Betsy Speicher

Stephen's Health

278 posts in this topic

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful man. Thank you, Betsy -- and thank you, Stephen.

Ditto.

And let me add that that picture is the best I've seen of Stephen. I saw it and started tearing up at work. If a picture can tell you the nature of a person, this picture is just so Stephen-esque. :)

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Ayn Rand said something to the effect that, the fact that her novels were published (and written I will add) was proof that the heroes she created within them were in fact real. I only new him through his postings but I think Stephen was also living proof that her heroes existed. He indeed inspired me with his example. I had so many questions yet I wanted to ask him.

I mourn your loss, Betsy.

EXCELSIOR! Stephen.

Sam Axton

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To the many friends of Stephen Speicher on this forum, I offer my deepest sympathy for your loss.

I have had only a brief intellectual acquaintance with Stephen in this forum and in private correspondence. (Most of it within the past year.) For me, death interrupted the very beginnings of a friendship with a man of the highest caliber – a friendship that I hoped might become very important in my life.

When I first came to Stephen’s forum it was to test some of my thoughts by interacting with people with whom I might reasonably disagree on a wide range of concrete issues.

I came during a political campaign and my first objective was to encourage Objectivists who agree with my concrete views on the affairs of the world by doing intellectual battle with Objectivists who do not. Unfortunately, I came with some of the manners learned in electronic street fighting on a tougher, less intellectual, less rational forum.

Stephen crossed off half of my first twenty posts and taught me he expected better manners. I was, perhaps, a slow learner, but Stephen patiently showed me what he expected and I learned a great deal more than better manners. I learned that Stephen rigorously presumed nothing about the minds of others. He carefully and patiently recorded in his precise memory each thing written or said as a data point on what was in the mind that said it. And he made no judgements about any man’s thoughts that went beyond the data.

Even for the best judges of character among us, it is very easy to classify people and make assumptions. By his example, Stephen showed all of us how far the virtue of intellectual justice can be taken and the great intellectual power that comes from that virtue: the power to focus on what people actually write and say rather than, instead, attempting to infer what they might be thinking.

As an expert in physics and a man with a broad background in biology and classical history, I quickly found that Stephen had a strong working knowledge on an incredibly wide variety of topics, including in most of my areas of interest. Objectivists are, by nature, autodidacts, but Stephen took this to a level I had not seen before. He was what many claim to be, but only are in part: a Renaissance man. How did he get that way?

By watching his posts on the forum, I learned one of the methods by which he taught himself so much. By taking all statements people made at face value – even if the statements were obviously in error – he’d consider what part in each of them constituted knowledge and which did. He learned a great deal from listening to these partial truths. Others on the forum have similar good-listening habits. I’m sure most brought those good habits with them, but how many learned better habits in conversing with Stephen?

Not knowing him long enough or well enough to call him my friend, Stephen did do something for me nonetheless. I begin to learn better habits of intellectual listening and better habits of intellectual justice. When I’m impatient with an error I see in someone else’s comment, I’ll think of Stephen and ask myself to be deliberate and think critically before I quickly dismiss everything they say. In that small way a little bit of Stephen Speicher will live on in me.

I’m sure for many of you who were fortunate to have known him better, much more of him will live on in you.

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When I got to David Veksler's current forum, the most notable person on that forum, at that time was Stephen Speicher. He was remarkable, for me, because of his obvious great great knowledge of Objectivism. That was a rare find, at least for me at that point. I was soon surprised that I had never heard of him before. But he was very easy to get to know by his posts.

Then he started his own forum, which was a big relief. It was a place for Ayn Rand FANS. His moderation set really high standards, but it guaranteed that the quality was very high. For that I am very grateful.

Except for what he wrote, I did not know Stephen, but I got to now a considerable amount. One of the notable things that I loved about him was his ability to point you to the Ayn Rand text for the issue you were concerned about. Another thing that I must respect him for is his view that homosexuality was not immoral. Simply, way back 10 years ago when I first got into Objectivism I used to fear that I could not adopt the philosophy and still be who I am. There seemed to be a conflict there. I soon found out there wasn't. However, more recently Mr. Speicher has left me, on this forum, and another, a load of information and leads for me to investigate the issue properly (since I still don't have an answer to the issue that satisfies me). But enough about that.

Over the years I will have to re-read some of his posts to get to know Stephen more. Also, my knowledge of science is not very impressive. When I get the time, I am glad that I will be able to learn from Stephen given that his work in science is a large part of the legacy that he leaves behind.

An important thing that I must thank Stephen for is that he has provided me with a forum in which to publish my work of fiction and poetry. If you google my name, you'll quickly find a link to this forum, and for that I am grateful.

One thing that I love to see in this world is a couple who is deeply, sincerely, passionately, youthfully in love, and who have been together for a long time. There have been many asides in posts by Stephen and Betsy that suggest that such was the relationship that they have, like anecdotes from their life together, information about their family, express reference to their love, a detail about going sailing, etc. To witness such a phenomenon is inspiring and hope giving.

Thank you Stephen.

I would like to give my sincere condolences to Betsy Speicher. Thank you too.

Jose Gainza.

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A world without Stephen is difficult for me to fathom. When I read the news yesterday, I was stunned and a bit numb. I knew of his health problems, of course, but I did not expect anything other than a full recovery. Today, a real sadness has set in, because of so many things Stephen meant to me.

Many years ago I first met Betsy on-line (during those salad days of on-line forums that Dismuke recalls) and later in person at my first Objectivist conference in the summer of 1997. One never spoke with Betsy without soon hearing about her dear husband Stephen. Everything about Betsy charmed me: her attitude, her presence, her grace, her fierce independence, and of course her ready smile. I thought to myself at the time that any man worthy of her attention MUST be fantastic.

Finally, in the fall of 1999 I took a road trip to LA from Phoenix to spend a weekend with my sister and also to meet the Speichers for lunch in Pasadena. I was actually nervous to meet Stephen because I had heard so much about him and had exchanged e-mail with him on a number of occasions. As soon as we met, he was completely friendly and enthusiastic. He asked lots of questions about my recent move to Phoenix, how the new house was coming along, the new job, etc. I was taken aback by how genuinely interested he was in me. There was not a flicker of pretension to Stephen.

After lunch, he showed me around his office at CalTech and explained, in terms I could understand, what computational biology was and the essence of his work. It was neither too technical nor condescending. He was able to grasp my context of knowledge and talk to me on terms I could understand. This was an amazing skill that in the ensuing years I have adopted myself in my own career. What struck me was how much joy he derived from explaining his life's work to me. He wanted me to understand because it was important to him.

In December of 1999, the Speichers invited me to spend the weekend at their lovely house in Thousand Oaks. Betsy and I were attending a special Fountainhead screening in Hollywood and I agreed to be chauffeur. It was an unforgettable weekend. Stephen and I went for a nice drive to pick up breakfast food for Saturday morning and had a lovely discussion about movies. He and I were both enamored of "The Sixth Sense" (and later shared an interest in Shayamalan's movies in general) and we really hit it off generally. I thought how rare to meet a man old enough to be my father who has such a youthful zest for life. I believe Stephen was 59 at the time, but in spirit I would have said 21!

I had the opportunity to see Stephen one other time in person back in 2003. He, Betsy, and I got together for dinner while I was in Southern California on business. It was, once again, a delightful experience. We talked about how much we enjoyed the movie "Chicago," despite its cynical tone. It was the razzle dazzle and exuberance of the film that won us over.

In the years I knew Stephen, he watched from afar as my life and career marched forward and frequently commented on my progress in life. In a private message to me a few months ago, he said: "You sure have come a long way, both professionally and personally, over the years. Congratulations!" Those two small sentences were representative of Stephen's character and I appreciated them.

I will greatly miss Stephen. The world has lost a great soul, but I know he would want us all to march forward. I for one plan to do so.

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Stephen was a great man.

It was visible from a lot of posts - the effort he put into thinking and integrating things, his appreciation of virtues in others, his understanding that happiness should be one's focus in life (This is visible from how he loved "The sound of music" for example). These show someone who values passionately.

Obviously, he was also very intelligent.

It is sad to loose him. And even though you don't know me, I want to express my condolences, Betsy.

I hope you will continue having a wonderful life despite losing one of the greatest, (or perhaps the greatest) value in your life.

Ifat Glassman.

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I have a folder on my computer filled with emails and posts from Stephen on physics and philosophy going to years back. I hoped, some day, that I would meet him and ask him to explain to this non-physicist what some of them meant. Now I'll never have that chance. Even though I never met him, he was an inspiration.

I'm so sorry Betsy.

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Stephen Speicher was my example of what happiness is possible in life. It is my great misfortune that I only knew him as an acquiantance. Cheers, good man, life was beautiful.

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My one hope of the world is that there more men like Stephen in it...so the news of his passing away is a personal loss.

I am so glad though that I knew him through the forum and will greatly miss his always objective, rational and enlightening, say in the matters.

Betsy, I wish you all the strength and courage it takes to get through the times and find new reason to live.

(...hearing 'What a wonderful world' [through links provided by Rose-lake] in the background while I spend minutes mourning Stephen, helped me take in the shock and despair...)

Stephen, I am glad you lived,

-Pooja

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Betsy,

My sincerest condolences to you and your son.

I really enjoyed reading the beautiful tribute that you wrote. Stephen was a remarkable man.

~Jenn Casey

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I have been away from the forum for several weeks, and only heard this terrible news today.

Stephen welcomed me to this forum with open arms, even composing a little crossword in honor of my birthday last year. He was so genuinely interested in hearing about my interests, and also in challenging my opinions that were based on false premises, while always doing so with politeness. I will miss that rare combination.

My deepest condolences to Betsy and Matt. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

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I couldn’t say anything about Stephen last weekend – it was just too impossibly sudden and current. My first concern was Betsy, whom I’ve known and admired for 14 years.

I’ve been trying to remember the first time I actually met Stephen. I think it was one of the Southern California Objectivist Association meetings (an organization which Betsy founded). As others have pointed out, Stephen was so present in many conversations with Betsy that one thought he'd met the man before meeting him.

I first met Betsy in 1993, on a job at Technicolor. I had read Rand ’s novels, but I had no idea there was a “movement” called Objectivism. After abandoning the Libertarians as a nut magnet, I assumed that I was alone in my appreciation. So when I saw a “Read Ayn” license plate with appropriately matching bumper sticker, I conducted a stake-out for several days until I tracked down the owner. Since then, Betsy has made my life incalculably better by friendship, intellectual contributions, and her activism, which translated into connections with new friends and sources and a myriad of wonderful things.

One of the greatest of those contributions was the opportunity to meet Stephen Speicher. My early memory was of a powerful personality, an almost military physical presence, but with a contradictory sly leprechaun grin when he found something amusing, which he seemed always to be watching for and always fully appreciated. In public, when engaged in a discussion, he listened more than talked and his comments were always considered and eloquent. He was never mean-spirited, although he could certainly deliver a barb and it took me a time or two to realize that he enjoyed pulling someone's leg and didn't have a mean bone in his body.

Stephen, as many of you know, loved movies and, as with the other values in his life, had strong opinions. We had it out over "Moulin Rouge:" He loved it, I just couldn't get past the noisy, fragmented hysteria of the first act. I just didn't like it. As always, he found what there was of value in the piece and argued like Daniel Webster for its soul. I relented and said "ok, fine... I'll see it again," although I couldn't imagine sitting through that mess another time. But I did and I considered his comments on the essential love story, the spine of the piece, and after things settled down on-screen, I found that I liked it a lot. I reported back the next time we met that I still had my issues with the opening, but, ok, it really is a beautiful movie overall. He smiled as if I'd complimented his kid. In fact, I bought the movie, watched it several times and, thanks to Stephen, it became yet another source of pleasure in my life.

Stephen was generous about works of art: If they were honest, if the intentions were good, he gave them every benefit of the doubt to make their case. He was the same with people. If he judged that someone was honestly striving to understand something, he was extremely generous with his time in helping them to understand it.

We disagreed strongly on another film, I think "Vendetta," his comment was "How could someone I admire so much in other areas be so completely wrong in this one?" He didn't direct this to me; he said it with an air of genuine wonder, as if it were a philosophical question of great profundity, up there with the Problem of Induction. I find it hard to communicate Stephen's great sense of humor, because it came in a package. To say he could deliver a zinger deadpan is an understatement, but I think he had the twinkle in his eye installed at birth. He was one of the most benevolent people I ever met. This comment was a great example: He managed to insert a compliment into a disagreement.

I've cut this considerably. I wanted to say a lot more, but I'd rather hear more about Stephen that I didn't know, that I didn't experience directly. I miss him already. To spend time with him again, I'll have to be satisfied with reading the great deal that he wrote and the recollections of others. He was great man and good friend lost much too soon.

With the greatest admiration and respect,

Alan N.........

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Many great things changed in my life when my husband Alex and I first started dating 3 years ago, but among the most treasured was that I got to meet and spend time with Stephen and Betsy Speicher. Even though we were on opposite sides of the country, Stephen and I got to know each other on the FORUM, through PMs and emails, and occasionally on the phone. It wasn’t long before we realized that we had an amazing affinity with regards to art – an affinity I’ve never shared so strongly with any other person. Not only in regards to movies, but with sculpture, painting, and especially, architecture. Even more importantly, it wasn’t just that we liked the same works, rather it was the similarity in the depth at which we both felt about art.

Steve was like a real-life fairy godfather to me. It was as if anything I wished for, he would grant me. I wrote in a post on the FORUM that if I could ever enter John Lautner’s Sheats/Goldstein house that I would simply fall to my knees. He replied that when I did he would be right by my side -- and he was. With his and Betsy’s myriad connections, Stephen was able to arrange a private tour of this house when Alex and I were visiting the Speichers in the summer of 2005. When Alex and I moved to California last fall, I mentioned that I wanted to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center and the Quent Cordair Art Gallery, so Stephen made the arrangements and the four of us were planning a trip to San Francisco next month. For this last Christmas, Steve and Betsy tracked down and bought for me the impossible-to-find Capuletti book – a book that they own that they knew I coveted. And most recently Steve had brought up visiting Wright’s Talieson West in Arizona because he knew that I really wanted to see it myself (even though he’d already been there himself more than once).

It was actually because of our close relationship with Steve and Betsy (and with their encouragement) that I applied to graduate programs in Southern California. And when I was admitted to one of those schools, that’s where I chose to be. And I am so glad that I did. Moving to Santa Barbara allowed us to see Steve and Betsy several times a month rather than once or twice a year.

The most beautiful way that Stephen will live on in me is through art. Every time I watch a movie, see a painting or sculpture, or find a modern architect that I like, I’ll always be thinking to myself: “I wonder what Stephen would have thought.” And when I find those works that move me particularly deeply, I’ll know that if he were there standing by my side, he’d be feeling exactly as I would be.

While I’ll miss you greatly, Stephen, I am just so grateful to have known you.

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I was one of a number of people from this forum who attended Stephen's funeral yesterday. It was, for all of us, I hope, a chance to say goodbye and to start moving on. Betsy did most of memorializing of Stephen and she read a great many of the postings made here to this topic on Stephen's Health. It was pretty obvious how thankful she is to everyone who posted here and how much your words mean to her. You can read her personal thanks here. The subtitle to the funeral was what a wonderful, benevolent man Stephen was and how lucky we are that he was a part of our lives.

Stephen's son, Matt, gave us his thoughts at the grave site, and then he invited everyone to a reception at Betsy's house. The reception was a good chance for everyone to meet and put names and handles to faces. Betsy gave my wife and daughter a tour of the house, which they had not visited before. They were smitten with clean lines of the house and the simple elegance of the furnishings. Betsy showed us a poster she made for Stephen after they had been married 30 years, listing 30 great things about being married Stephen--though I am not sure how she kept the list so short. She mentioned that Stephen died just two days before their 40th anniversary and how much she has to do now that he is gone.

Rest assured that this forum is not going away. Betsy will take it over and she will make arrangements to see that it is available in perpetuity. The forum and perhaps other writings of Stephen will become, I think, Betsy's everlasting temple for Stephen.

It may take a little time to make all of the adjustments that are necessary now that Stephen is gone. I would like to ask you to show extra patience and care with your fellow posters while Betsy is coming back to full strength. I would like to suggest that we declare April, 2007, "Stephen's Month" and in his memory we show members of this forum an extra dose of benevolence. Instead of firing off a short reply, answer more like Stephen would have: "I don't think I understand you. It sounds like you are saying 'this'; is that what you really meant to say?" You may be surprised how far it will get you when you are dealing with people who already share many of your values.

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I am so sorry for your loss. Please accept my condolences in your time of grief.

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...

I so sincerely wish I could have attended the service, and expressed my support. I'm glad the forum will stay, and entirely agree with the "April month" idea.

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I'm so overwhelmed with feelings upon hearing this sad news.

Let me, for now, just express my sheer gratitude - to Stephen, and Betsy, for making this forum, and for being such inspirations to the Objectivist community. This is a huge loss, but Stephen's words and inspiration will live on - I'm sure of it.

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I was deeply saddened to learn of Stephen's passing. I did not know him personally but I enjoyed reading many of his posts and have been quite grateful to see the creation of this forum.

My sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

I wish I could say more...

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The courage required to build the character Stephen chose for himself could snap the Immovable Mover "out of it."

Though I never met him, I'll miss seeing Stephen in action.

(Oddly, the visualization that keeps coming to me isn't some form of Stephen slaying the unfortunate beings that threatened his values -- it's Stephen slashing through a set of intricate curves on a CA waterfront highway in his yellow convertible C6.)

John

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(Oddly, the visualization that keeps coming to me isn't some form of Stephen slaying the unfortunate beings that threatened his values -- it's Stephen slashing through a set of intricate curves on a CA waterfront highway in his yellow convertible C6.)

How did you know? :)

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How did you know? :)

Call it Motorhead Radar, Betsy.

:)

Actually, in our last PM exchange, Stephen mentioned that his C6 convertible was a whole second faster to 60mph than my dream car, the Ruf RGT. Though we never discussed our driving styles, I can't imagine Stephen driving a C6 timidly. Though I never spent time with him, I can't imagine that Stephen did anything timidly.

JohnRGT

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