Steve Wilkinson Slipped Away Quietly Eight Years Ago Posted on January 27th, 2023 by

Steve Wilkinson died eight years ago last week, on January 21, 2015. Eight years is a long time
and the blink of an eye.

People, when they found out he was in home hospice, all wanted to see him. TLC campers,
instructors, former Gustavus players, friends, family.

They lined up for a chance to say goodbye. But Steve put an unexpected twist to how his story
would end, by writing a new chapter for each person who came to see him.

He would have them come into the living room two at a time where his hospice bed was set up,
and he and Barb would have arranged for the two people – who had never met before – to be
paired with each other for the visit. Because Steve thought these particular two strangers
should meet and this may be their last chance.

Too weak to speak, he would lie in his bed with one stranger on one side and one on the other,
listening as they shared their stories and got to know each other, smiling at their jokes, and on
rare occasion whispering a sentence or two of appreciation. This went on for two or three

At the end of that time, Steve slipped away quietly, the way he preferred.

But he left behind, even in the last few painful weeks of his life, people who were no longer
strangers, but friends.

It is the most important thing we do. The rest slips away quietly.

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  1. Kathleen Maginot says:

    We were fortunate to get to meet Steve at camp and have him happify our rackets years ago.
    Thanks to you and members of the TLC staff for giving the gift of Steve’s 3-Crown spirit to so many of us!

  2. Barb Wilkinson says:

    Neal, Thank you for remembering! I always will.

  3. John Whitmer says:

    Thanks, Neal, for reminding us of Steve’s passing and his final efforts at connecting folks – so quintessential Steve. He passed quietly as he lived. He knew that how one plays the game of life is vastly superior to just about anything. And he used that knowledge and played that game more effectively than almost anyone I’ve ever known. Although my friendship with Steve began well before he arrived at Gustavus Adolphus; was unrelated to tennis (Hey, I don’t even play tennis); and did not benefit from the more consequential, more frequent contact with him most who knew him through tennis did, to me he was the gold standard of character.

  4. Brent Evander says:

    Steve and Barb gave me my first job out of high school working at TLC summer camp in 1984. He and Barb and the the whole experience as the “gopher” at TLC gave me the structure, family and wisdom I so desperately craved at that time in my life. I brought the Fruit and Cheese to the meetings and I always loved Barb’s accent when she said “fruit.” But most of all I loved getting a behind the scenes look at all the hard work, passion and knowledge he put into those camps. It was truly a family so needed back then. Never forgotten!

  5. Laurie Hamilton says:

    Steve Wilkinson lived with my family one summer in Prairie Village, Kansas, in the mid 1960s. Although my father, Stan Hamilton, taught my sister to play tennis around the age of 10 1/2 , by her mid-teens, Sara began to get notice as an upcoming player. regionally. Earl Bucholtz came from St. Louis every fortnight to give Sara a professional lesson. I believe Earl sent Steve to our family where Dad helped Steve gain employment at Homestead CC ( swimming pool and 4 courts; no golf). I remember Steve as a gentle soul with great patience. Dad’s parting gift to Steve was a used dusty pink Chevy to give him the transport to move on his way north to a school where he had a teaching position. Wonderful image of all of us waving him farewell and good luck!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      I love this story! Thank you for sharing it.

    • Barbara Wilkinson says:

      Hello Laurie,

      I remember your family well from the one visit at your house in 1971 or 72. Steve often talked of the summer he spent with you. He was grateful that your father had helped him get the job at the Homestead Country Club and that you were such welcoming hosts.

      I did not know about the pink Chevy, but I do remember that you or your sister had grown celery in your own garden. You harvested it, cooked and ate it, enjoying every bite. It became clear to me that it is easy to get children or teenagers interested in good nutrition when they are personally involved in growing things. (We had two little girls by that time).

      Are you still in Kansas? I am still in St. Peter, MN.

      Warm Greetings,
      Barbara Wilkinson

  6. Rozan Anderson says:

    What a legacy dear Steve left us all. Thank you for sharing him again, Neal. 💫

  7. Joan Baker says:

    Steve was the type of rare friend that never forgot you. I didn’t see him often, and didn’t know him well, but I always was surprised at how glad I was to see him when I did. He was the person we all wanted to emulate. I miss him, what he did for tennis, what he did for all. What a great legacy he’s left!

  8. David Jussila says:

    Thankful for coach’s influence in my life that endures to this day. I was able to share a bit of that influence with the current team at the alumni match last week. Also, thankful for my time at TLC.

    Wishing TLC an impactful summer. I know it will be.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you for your good wishes, Dave. Thanks for all you did for TLC. Glad you got to speak to the current Gusties about Steve!