Obituary: Stephen Stranahan
May 3, 1934 – January 7, 2019
Stephen Stranahan, a lifelong resident of Perrysburg, Ohio, died on January 7th, at the Admiral at the Lake, a Kendal continuing care retirement community in Chicago, Illinois. He and his wife, Ann, had moved to the Admiral in 2017.
Stephen was born on May 3rd, 1934, to Virginia Secor Stranahan and Duane Stranahan. His parents represented two distinguished Toledo families, one old, one new: As warehousers and bankers since the mid-19th century, the Secors had been central to Toledo’s emergence as a major Midwestern transportation hub. The Stranahans were newly arrived industrialists: Duane’s father and uncle, Frank and Robert, founded Champion Spark Plug in Boston in 1905, and moved the company to Toledo in 1910. Both families were enlightened, generous community leaders who helped establish the cultural and social service institutions that still distinguish Northwest Ohio. Steve’s grandmother, Marie Celeste Stranahan, had toured as a light opera singer, and was a founder of The Toledo Symphony Orchestra. His mother, Virginia Secor, was an outspoken, unconventional, life-long learner, conservationist and philanthropist. Both assumed that it was their family’s duty to make the world a better place.
Steve’s entire life was informed by this legacy of success and service. His was a richly interesting journey, highlighted by intricate, creative business endeavors and by strategic, meticulously planned and faithfully executed assistance to the nonprofit institutions and communities in which he lived. The weight of this business diligence and civic commitment was tempered by his real delight in a successful entrepreneurial outcome, or by the preservation from development of yet more acres of Ohio farmland or western ranchland, or by a perfectly executed Toledo Symphony Orchestra performance, the horns coming in at exactly the right moment.
The most visible and widely known of these enterprises is The Home Ranch, a Relais&Chateaux dude ranch and Nordic resort in the Elk River Valley, north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, that he and Ann built in 1980, believing that a dude ranch vacation is a perfect family experience. Here is one of Steve’s greatest legacies: land that will never be developed. In partnership with his neighboring ranchers, the Fetchers and Mary Moser, he placed thousands of acres of land into conservation easement, to preserve the great landscapes and ranching tradition of the American West. This effort led to many thousands more acres being preserved in the Elk River Valley, down to Steamboat Springs, and ultimately to the formation of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, which now stewards 550,000 acres of protected ranch land.
Towering over the all of it – enterprise, due diligence, and philanthropy – was Steve’s love for his family. He interacted with each child, niece, nephew, and grandchild with tenderness and respect. He taught them to ski in Colorado, took them on pack trips, taught them to fly fish on Michigan’s Au Sable River and to sail on the Maumee, traveled with them to Greece, Africa, Egypt, Colorado, Scandinavia, Russia, and the Virgin Islands. He loved watching them spread their wings, and supported their own ventures with lively interest, counsel if requested, and generosity.
He was an introvert by nature. He had a dry, irresistible wit. He played ravishingly beautiful improvised melodies on his grandmother’s piano. He was true to his nature and could not be budged into a different persona. The nursing team on the Memory Floor of the Admiral knew him the best: “Stephen is a good man,” they would say, repeatedly. “Stephen is a Gentleman.”
Steve attended Maumee Valley Country Day School and graduated from Brooks School in North Andover, MA, and from Dartmouth College, Class of 1957. He is survived by his wife, Ann Anderson Stranahan, whom he married in 1958, and by their four children and spouses: Frances Stranahan and Scott Parry of Monclova, Stephen “Josh” and Keely Stranahan of Port Townsend, WA, Abbot Stranahan and David Ward, of Providence, R.I, Daniel and Nina Ginatta Stranahan, of Chicago, eight grandchildren, one great-grandchild, brothers, Duane “Pat” Stranahan, George Stranahan, Michael Stranahan, sister, Mary Stranahan, and his brother and sister-in-law, Samuel Armistead and Alice Anderson. A younger sister, Virginia Stranahan Linder, died in 1993.
Services will be held at the Clark Cemetery on June 8th at 10:30 AM and will be followed by luncheon at The Home Ranch, where the family will welcome friends and associates who knew and worked with Steve during his 45 years in Steamboat and North Routt.
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