Our Sydney office, like most offices around the country, has been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. When – in the future – we return to it, a desk in the corner will be heartbreakingly empty.

All organisations have special people who are part of their fabric and who go out of their way to quietly help and support their colleagues and friends around them. We all knew from personal experience that Steve was one of those people, a man generous with his time and expertise. But what has struck so many of us over the past couple of weeks, as we came together to share memories and personal experiences, is the cumulative positive impact Steve had on our team.

The amount he did for our team, both in a professional and personal capacity – often quietly and without fanfare – was deeply touching. Among the many examples, Steve assisted one of our team to understand their new role as the voluntary treasurer of a charity; he attended our exhibitions, sporting events and plays (even if they weren’t really his thing); and he stayed back late ensuring our wheels were greased, our bills were paid and our books were kept meticulously.

Steve on home turf in the Maroubra fun run. Credit: Facebook

Steve often regaled us with tales of the kilometres run, swum or cycled and “selfies” with friends at the finish line of a race. He had other stories too, of adventures to new places, the latest foreign language film he’d seen or the new restaurant he’d tried. His weekends and life outside of the office seemed full and his smile – huge smile – came easily. He found many ways to form connections, whether it be his passion for sports or his flair for languages – a talent well known to those in the office who share that gift.

Steve’s death is both immensely sad and a deep shock to us. As one of our staff observed, when we shut down the office we also shut off the opportunity for spontaneous connections, those fleeting moments ill-suited to scheduled Zoom calls of the virtual world in which we now live. We will never answer the question as to why Steve decided to leave – we can now only be grateful for the generous way he lived and the enormous contribution he made to all of us at the Environmental Defenders Office.

And if we are to take something from this, it might be the preciousness of connection, and the fragility that sometimes exists right in front of us. In this case in the form of a tall, fit man with the most gorgeous smile.

Steve, second from left, at an EDO gathering.

We will be making a donation to the Banksia Project in Steve’s memory and we encourage anyone for whom this message resonates to know there is help out there. Beyond Blue’s support line is open 24/7 on 1300 22 4636.

We will cherish our times with Steve. To Steve’s family, our sincerest condolences.

Vale Steve, we all miss you.