1972 was a pretty pivotal year. Mom had just provided me with a brand new stepdad, and later that same year I’d end up with a baby sister.
This guy was dirt poor, mind you. Didn’t have two nickels to rub together, working multiple jobs, while navigating his way through medical school (and now raising a ready-made family, and a baby on the way).
But he persevered.
Steve, my stepdad, who wasn’t always the best at managing his jealousy, and couldn’t afford to buy me such a luxury, still patiently taught me to ride it. I’m pretty sure that parking lot is underneath the Mylan Pharmaceuticals building now, across the street from where he was attending med school at WVU.
For fun he’d find the biggest, most confusing words in his medical texts and teach me to break them down and work out the pronunciation.
He graduated medical school, and did such a kick-ass job my Uncle Bill still swears dad’s reputation is what got him early-acceptance to the medical program.
We moved to Huntington, where he was an ER doctor at Cabell Huntington Hospital. Once he had a job, and an income, his first order of business was me, and removing the title “step”.
Despite his mother’s lack of approval, a “step” herself who couldn’t understand why he would treat me like his own, he adopted me when I was 8 years old.
He chose me, and now I was officially a Lester.
Then came another move, as he pursued his orthopedic specialty at Bowman Gray in Winston-Salem. A two year process for a full-time student, a four year process for him as he continued to raise his family (and add a third to its ranks). (In case you’re thinking he was a lollygagger, he finished his pre-med undergraduate at Marshall in three years.)
He moved to Elkins, WV and started his first practice.
Now I feel I need to qualify here… it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. He had a temper, and didn’t always control it as well as he might should have. He was stern, had expectations (not always reasonable ones), and sometimes we didn’t agree.
I won’t wander down the rabbit hole of his childhood, but I’ll tell you mine was much better than his.
And it’s not like I was an easy kid to raise.
Mom finally cracked the code to get to me… technology… and Dad (perhaps unknowingly) financed that interest. He was instrumental in introducing me to Eugene Wright, who helped me build my first computer… setting the course of my life.
Mom and Dad split up soon after I’d left for the Air Force, but I never stopped being his son, and he never stopped being my Dad.
Soon afterwards he became a grandfather, followed by another.
His life pivoted when he met Gayle, “Mamma Gayle” to her grandkids, and one heck of a cook.
Around 2000 the insurance companies did an overnight tripling of malpractice insurance for all WV licensed doctors, so he pulled down his shingle and moved about two hours east of me, and successfully started his practice over again.
More grandkids, adventures, retirement, and then great grandkids.
He finally went full retiree, when he and Gayle moved to Ft. Myers, Florida last year.
Unfortunately, cancer (and pneumonia) had other plans.
Stephen Ira Lester passed away this afternoon, April 28th, 2022. “Mamma Gayle” was at his side.
Memorial details will be forthcoming, taking place in Williamston, NC.