It is with heavy heart we convey the passing of Stephanie Gwyn Raddatz. She left us at 4:00am on Saturday, May 15 at the age of 51. She lived an adventurous life rich with experience and intimate friendships. Our bright star faded too early, yet shall forever shine strong in our hearts.
Raised in Holdrege, Nebraska, Stephanie’s high grades earned her a scholarship to the University of Redlands. She studied in Paris in fall 1991 and went on to receive college degrees in both Art History and Philosophy. She continued her study of Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Throughout life she maintained a passion for art museums, literature, music and film. Her favorites included Van Gogh, John Singer Sargent, classical piano, plus cult phenoms the Pixies, Ryan Gosling, and Alex Trebek. Stephanie was Prince’s #1 fan, once lucky enough to see the Purple One give a rare late-night performance at Paisley Park.
Moving on a whim from Santa Barbara to Seattle, Stephanie met her future husband Kurt in 2000. The pair were locked tight together from the start. Drawn back to sun and sand, the couple relocated to San Diego in 2006. They were joined in marriage on October 4, 2014 in Joshua Tree, California. New Order’s “Ceremony” proclaimed the moment of their union.
Stephanie will be remembered for her vibrant spirit, sharp mind, and the easygoing manner she so effortlessly projected. Most people will remember Stephanie for her vivacious laugh—often accompanied by an impish smile. She was both funny and fun-loving, both kind-hearted and playful. She put forth a vibe of casual coolness that made it easy for people to engage with her, probably why she fostered so many friendships ranging from San Diego to Santa Barbara to Seattle.
Despite her cheerful personality, Stephanie was a strong, fiercely independent woman. Her approach to life was bold and courageous. She didn’t like to be told what to do by anyone. She never wanted things sugarcoated, but strove to see things for how they were. Stephanie was remarkably self-aware and could easily hold her ground debating a topic, though she was in no way an argumentative person. She was willful but rarely stubborn. Her pragmatic mind saw the value of compromise, when appropriate.
Stephanie was a free spirit—a true Obecian (Ocean Beach local). She loved flip-flops and tortugas and the warm sun on her face. In many ways she was very much a tomboy, yet enjoyed flowery skirts. She was often more at ease chatting with the guys than the girls. And yet she had a way with children, of making them smile in her arms. Stephanie practiced a zest for life. Her great joys were swimming pools and gardens, VW Westfalias and rollercoasters, and especially tube-floating on a lazy river.
Stephanie remained an analog girl to the core, always preferring the simpler, more classic version. She despised cell phones. She loved to bury herself in a newspaper, often back-in-the-day commandeering a table at Woodstock’s Pizza. She maintained a curious mind and was a voracious reader. Her favorite writer was Joan Didion, whose words are poignant and powerful and feminine, just like she was.
She displayed a fervor for starting new projects. Not all got far off the ground, but that was okay because there were always other exciting new frontiers to explore. She loved to travel. In addition to Ireland and Belize, Mexico City and the Oaxacan coast were two of her favorite destinations. She built a library of travel books and planned to retire as an expat.
Stephanie demonstrated genuine compassion for others. She frequently donated to the San Diego Food Bank and Doctors Without Borders. For the last five years she was employed at the San Diego Humane Society where she dedicated her efforts to the mission of supporting animals. She could often be found strolling among the cat habitats and rabbit enclosures, which brought her great inner peace and joy.
Family and friends will forever picture her bright blue eyes and ever-present smile. The world is a much lesser place without her. We mourn her passing and will forever cherish the love and laughter she shared with each of us.
Stephanie is survived by her husband and beloved companion of 21 years, Kurt Stolle; their 16-year, 16-pound orange tabby, Carlito; her younger sisters Jennifer Kingsley and Melissa Sachs; her brother David, and parents Bruce and Sandra. She also leaves behind a vast number of close, lifelong friends. All shall miss her dearly.
In remembrance of Stephanie’s devotion to animal welfare—but certainly under no obligation—please consider donating to the San Diego Humane Society.