We all have our own memories of Stephanie Elizabeth Anderson Larson Sellers. When Stephanie asked me to speak at her memorial service, which ultimately took place last weekend, I was honored by the request but taken aback – why me, I asked? She said, “Because you and I have grown up together, had our kids, shared families, helped with our business and been a friend. I trust you.”
So I take that request and hope Explorer readers get to know something new about someone who has always had a special place in my heart as a long-time business woman who gave countless hours to her community, someone we lost all too soon last month.
I was fortunate enough to have first met her in our teens – as she and I were getting ready to get married, steps that would make us sisters-in-law. Even then the first thing you noticed was her contagious smile! It was a warm, welcoming smile and made you feel better.
We were young and full of life, in love and positively looked at our futures; getting married and live happily ever after. So it started – sisters-in-law forever!
When life started, we found it was a little more difficult than our original hopes and dreams. I watched her overcome hardships and trials that would have made others cave in. But she was resilient, and it just made her try harder; she was never a quitter.
Stephanie was fearless. If she needed to do something and didn’t know how, she would teach herself. She would ask, research and figure it out. From fixing electrical and plumbing problems to solving computer networking or learning new software programs and then teaching others how to do it, too. She was never helpless or ignorant.
She was also a character; she was my favorite holiday person. What is your favorite holiday? Hers were all of them! From head to toe, she was seasonal bliss and flavor. She just had a zest for life and it was contagious.
She also shared that zest in how gifted she was in business. You have all heard of the saying, “Behind every good man is a great woman”? That was Stephanie.
From the beginning, I had the opportunity to work with Stephanie and her husband, Mike, on branding their optical business and it was clear they were going to build it with the whole family in mind. From the toys in the waiting room to working with the staff to understand how to care for the entire family and keep them coming back year after year.
She was the general contractor to build, design and decorate their offices from scratch – learning all the way. As Mike’s partner in business she kept up her end: bookkeeper, trainer, coach, head cheerleader and mentor – she understood the power of hard work –every single day to create a successful business and the employees and patients knew it too.
She helped build a truly family-owned-and-operated business, and it will always have her unique stamp on it. And I know the employees of Advanced Vision Care miss her everyday.
But her biggest joy and reason for living was her family, especially her kids. She worked hard just to have her two beautiful children: Amber and Matthew. Her little body had issues with carrying babies and she had to work very hard to make sure they had a chance at life. So like she always did, she gave them her whole heart and body, nurtured them through perfect births, and unselfishly continued to nurture them throughout their formative years.
Matt said to me that he will always appreciate all the sacrifices that his mom made to make sure he was able to have a better life. He will always remember her, telling me she worked her butt off every day to give him the opportunity for a better life and she would kick his if he doesn’t give it his all. He plans on making her proud.
Amber told me she learned to hug from her mom. Stephanie was a hugger, and she was good at it because she really meant it. It was part of the positive energy that radiated from her. I think it’s one of the lasting memories she was loved for by her family and her many, many friends.
Yes, Stephanie was a great mom and caring and loving wife. She also had strength of character, even in her diagnosis with cancer. Instead of crumbling she was calm, helping her family and friends work through the bad news. She was strong, more concerned with others than with herself.
She went about planning everything, helping everyone be OK with it and surrounding herself with what she loved, showing grace and calm in the face of a life cut too short.
Some people leave this earth without a trace. Stephanie left a legacy.