Michael Stephenson

August 22, 2020, Michael Stephenson of Waukon, formerly of Dorchester, ended his struggle with lung cancer. With the caring and competent help of Veterans Memorial Hospital staff and those of Crossing Rivers Hospice, Michael’s dying process was eased as much as possible.

Michael grew up in East Cleveland, OH. Family ties, histories and traditions were very important to him.

As a young man, after a year at Kenyon College, he “bummed” around the U.S., getting a feel for our country and its people. This wide view, along with his varied occupations and life experiences, were instrumental in forming his opinions.

Michael was a “cookee” at a lumber camp in Maine, then a timber cruiser for Brown Company. He worked as a hired hand on a small family farm in New Hampshire, hand-milking cows and doing every other chore needed.

After moving to Chicago, IL with his first family, he worked for Republic Steel as a chemical engineer. Next, he sold cameras as Sears, morphing into his own photography business, from filming to developing. His next venture was at Northeastern Illinois University as school photographer. He also audited many classes, acting as a catalyst and critic, widening his knowledge and views.

After a homesteading attempt in northern Wisconsin, Michael returned to Illinois, working on a friend’s farm, then as a summer camp counselor at a camp for inner-city children. From there, he was hired by McHenry County Conservation District as a caretaker and jack-of-all-trades. It was there he did subsistence farming with his second wife, Jill, raising two daughters, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, ponies, dogs and cats, and cultivating a huge garden. They also developed a program involving school groups in their lifestyle, and Michael increased his woodworking skills there too.

With seven children scattered from Florida to California, Michael and Jill decided to move to an old, non-electric log cabin where ensued some lifestyle changes. Woodworking became a major focus as part of earning a living. Using all hand tools, Michael developed skills to become a fine cabinet maker.

Michael especially enjoyed the many friends fate brought to our door. He also derived much pleasure from gardening, cooking and eating good food, reading, listening to classical music, doing crossword puzzles and sudoku, telling stories and soaking in the peace and quiet along with canine companions.

Michael felt very strongly that setting a good example of simpler living close to Nature could influence people towards better lifestyles. He was a Luddite whose motto was “Make a Life Not a Living”. He will be remembered for his woodworking creations, his stories, his opinions and generosities, and his undeniable presence.

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