Matthew Henry Stevenson
Matthew Henry Stevenson, of Wailua, Kauai, died unexpectedly at home on May 22, 2016. He was 37 years old. He was a cherished and admired father, friend, brother and son.
Matt was born in Washington, D.C. to William (Bill) Stevenson of Greenville, South Carolina, and Mildred Teruya of Waikapu, Maui. The family moved to the Bay Area when Matt was five. As a boy he loved the birds, lizards, grasses, oaks and cattle that populated the watersheds and hills around his home. He also loved the time he spent in Maui with his grandparents, Walter and Joyce Teruya, where he loved grandma’s lei garden, grandpa’s plantation days stories, and the family history that connected him to Japan and Okinawa. He spent several summers in England visiting his dad, and loved the castles, the moores and the Neolithic standing stones. These early experiences in nature put him on a path to the career he loved as a range scientist, and a life he loved in Hawaii, but as a citizen of the world.
Matt graduated from Miramonte High school in 1997. He attended BYU in Provo for one year before serving an LDS mission in Tokyo Japan. He loved the Japanese language and culture, and was proud to follow in his grandparents’ footsteps. Although his relationship with the Mormon church changed, he maintained a lifelong love of Japanese history, myth, literature and religion. Most importantly to Matt’s life, he came to love Aikido. His practice of this martial art trained his body and guided his mind, and he excelled to the rank of 2nd Dan under sensei Wesley Shimokawa of Lihue Aiki Kai.
Matt graduated from BYU in Wildlife and Range Resources, minoring in Japanese and graduating with honors (2003). His favorite classes were his honors Art History and Shakespeare in Film. He became an insightful critic of media, loving museums and galleries, films and literature. Matt was a scientist with a poet’s heart.
In 2003 he married Rebecca Anne Davis in Manti, Utah. They moved to Gunma, Japan, where they broadened their appreciation for travel and adventure, enjoying onsen, shrines, hole in the wall ramenya, quaint ryokan, museums and memorials around the country.
Matt and Becca completed masters degrees at UC Berkeley, Matt’s in Environmental Science, Policy and Management. In Berkeley they discovered gourmet alleyways and made lifelong friends in the dilapidated student housing and Berkeley Ward.
Matt and Becca then made the move to Hawaii in the spring of 2006, where Matt began work for the University of Hawaii agricultural extension service in Waimea (Kamuela), on the Big Island. He had amazing mentors in his career in extension, and was proud to be able to serve the ranchers and farmers of the state of Hawaii for ten years.
In 2007 Matt and Becca welcomed their first child, Roselani. In Waimea they raised chickens, lived entirely off of their garden and delighted in their precocious little blond daughter. They explored the island, impressed with the volcano, quieted by the haunted black lava fields of Kona and dripping Hilo laua’e, and healed by the dryland rainforests on Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a. Matt loved and respected the Paniolo culture that shaped the unique Hawaiian cultural and physical environment: the Hawaiian rodeo, the slack key guitar, the windswept plains at the foot of Mauna Kea, the green pu‘u of Waimea, the tangled ohia and hala overlooking the black-sand valleys.
In 2009 they moved to Kauai, where Matt became the Kauai county livestock extension agent and served the livestock community of Kauai and Maui, while continuing to collaborate on the Big Island and beyond, into Guam, Saipan and other pacific islands. He worked with the 4-H kids and conducted research at the Kauai Agricultural Research farm, where he lived with his family.
He was also working on his PhD in Range Science and Wildland Resources from Utah State University, studying tannins, pasture weeds, animal management and ungulate health, up until the time of his death.
In 2010, Maile was born in Wailua. Matt was a proud and tender daddy, deeply loved by his little girls. He took them to playgroups and cheered at their soccer games and cried proudly at their May Days. In 2015 Likolehua was born at home. He was a steady and supportive birth partner, and this last baby was welcomed in love.
Matt enjoyed the travels that took him around the world, with his work and his family. Everywhere he went he became a student of the history and culture. The Marianas, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Holland, France, England, Wales, Ireland, as well as across the US. He loved the West— the desert scrubland and alpine meadows, the Maynard Dixon colorscape and the endless ozone-blue bowl of the Western sky.
Matt was passionate about his family history, and felt a strong connection to his ancestors—the plantation families, the sailor chef, the shipwrecked, the brave veterans, the difficult, the troubled and the astounding history of his family. His great-uncle Ken, died in Rome in the Japanese-American 442nd,and his charm and handsome local-boy ukulele and motorcycle innocence reached across the years and particularly touched Matt. He was a student of warriors, fascinated with their humanity and strength. He too was a warrior, battling for his life in spite of terrible pain.
Matt was a perceptive historian, a wry social commentator, a thoughtful and capable music maker and appreciator. He played NIN and Joni Mitchell and Tannahill Weavers on the guitar, and serenaded his goats in the far pastures of the farm with his small bagpipes.
He blended and expressed a unique fusion of his Japanese, Scottish, and Hawaiian roots, equally at home in a kilt or an aikido gi, at a Ceilidh or an Obon, in flip-flops or cowboy boots, playing bagpipes or slack-key guitar. He was a gentle, deep-thinking, loving soul, taken from us too soon.
Matt is survived by his wife Becca, daughters Rosie Jo, Maile, and Liko, his mother Mildred, his father and stepmother Bill and Wendy, his brother Andrew, father in law Mark and sisters in law Liz and Katie, and many other devoted in-laws and extended family.
He leaves behind countless friends from his home town, from college days, from his time in Japan, from his professional life, and from his aikido dojo.
Matt had a beautiful life and was profoundly loved. He fought the disease that killed him for many, many years, through terrible heartache and pain. He was a fierce defender of the disadvantaged and the underserved.
None of us will forget him— he seared brightly across our lives. We will tell his children about his wit, his hard work, his respect for history, his music. We will remember the meals shared, the hikes over hills and crags on pacific islands and Western peaks. We will carry him with us when we walk those places again.
A memorial service for Matt will be held on Saturday June 4, 2016 at Kauai Community College in Lihue, Kauai, at 3 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations to support Matt’s family may be made at www.crowdrise.com/matt-and-becca-ohana-fund Or via PayPal to KawaikiniEnglish@gmail.com. Please send recollections and memories for the family to the same email address.