The definition of Renaissance man is a person with many talents or areas of knowledge. For one Spokane Valley Renaissance man, that definition barely scratches the surface. Writer, artist, athlete, musician, and teacher are words that just start to describe Steve Lalonde, Spokane Valley’s very own Renaissance man.
I first met Steve in 1986 when he was a young teacher at University High School in Spokane Valley. Little did I know then what an impact this extraordinary man would have on my life. Not only did Steve instill in me a lifelong love of mythology, but 30-some years later, he jump-started my writing career. Now retired from teaching, Steve spearheads a local writing group. As a member of this group, I’ve come to learn that Steve has so many talents, hobbies, and interests, it’s a miracle he accomplishes anything. But accomplish he does.
As a writer and poet, Steve’s first published book, A Palette of Verse, is just that, lovely images “painted” in poetry. He next ventured into fiction and published the compelling novel, The Phoenix Gift. Steve is currently in the process of publishing a third book, a historical fiction of ancient Greece titled Sinon of Kirra, where he showcases his infinite knowledge of ancient Greece and mythology.
When he’s not writing, Steve might be found in his magnificent shop where he creates beautiful pieces from wood. Steve first learned he had an affinity for working with wood back in high school. While his specialty is wooden goblets, Steve creates bowls, tap handles, cabinets and rocking chairs. Steve says he “loves to work directly from the tree”, finding it “satisfying to create something beautiful from the rawest of material.” He showcases his creations at the Spokane County Fair as well as craft fair at University, Central Valley and West Valley High Schools. Not to limit himself in the field of arts, he also loves painting, but admits he spends less time at this than he’s like.
Another one of Steve’s hobbies is amateur, or ham radio. First licensed in 1970, he now holds an Advanced Class License and currently stays active on message traffic nets on 80 meters (a frequency band), Steve has mentored 96 students to earn 116 licenses. He has even helped with communications on community events and emergencies, including the 1991 Firestorm and the Dishman Hills fire. His call sign is WA7WKX.
Somehow, Steve still finds time to swim hundreds of miles a year! Recording his miles in his backyard pool, or in a gym during the winter, last year Steve managed to swim an amazing total of 520 miles. Unfortunately, the closing of gyms due to Covid19 has kept him from achieving this year’s swimming goal.
If all this doesn’t keep him busy enough, he still finds time to play one his many brass instruments. These include: trumpet, coronet, flugelhorn, mellophone and euphonium. He speaks fondly of his band from “long ago” called the Brass Knights. “We started out playing Tijuana Brass stuff, but eventually moved into our own arrangements of top 40. We played dances in several towns in the Palouse country.” By the way, he also played guitar and vocals in a couple of rock bands after that.
Of course, a true Renaissance man would also take the stage as an actor. Steve humbly confesses that he had a drama minor at Easter Washington State College where he performed in several plays.
I have no idea where he finds time for anything else, but Steve is also actively involved in the Washtucna High School Alumni Association. He’s been their secretary for about 10 years.
While long retired from teaching, Steve’s identity as a teacher is strong, and he still plays a role in many former student’s lives. In fact, including myself, three former students are current members of Steve’s writing group. We are just a fraction of Steve’s students who have been blessed with the life-long benefit of having Steve for a teacher. Steve feels honored that he’s kept these connections with students. He says, “I love the fact that so many of my past students stay in touch going all the way back to 1972.”
Finally, and most importantly, is Steve’s family. Central to that family is Steve’s lovely wife Audrey. A Renaissance woman in her own right, this master gardener, quilter, canner and seamstress has been Steve’s partner in crime for 50 years this September. Along with Audrey, Steve loves to spend time with his family whom he describes as “all wonderful people.” These are his sons, their wives, his three younger sisters, and especially his two grandsons. Given the opportunity and more time in his day, he’d spend it with them.