Edwin P. Stephenson was born in Pikeville, North Carolina, April 8, 1918 and died at Friends House, Santa Rosa, CA in February 2010, five and a half weeks after suffering a severe stroke.
Throughout grade school in North Carolina, Edwin was responsible for milking the family cow and spent years working in his father’s lumber business. Because his father was seriously injured in an accident, Edwin was often called upon to make sacrifices to help his family. He graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. with a double major in physics and mathematics.
Much influenced by his mother’s Quaker faith and Sunday school Gospel teachings, Edwin dedicated his personal and work life to the furthering of peace, equality and social justice based on his Quaker belief that “there is that of God in everyone.” As a Conscientious Objector during World War II, Edwin worked in conservation camps for four years, in North Carolina and Ohio, planted trees and fought fires in Oregon, and built latrines and cooked for sixty people in Florida.
After the war, he worked as a truck driver and master mechanic in Europe with the American Friends Service Committee, mainly in Poland, helping to rebuild devastated towns. It was on the ship to Europe that Edwin met Madeline Yaude, whom he married in 1947. Their romance and work in war-torn Europe is chronicled in Journey of the Wild Geese, Madeleine’s book, based on their letters, which Edwin completed and published after her death in 1993.
Edwin worked for the American Friends Service Committee in San Francisco, earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from U.C. Berkeley and spent nearly 18 years working side by side with Richmond, CA residents to develop Neighborhood House and build a stronger, safer community. He later worked as executive director of Bay Area Planned Parenthood and, with Madeleine, was a founding member of Monan’s Rill, a cooperative community based on Quaker values which continues to flourish in a rural area outside Santa Rosa. His final professional career was as a realtor who helped a number of Quaker related organizations find property for developing ongoing projects. He continued to serve as a volunteer for many nonprofit organizations. For sixty-five years, Edwin was known as “Red.” In the years following Madeleine’s death, he decided to reclaim his given name of Edwin.
In 2000, Edwin married Elspeth Benton with whom he shared much joy. He often said that he was a very fortunate man to have loved and married two wonderful women, Elspeth and Madeleine. Edwin loved life, his family and friends. His children, and grandchildren were especially dear to him. He was awed by the recent birth of his great-grandson. Known for his cooking skills, hospitality, sense of humor and generosity of heart, Edwin delighted in the smallest details of life and was engaged in the larger issues up until his final days. For many years, Edwin was a member of Berkeley Friends Meeting. Since 1979 he was a member of Redwood Forest Friends Meeting in Santa Rosa.
Edwin’s parents Caroline and Hubert Stephenson, his brother Russell Stephenson, his sister Jessie Williams and his first wife, Madeline Yaude Stephenson all predeceased him. He is survived by his wife Elspeth Benton, his son Robert Stephenson, daughter-in-law Amy Stephenson, grandsons Elijah and Isaiah Stephenson; daughter Anne Stephenson, grandson Gabriel Lugo, granddaughter Erika Vargas, grandson-in-law Crispino de Leon and great-grandson Isaiah de Leon. Edwin is also greatly missed by Elspeth’s three daughters, Anna, Josephine and Helen and their families, his nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews and many dear friends.