Steve as a young boy playing in the kitchen. 1956.

An Untold Life: Steve "Stumbletown" Adams

By Maggie Nicholson

As a young boy, Steve had already developed his mischievous grin: one that unwrapped and crinkled across his cheekbones. His eyes, reflecting the joy, twinkled like starlight on tinfoil. The grin would show itself readily: as he played with baking ingredients atop a flour-coated counter top, as he chased after his dog, Spooky, and certainly as he grew.

Steve was a friendly and happy child. He loved to be around other people. He was Captain of his school patrol in sixth grade. He had two younger brothers, Tim and Kevin, who he played with and ate meals beside growing up. Steve’s parents, Bill and Joanne, raised their boys in West Seattle. Bill was a machine salesman and Joanne a stay-home caretaker.

As an adult Steve remained conversational. Entering new environments, he was as open as he had been in younger years. He saw the best in people and had a heart as unblocked as an open door. Everyone was welcome there.

He went to Western Washington University to study journalism. He had ample friends and lived for a while on campus. Intermixed within his group of friends was his someday wife, Mary Anne Spada.

Steve and Mary Anne reconnected at a friend’s 40th birthday party, years after their time at university. They dated and fell for each other. In 1997, they married in the green grass of a friend's backyard in Snohomish. The sun was a warm wool blanket, cloaking their arms.

The couple took many vacations together, boating with Mary Anne’s family and traveling during winters. Steve had two sons: Matthew and Eric. Steve bonded with the boys over sports and music. He bought them both their first guitars and enrolled them in lessons.

Steve, Matt and Eric attended baseball and football games together. They talked about sports throughout the various seasons. Matt and Eric both achieved college degrees, which made Steve very proud. Matt now works at Boeing and Eric at Fred Meyer.

Steve had been involved with music throughout college and afterward, but had moved away from it when he married and started a family. Ten years had passed when Mary Anne’s sister Nancy found a used wooden guitar at a garage sale for two dollars. Steve paid her five dollars for the old instrument, and that, says Mary Anne, started it all back up.

He wrote songs, sang them and played guitar. He listened to all kinds of music, from country and rap to seventies rock. He’d get up and jam to classic rock or sit down and let melancholy songs sink over him. It just depended on the day.

He organized, along with several other fellow West Seattle musicians, a Christmas CD called ‘We Are The Junction.’ They donated their profits to the West Seattle Food Bank.

Steve was compassionate and never judgmental. He rooted for the underdog and helped where he could. Several years ago, he met a guy who was low on luck. The man was looking to go back to work, but had been stalled by his circumstances.

Steve organized a group of donators who came together and purchased the man a clothing certificate.

“He did a lot of things quietly and on his own,” says Mary Anne. “For the benefit of others.”

In 2006, he was named King County “Big Brother” of the Year for his involvement in the Big Brothers program. He had taken a young boy named R'tavius into his life. He took R'tavius on the ferry for the first time in the boy’s life, back and forth from Vashon Island. For Earth Day they participated in a cleanup together.

Steve worked at Boeing for twenty-six years. He was skilled with his work and enjoyed it.

In his living space, he kept stacks of books nearby, some on sports and music, others related to his work, and some on UFOs, the study of which he found fascinating. He encouraged the growth of loved ones and strangers, helping them roll onward. Family members chose to include an Emerson quote alongside Steve’s photograph at his memorial: a mantra of Steve’s. ‘To laugh often and love much/ …to find the best in others/ …to have played and laughed with enthusiasm/ to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived/…this is to have succeeded.’


The West Seattle Herald published a story about Steve by his friend Jeff Gilbert in October of last year.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.