A Tribute to a Portland Monthly Friend

Stephen Person, 28, lived a short but creative and giving life

By Randy Gragg May 31, 2013

Among the many important contributors to what you read and see in Portland Monthly are our invaluable interns and freelancers. Some of them also become part of our magazine’s family and soul, none more than the late Stephen Person.

On May 28, Stephen, 28, died from injuries sustained in a car incident the Sunday before. In his too short life he touched a vast constellation of people and communities through his creativity, humor, and generosity.

Stephen hailed from Seaside and graduated from the University of Oregon.  But as his close friend Cara Merendino put it, “Stephen had the creative disease.” His steel will and discipline earned him an Eagle Scout feather, yet he was whimsical enough to also become a “Certified Joke Practitioner” through the Astoria Clown College. At UO, he was known as “the mayor” for his vast array of social connections. “It used to take him 45 minutes, 50 minutes to walk four blocks on campus,” Merendino says, “because he ran into so many people he knew.” But make no mistake, Stephen Person was also a worker.

Among those who knew him creatively, he will be best remembered for his work as publisher of the Oregon Voice at UO. Like many who take on that role, he wanted to be a writer, but his easy facility with photography, video, multimedia, and, of course, people led him to become what every successful media entity needs: a transformer. He managed a staff of 30 writers, photographers, illustrators, and artists. He expanded the budget and the print magazine’s range into concerts and fundraisers, none more inventive than his Rent-A-Pooch program, where students could lease a dog from the Greenhill Humane Society to play with for 15 minutes. (It sold out every year.)

During his time with us at Portland Monthly, he quickly transitioned from intern to indispensable collaborator, moving easily between mundane tasks to the creative challenges usually taken on by our most valued staff and freelancers—both done with the same easygoing, get-it-done spirit.

Atop a lanky six-foot-plus frame sat an ancient face that wore the gravity of late-night restaurant work but the electric blue eyes of a creator obsessed with everything else he was doing. He knew every cool band, loved the Blazers (and, even more, his own regular pick-up games), but was ultimately obsessed with creative opportunity before him. That might include the videos he once stayed up all night to finish for Portland Monthly (twice, because a spilled coffee on his computer necessitated doing them again on another computer). But one staffer here also recalled how Stephen tracked down photos of her dogs to mat and frame for a gift in our holiday Secret Santa gift exchange. He had only barely met her.

With two of the drivers in the accident that killed Stephen legally drunk—one fleeing from another accident, and everyone involved in their 20s—this tragedy will reverberate through many lives. But in his brief life, Stephen offered a transcendent lesson we will all cherish with deep and enduring affection: of how to thoughtfully balance ambition and generosity. Or as another friend, Lyzi Diamond, put it, “He was life.” 


The Stephen Person Tribute Concert
Thursday, June 06, 2013
5:00 p.m.
Rontoms, 600 East Burnside

Bands include: Talkative, Finn Riggins, Freddy Blanche, and Shy Girls DJs



State Of Undress
Edited by Stephen Person


The Sunday Life Line
Co-Produced by Stephen Person


John Frame's Fantastical Sculptures
Co-Produced by Stephen Person


....we wanted to revisit the glorious opening day of the new summer season, when we let loose reporter Stephen "First" Person from the gates of our office to rollick through a day at the races...

A Day at the Races
Written by Stephen Person


Sam's Grand Makeover: Finding love is a full-time job
Shot and Edited by Stephen Person

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