Steve Stone (1954-2011)
On Saturday 23rd April, my colleague and lifelong family friend, Steve Stone, died on his 57th Birthday. As well as being a wonderful friend, an excellent fisherman and pretty handy on a pair of skis, Steve was also one of the finest teachers to have ever stood in a classroom. Around 700 people were in attendance at his memorial service last Friday, an astounding mix of family, fishing buddies, colleagues and pupils, from the past thirty five years, many having travelled across the globe to be there.
Because of the amount of requests that I have had from attendees, asking for a copy of my poem in memory of Steve, I thought that this might be an appropriate place where it is available to anybody who wants a copy. For anybody reading this who did not know Steve, I would suggest that the comments left on his Just Giving Page or his Facebook Group will give you an indication of why he was the sort of person that every teacher aspires to be.
At the Chalkface
‘Where cliffs are of resistant rock, wave action attacks any line of weakness such as a joint or a fault.’
- David Waugh
By a decade he was the last man standing
at the blackboard, delicately nuancing the shading
on a headland or the shy curvature of a tributary
holding the minds of tired teens trained on the tips
of his dusty thumbs.
He was at home with thighs stood strong
against the rush of the Usk
taking muddy measurements of the bed’s depth
or controlling the clustering of kids with clipboards
across Monmouth High Street.
He’d stand over the eroding arch of Durdle Door
explaining the land’s battle
with abrasion and attrition
extolling our fortune at seeing it in arch
before its fall to stack or stump.
Versed in men’s war with the waves
he’d lament the thwarted intentions of groynes
placed to slow the sand’s spread along the coast
our best efforts swallowed by swash
pulled under the plunge line.
His arms raised and spread
dancing the drama of convection currents
or his fingers would clamp as teeth
to give a visual for a cow hoof
compacting the soil about the gate.
He’d mastered the art of the tack
was at one with a topper sailing solo
in circles around us as we faltered with jibs
and slack sheets flapping;
he was always the wind’s favourite.
He was my mother’s finest example of friendship
a welcome addition to Christmas dinner
not to exhaust
a welcome that could never be outworn.
He’d skin a fish with the best of them
and took pride in sharing
all he caught in the water
and raised from the ground.
He took comfort in the reliability of the familiar
yet never stopped exploring
and when discovering some new gem
he was never satisfied
until it was passed on to his friends.
More than funding hikes, renovations, cohorts, school status,
training drives, intakes or canteen food,
he was so much of what makes a home of a place,
he wrote all his words in chalk
but they will never be erased.