DAYTON -- Forty-eight hours after being named Dayton's Citizen of the Year, Steve Edwards, 59, succumbed to cancer.
Along with his family he left behind an extended family in the First Congregational Church UCC and in the Touchet Valley Arts Council Productions.
A tall slender man with a ready grin, a mischievous glint in his eyes, and a gentle manner, he touched many lives in the community in the 17 years he lived there.
The TVAC Productions' fall musical opens Friday in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Liberty Theater's live productions with "The Music Man."
Saturday morning, the entire cast arrived at Edwards' house to sing some numbers from the musical, beginning with "76 Trombones."
It was a tearful performance, made even more poignant when Edwards died about 12 hours later.
Waitsburg Christian Church pastor Mike Ferrians, who plays Howard Hill in this year's production, said to the cast at Monday's practice, "do you realize what happened? Saturday we sang for Steve, and a few hours later he left us," an orchestra member said.
Ferrians said in a phone interview that Edwards was involved in the community in general, was available to people, and had a counseling ministry. "Those are all great contributions," he said.
Edwards' role in founding the live theater program "is the most important, or the most significant way (he contributed) because it brought people together," Ferrians said.
Edwards was in drama in high school in Gooding, Idaho, and honed his skills with stagecraft by helping his sister with a summer theater production. A few years of playing in a band in Nevada casinos allowed him to develop skills in staging and lighting.
After eight years on casino stages, he decided the lifestyle was going to kill him, he said in a 2005 Union-Bulletin interview.
For the next 15 years or so, he and his wife, Roslyn, lived in a number of places. He earned a nursing license and worked for several years as an licensed practical nurse in Sparks, Nev.
Eventually he and Roslyn moved to Kettle Falls, Wash., where he worked as a social worker in nearby Colville.
It was while they were in northeast Washington that Edwards headed down a path that led him eventually to the church in Dayton.
He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Eastern Washington University, commuting to Spokane for weekly classes.
Then he and his family moved to Portland, where he attended seminary at George Fox College. After graduating from that program in 1993, he was called to the church in Dayton.
On Wednesday, Roslyn Edwards recalled the move.
"We both felt like we'd come home for the first time in our lives. Both of us had moved 20 or 30 times in our lives," she said.
"Steve gave, gave, gave, but we received so much. Especially now, with the support from the theater group, and the church, it's like having two big families," she said.
The analogy to family is one Edwards purposely fostered in the theater.
"Keep thinking you're a family. Stay positive, stay energetic and give your best," Elizabeth Arebalos-Jagelski, director of this year's production, said.
Edwards worked as a counselor for Blue Mountain Counseling for a number of years, and more recently opened his own practice.
Blue Mountain Counseling director Todd Wagner said "What I appreciated most about Steve is he led by example."
"To be a good counselor takes a couple of things. He had incredible rapport with the people he worked with. The other piece that really strikes me about Steve is he wasn't afraid to talk about the importance of spirituality," Wagner said.
"He was a missionary in our own community with the mentally ill," Wagner said.
"He was a really important man in our community and in our lives. We lost a really fine man when he passed," Wagner said.
Carrie Chicken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 522-5289.