Cover photo for Stephen Michael Geurts's Obituary
Stephen Michael Geurts Profile Photo

Stephen Michael Geurts

January 14, 1978 — October 14, 2023

Ottawa

This is the story of a man named Steve. He was an extraordinary man; extraordinary because of his uncompromisable love of life, and his willingness to share it with anyone he met. He was a wanderer, happy to embark on journeys near and far, and wherever life took him, he left behind kindness, compassion and joy. When faced with adversity, or adverse people, he had the uncanny talent of finding something good in the situation, or the person, and letting that be his guide.

Although Steve was always Steve, his wandering meant he discovered the world, and, by extension, new parts of himself. Just as he loved life, he was one of her greatest students; he had the unusual ability to always find a better version of himself. Consequently, depending on when and where someone met him, you met a particular manifestation of the man, which often meant a different name.

The original Steve was born in 1978 and was christened Stephen Michael Geurts; he grew up in the Ottawa area with his two sisters. Even from a young age, it was clear that Steve would be his own person.

Wandering and exploring began very early for Steve. When only 4, he and his friend next door took his friend’s little red wagon and set out into the world. By the time their frantic parents checked all the usual play places, the boys were many blocks away in a different direction, having crossed a multi-lane intersection. When found, Stephen looked up at the frightened, exasperated faces and innocently, but very worriedly, said “We just wanted to be explorers”.

People Steve didn’t know were just potential friends to be made and helped. During one of his first baseball games (Grade 1 maybe) his team was up at bat. He hit the ball and made it to 2nd base. While the next batter took a while getting up to the plate, Steve struck up a chat with the other team’s 2nd baseman. The batter hit the ball right past 2nd base. When the baseman started chasing the ball, Steve ran to help him! People screamed “Run Steve”. He did. He ran faster to help his new friend retrieve the ball.

By his teenage years, Steve was spending his summers volunteering at Christie Lake Camp, and there, he was known as Bubbles. The name stuck because he had the Champagne of personalities: cheerful, sparkling, and a welcome addition to any event. He was just an authentically nice guy. Campers and fellow staff could always count on him for a sympathetic ear, a kind word, a good laugh or a hand of cards. But he didn’t just help pick people up when they were down. He lifted them to new heights and helped everyone around him be better versions of themselves. Bubbles accomplished this by raising the bar he set for himself, and many were the feats of Steve.

One such act happened one morning by the waterfront. It was swimming time trials day for lifesaving qualifications. Whilst hurrying up the dock, Steve caught his toes on a metal edge and essentially mangled his foot. Now, an ordinary person would have immediately gone to the infirmary and had this looked at. But, as Bubbles was no ordinary person, he dove into the lake, swam his laps, passed his swim trials, and eventually had his foot bandaged up. Eventually. Steve’s will was strong enough to override any pain his body felt. Despite the name Bubbles, his resolve was impossible to burst. Perhaps this is where he invented the phrase “Geurts til it hurts”.

As teenage Steve transitioned into adulthood, he found himself at Carleton University. Again, his caring and charisma saw him become a cherished friend by an entirely new group of people. He joined the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. As local president, he saw the group become an official chapter. That was Day Steve. Night Steve was also a force to be reckoned with, and was able to revel with the best of them. Being this combination of organized, caring, funny and supportive also made him a standout orientation leader. He crossed paths with hundreds of fellow students. Some were for a few days, some for a few years, but for all of them, they were better for it.

In subsequent years, Steve continued in his travels and discoveries. Some would have met him and known him as the guy who worked at the Orange Monkey billiards hall. For a while, he lived in Korea, and there he again was living life to his fullest. ‘Steppeh’, the English teacher by day, he also made the most of his time with his fellow teachers. From Embassy-hosted parties to nights out on the town, Steven was able to relish what life offered and others always followed. And, when it was time to return to Canada, Steve did perhaps one of his most Steve things ever: he came home, by train, through China and Russia. We’re not sure how Steve was known on the Trans-Siberian railroad, but we can be sure that someone, somewhere, has fond memories of that train ride.

Back in Canada, a new version of Steve emerged: Monsieur Geurts. He’d become a French teacher, and a particularly good one, at that. His calm, his caring, his empathy, his authenticity – these were all immediately perceptible by the hundreds of students he taught. He loved teaching and his students loved him. From his classroom emanated a harmony that spread around the school. At Hawthorne Public School, his colleagues could feel in their classroom the good that was going on in his. And beyond this, he still found time to organize class trips, lead anti-bullying projects, plant trees and keep an open door for any student who wanted to talk. And when he changed schools to be closer to home, Steve quickly became an integral part of the community at Munro Public School. A modern-day troubadour, his quirky songs, his smile and his collegiality became hallmarks of the hallways.

All the while, during this time, Steve had also created another version of himself for a very exclusive group. Whilst most of us would have known Steve, or Geurtsy, or Bubbles, Maxine(Satouroff) knew him as her husband and Lilly and Luka knew him as Dad. Despite Steve already seeming to have an endless supply of love and happiness for those around him, it was evident that he had an entirely untapped supply just for his family. His patience and caring were an example in extraordinary parenting.  He was the anchor upon which his children stood and the very soul of the family. He taught them and embodied the saying “become the change you wish to see in the world”. His devotion and love will remain pillars of strength throughout their lives.

And yet, despite all the good that Steve had sewn and seen flourish around him, tragedy struck.  In his 41st year, Steve developed cancer. By the time of his diagnosis, it had spread widely throughout his body. To the ordinary person, this type of news would have been devastating. But not so with Steve. With inhuman levels of resolve and sheer will, he went through ever intense therapies and one-in-a-million odds operations. Never to complain, he took each day one at a time and demonstrated a courage others could only imagine. And the day came that he was cancer free. He had beaten the long odds. He renewed his lease on life.

Now comes the part of the story where you should be reading that he resumed his travels and discovery of the world. But, it isn’t. This is the part of the story that shouldn’t have to be written. But it is. Although Steve did pull off a huge upset and won back extra years with his family, his illness had taken too high a toll on his body and it finally gave in. On the evening of October 14th, 2023, Stephen Michael Geurts passed away.

The joy that he brought to so many is now sadness. It is impossible to love and not be sad. But that sadness will come to be joy once more. We shared the path of life with Steve and we learned to love it the way he did. By finding the joy and the good in a situation, we keep his memory alive. The universe has made it so that we can no longer be with him, but we can be like him. And by being like him, we do, in fact keep him with us. Steve was a wanderer. He never walked alone. And for those of us lucky enough to have shared parts of the road with him, neither will we.

He will be dearly missed by his wife Maxine, his children Lilly and Luka, his mother Zori(Gordon), his father Joe(Manon), his sisters Julie(Dan) and Lesley(Corey), his niece Cadence and nephews Noah and Quinn and his many other relatives and friends.

A service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on November 4th at Paroisse St Joseph followed by a celebration at Taproom 260 in Orleans, Ontario(as per Stephen’s wishes)

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Christie Lake Camp and the Canadian Cancer Society.

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