After learning about the untimely passing of a former fellow actor from the drama program at my alma mater, Douglas McKay High School in Salem, Oregon, I did a cursory search of his name and discovered the obituary of his father, Steven Hugh VanDewalker, who also died relatively young, in 2012 at the age of 61.
Steve VanDewalker was born in Ashland, Oregon, attending college there and marrying his high school sweetheart, Rebecca MacCollister, before eventually moving to Salem. He worked for Morton Salt for 24 years.
I didn’t know the family well, but we did attend the same church, Morning Star. His two children, Daren and Denise, and I also went to the same high school during that time.
Daren and I were active in the choir and drama. That’s where I got to know him. He had a major role in my first play, the terrific musical West Side Story. It was a great experience, for the most part. I’ve rarely seen so many incredibly talented people gathered together in a cast before.
I, however, was a shy, introverted, skinny, naïve nerd. Going on stage, slowly brought me out of my exile and into other worlds.
It was shocking to learn that Daren had died, through a Facebook post by one of his friends, Joe Litke. I got to know Joe via the youth group at Morning Star and various mission trips, including one to Modesto, California.
Life is, indeed, short. For most of us, way too short.