Obituary: H. Steven Dockter, 1948 – 2019

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea...
                          –  Alfred Lord Tennyson

This tells of the one you want at the helm, when crossing that bar, or belaying the rope when scaling that peak. 

Born Sept. 7, 1948 in Redlands, California to Marjorie and Harold “Doc” Dockter, Steve Dockter was raised in Cutten on the outskirts of Eureka. A happy and rule-less youth was spent running through the wilds of Humboldt County’s redwood forests, cold spray on Pacific beaches, basking in the warmth of its six rivers with his brothers Gary and Bruce.

Graduation from Eureka High School in 1966 began the adventure in earnest! A relentless determination to reach the summit of every mountain peak over the height of 10,000 feet in the Western United States; Shelter Cove’s pounding surf and tight-knit, beer-fueled comradery of his beloved North Swell Surfing Association (NSSA); singing on the stage; sailing; fishing; devouring books; studying quirks of human nature; an embrace of life lived to the fullest, unfaltering, until Nov. 1, 2019.

His extended education at Humboldt State College, and the Goethe Institute in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, added an academic layer of polish to his autodidact nature. From his machinist father he learned to dissect engines and became a trusted judge and fixer of all things mechanical. From his schoolteacher mother he learned to read voraciously, everything. Herodotus to Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood, Nietzsche to Bernard DeVoto and Zane Grey, in dog-eared axle-greased, water-logged paperbacks in mountaineering tents, under trees, shipboard. 

In 1970, Steve settled into a huge Army surplus tent pitched inside WACO – an old Eureka warehouse full of artists and miscreants. He was a natural mentor, guide, friend, storyteller, and muse. He went to sea and became a hero when the crab boat was capsized by a rogue wave on Christmas Eve 1972 – saving his younger brother Gary, his friend Pete, and their skipper Dave – a monumental exertion chronicled in books Night Crossings and LADY-FAME; or, The Fluke. 

   No man, ever, not Odysseus, not Melville, not even Ishmael, no man was ever more a man of the sea than Steve Dockter. He knew every saltwater anchorage, every hazard, every sea story from La Paz to Seattle. 

It was at this same point, in the warmth of a Chico summer, in the sun-dappled, big oak woods of Robin Hood movie fame that he met his match, his soulmate Jan Perrone. Now the thing with soulmates is that it’s not always bliss and rainbows, but they are always connected and were able to remain the best of friends. From that love came their daughter Jesse. They infused her with their unique strengths, copious skills, determination and predilection for adventure.  

For the last twenty years or so, Steve lived a perfected life. From May to November he worked construction projects in Northern California – bouncing from home to home amongst many fortunate clients who loved to work with him, then savor his stories at the dinner table. When geese were seen flying south with the first frost, we knew he’d begun the long drive to La Paz; stopping to visit friends along the route – spreading the news and tales from his spring, summer, autumn up north. His winters were spent sailing, fishing, exploring the Sea of Cortez – his boat his house; welcoming visitors from the North, treating them to an unforgettable time. When Mexico grew too hot and the geese flew north, friends would ask Is Steve back in Humboldt? Is Dockter coming to the Cove? On his way home, he’d regale us with tales of Mexico and remarkable videos of adventures on those warm blue waters.

Mesmerized by Mount Shasta, Steve bought a parcel of land and built a high-desert captain’s cabin for himself. 

Next, he built a cabin with his youngest brother Bruce on the adjacent parcel. Steve guided many friends on climbs. Handsome, tall, brown from the sun no matter the season, eyes twinkling he’d trick the tired climbers, “It’s just around the next bend,” again and again, in his rich baritone, until the summit was reached. 

For the last five years since Jan became a saint, Steve spent the majority of his time with Jesse and her daughters Daphne and Maia the lights of his life, his torchbearers. They sailed together in La Paz, played with their dog Poppy in the rivers and forests and mountains, rigged up improbable rope swings and threw parties around the home campfire. He taught them what he knew and what he dreamt. What time they had together, was full and unfaltering. Daphne and Maia already embody their grandfather’s loyalty, strength, determination and predilection for adventure.

Steve’s step into the infinite was preceded by his former wife, Jan Perrone, his parents, and a life-changing young friend, Ian Mackey. He is survived by his daughter Jesse; his granddaughters Daphne and Maia; his brothers Bruce and Gary (Sharon); sister-in-law Tricia Atwood and the entire Perrone family.

His passing was swift and hundreds of broken-hearts flounder in his wake. His family, his friends, his acolytes, those whose lives he touched, made richer just by knowing him, the many he loved, must learn to stay connected with each other. 

A gathering is planned for Spring 2020, when, under better circumstances, Steve would have returned to all of us from his southern sojourn. Join us at The Eureka Theater, 612 F St., Eureka California, May 24, 2020, Sunday, noon until 4 p.m.

 In the meantime, channel Steve – spontaneously stop by to visit someone you’ve been thinking about and let the stories flow. 

If inspired, you may send photos, stories, songs about Steve and his Dockterisms to [email protected] to be shared at the gathering. 




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