in Adams Morgan. I was reluctant – heck, I hadn’t been invited – but he convinced me. The party was for Ken Dermota, another gringo married to a Colombiana. Ken turned out to be an impressive guy – like David, he was well read, whip-smart, and perfectly bilingual.
David, Ken and I quickly became close friends. Over beers Ken would tell us about the time he interviewed Pablo Escobar, David would talk about his latest surfing adventure, and I’d throw in an anecdote about reporting from the border. David’s favorite hangout was Buffalo Billiards, just off DuPont Circle. David was quite the pool shark, and he always gave the perfect advice on where to strike the cue ball for the best shot. David and Ken would sometimes stand outside the pool hall and puff on thick cigars. We were the Three Amigos, the Tres Mosqueteros, the three partying compadres.
That blissful second youth of partying and late-night graduate level bull sessions of course couldn’t last forever. I met at lovely woman at work, fell madly in love, and knew that it was time to settle down. David and Ken were among the first to meet Kate – I got their seal of approval – and David and Gloria were at my wedding in October 2001 (Ken and his wife Beatriz Elena were abroad at the time).
Kate and I moved to the suburbs of northern Virginia, yet despite the distance, work obligations, and the task of raising one – two – and then three kids, the Stempers and the Dermotas remained an important part of our lives. We’d see Gloria and David four or five times a year, either at one of Ken’s parties, at a barbecue in my backyard, or a museum with the kids. Whenever I could break free, I’d meet David for lunch or coffee downtown before going into work.
David did the spadework to keep our friendship going. He’d call when we had been out of touch for a while, and send e-mail messages so loaded with praise for our job as parents that sometimes I felt embarrassed. He was also great at over-the-top honorifics: I was the “ilustre periodista” or “escritor ilustre” in his messages, aside from being a “padre de dos princesas y un joven apuesto.” His praise was both tongue-in-cheek and entertaining, while at the same time warm and sincere. Manny Campbell once remarked on David’s work on maintaining friendships – he said David was like a bulldog that would not let go. Now I realize how precious and unique that was.
When Ken was diagnosed with a brain tumor, David immediately jumped to help. It was David who drove Ken to the hospital when Beatriz Elena was out of town, David who sat at Ken’s bedside at the hospital, and David who showed up at Ken’s home to make sure he was taking his medicine. David did a Herculean job during the early stages of Ken’s disease and played a key role helping Beatriz Elena keep her home together. I’ll never forget Ken’s words:  “If you’re ever in the hospital, you want Stemper by your side,” he once told me.
But a brain tumor is an especially treacherous form of cancer. Not only does it weaken your body, it can change your personality. As Ken’s health deteriorated he began to display uncharacteristic flashes of anger. It peaked at a hardware store when Ken blew his top because the clerk couldn’t come up with the widget he was looking for. David stepped in, stopped the clerk from calling the cops and escorted Ken out when he was about to knock the kid’s head off.  Ken took this as the ultimate insult and told David that he never wanted to see him again. Sadly, Ken never came to his senses, and David was forever banished from Ken’s life. I somehow managed to stay on Ken’s good side up to his final day, but I felt that I was never able to do all the work that David did for Ken.
After Kate and I visited Ken on his hospital death bed, more than a year after the hardware store incident, we went straight to see David and Gloria. It was late on a Sunday night, far past our daughters’ bedtime, but the Stempers graciously welcomed us and we spent time reminiscing about better times with Ken.
David stepped up to help again when Ken died, and grew close to Eddie, Ken’s 12 year-old son.
I last saw David in April. We had lunch at a Capitol Hill café, then we saw the Matteo Ricci 1602 map exhibit at the Library of Congress. We discussed current events, his latest teaching job, our families, and of course Ken, because one year later we were both still mourning his death.
At the end of the day I remember thinking how much I valued David’s friendship.
When I got a call from Gloria over the Fourth of July weekend I thought it was about getting together to grill some meat. A few months had passed since I had seen David, and it was time again catch up with the Stempers.

– Carlos Hamann is a Washington D.C. area-based reporter and editor.

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“Uncle” David

David and Gloria

My father Paul and David were good friends and kept in contact throughout their lives. I’m sure Paul will have a lot more to say about David. I am shocked by his passing and just wanted to say he was like an uncle to me growing up. I always enjoyed our conversations about science, his world travels, and anything else. My last memory of him is actually he and I going surfing one rainy day, in 6 foot hurricane swell a few years back. i was a little concerned because it was so rough out there, but to my surprise i turned around to see him cruising on a six foot set wave and having a blast! i will definitely miss his presence in my life, as I’m sure a lot of people will. he was a great guy in so many ways, so here’s to you David!
— Joshua Michael Huehner

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