The hunter, collector and military man
Rest in Peace, Douglas Stephens. My cousin passed away on the 27th Dec 2015 and I was honored to present his eulogy.
1 Cor 1:3 & 4 states “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…”
Doug was a hunter, collector, and a military man. Together, let’s reflect on his life. Listen and read the Eulogy while watching the burial images and favorite pics from Doug’s life.
The Christmas tree farm of Doug’s grandparents was one of his favorite places. With hundreds of acres of West Virginia woods, he could roam and hunt until content. Granddad Hall’s hunting stories – and mentorship – was the spark that got Doug’s fire going for hunting and guns. When he first started hunting, recalls Dana, he would shoot just barely legal bucks that the family would gather around with a ruler to see if it was legal. His hunting turned into a source of pride. Each year when he got a deer he let the family know and added another notch to his 338 Winchester Magnum. That gun today has more than 15 notches. His Uncle David shared this recollection: “We learned not to be confused while hunting with Doug – if you smelled a deer it just may be Doug with his Doe pee cologne. Grandma wouldn’t let him in the house until he took his clothes off when he used that deer scent. And we all laughed when Doug bought a climbing tree stand to hunt out of. David offered to buy him a chair to stand on in exchange for the tree stand since at first he was afraid to go more than 3ft. off the ground.” Doug may have been the only person in WV with a full mount Piebald deer – a deer that has a spotting pattern of large white and black patches. He shot it (of course) at Grandma’s and Granddad’s farm. Doug would invite friends and even friends of friends to join in on deer hunting. He loved his trips to the farm and was a big fan on his Grandma and Granddad Hall. He adored his grandparents with respect and admiration unparalleled to near anyone else. Part of it, I’m certain, was grandma’s cooking and her mincemeat pies! Their passing had great adverse impact on Doug.
Doug also enjoyed the spring turkey season. He was a skilled caller. He had some really excellent mentors that taught him all the nuances of calling and hunting wild turkeys. Doug picked up the lessons quickly and later competed in many turkey-calling competitions. He was quite good. Dana remembers many great hunting experiences in the spring turkey woods with Doug. His uncle David had never shot a turkey so he thought he would harness that skill and Doug agreed to “call a bird in” for him. All was well on the day of the hunt and just at dawn Doug successfully began the sexy communication with a gobbler. David was all camouflaged, measured breathing, safety off, and counting the turkey’s steps as he came within range. At about the time he was ready to fire there was a loud bang behind him and the turkey went rolling down the hill. “Uncle David it was just too big to let go,” said Doug.
Collecting guns and guitars became a favorite past-time. Doug treasured his guns and often was found at his favorite gunsmith trading a gun, getting one fine-tuned, or buying a new treasure. The same with guitars. Van Halen was a favorite and he collected guitars related to the American hard rock band. His favorite album? By far ‘5150’. It was released in 1986 and had just 9 songs on the 2 sides of the cassette tape. (Yes, remember when albums were distributed on cassette?) “Best of Both Worlds”, “Summer Nights”, “Dreams” and of course the title track “5150” were on that album. His love of that music most likely came on from his days playing in the band. Who can forget the full drum set in the living room at his mum’s house? Doug played bass guitar and played in both the Martinsburg High School band and the Shepherd University band. In high school he was part of the Good Times Show Choir.
Doug’s passion to collect extended to a very special Gravely tractor. David tells the story this way.
“The walk behind Gravely was the tractor of choice to mow over the hills at “the Christmas Tree farm” in Horner. Everyone that helped there got a chance to curse or praise the Gravely. It was only much later that there was one that had an electric starter so everyone remembers pulling and pulling the rope starter – seldom starting on the first try. You didn’t live until you experienced the motor kick back and with the rope in hand nearly breaking your arm when it jerked back. Doug took one of the old farm Gravely’s and had it completely restored to pristine (better than new), museum quality condition.”
Doug was a technician at the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard right here in Martinsburg. That wing is an airlift unit that flies the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Doug has many a photo standing beside those big birds! Integrity, honesty and loyalty are all key traits of those who serve in the United States Forces – and Doug represented all those aspects.
Lyndon remembers that Doug was as loyal to his dogs, Tessa and Leyna, as they were to him. Tessa was a white German Shepherd who exhibited intelligence, devotion and loyalty to Doug, courage, a steady demeanor, versatility, and physical prowess. Both Tessa and Leyna – in one form or another – were physically at Doug’s side when he passed.
Ps 40:1-3 states “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of …the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.”
Doug’s patience expired a bit prematurely which is truly sad. Recall the verse read at the onset, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles”… it goes on to say this: “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
To all those here who offered Doug support, reassurance, a listening ear, and guidance – thank you. Your efforts are appreciated by the family.
Doug was a hunter, collector, and a military man. We’ll miss him. Let’s conclude with words from his favorite band – here’s a portion from Van Halen’s “From Afar”.
“Though our circumstances
In the absence, there’s a presence in my heart
I will surrender, I’ll surrender to my
My quiet contemplation
I’ll just, I’ll just love you