Remembering Stephen Jewell

Remembering Stephen Jewell

stephen jewellWe are saddened by the news of our friend Stephen Jewell’s passing. It was our pleasure to support Stephen’s book project, the Randy Souders biography with the working title “The Crooked Road to Camelot“. We last saw Stephen in 2019 where Randy received the Artist of the Year award from Art Spark Texas. View Stephen discussing meeting Randy in this video.

With permission, we share Steve’s eulogy written by his friend Randy Souders below:

Steve was a tremendous friend, patron and personal champion of mine for over four decades. He and his bride of 40 years, Penny Muncaster-Jewell, were among my earliest collectors as well as being my first international travel companions. It was at a local art festival in 1979 that I met the “soon-to-be-wed” couple and where I became the source of some financial agony for them. They reported being instantly besotted by my best painting at the time. They wandered around the show but kept returning. Only later did I learn they were debating whether to return the new sofa they had just bought and use the funds to buy a painting by an unknown artist in a wheelchair. Though the sofa prevailed that day, Steve and Penny added many original paintings and prints to their collection as their careers thrived. Steve was a brilliant man–a holder of a PhD in Psychology and employed in the geophysical industry for many years. He well matched with Penny, a software designer who worked for NASA.

Steve was a source of limitless enthusiasm and energy, both mentally and physically. The former was always apparent. But the latter was manifest fully in early September 1986 when we embarked on a two-week tour across England, Scotland and Wales. Penny was born and raised in England and served as a tour guide. Steve, who had made numerous trips to the UK, served as chauffeur in a land where people drive the wrong way.

This time, however, Steve was also charged bouncing a wheelchair—fully laden with yours truly—up and down stacks of steps in and out of various castle and manor house, in and out of planes, trains and automobiles not to mention overcoming every other barrier to access we encountered. He served as a human anchor that kept me from sliding sideways across the deck of a ferry broadsided by a rogue wave during a gale in the English Channel. He also orchestrated a treacherous transfer of yours truly from his hands to those of a Cockney crew whose 3 tour boats were loosely lashed together side-by-side, yawing and bobbing as the tide rolled in. With me reciting the “Lord’s Prayer” Steve’s “gangplanks are for sissies” mentality soon had me safely on shore without dunking me into London’s storied River Thames.

Together we “beetled about” the length and breadth of that island… wheelchair folded shut by Steve, hoisted and lashed to the roof of the car, the topmost wheel spinning in the wind like a helicopter until the next stop when it was removed and the process repeated countless times. That trip not only widened my view of the world but also expanded and changed the trajectory of my artwork.

Two and one-half years ago, Steve turned his energies toward documenting various aspects of my life in the form of a biography. Despite my repeated insistence that “I really don’t think I’m worth reading about” he strongly disagreed. Having known me for over half my life, he felt there was a tale worth telling. However, I felt it couldn’t be another rehash of a person who overcame a particular set of challenges and managed to find a bit of success in life. But one that continued to advance my decades of efforts and advocacy in promoting the value and talents of people with physical and developmental disabilities–chiefly through artistic self expression.

Unfortunately, Steve’s effort to complete his version of that story hit an obstacle this year… one so great that it proved insurmountable even by an “obstacle destroyer” like him. He was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in March 2020. He went through several rounds of chemo and experimental clinical trials, but to no avail. Unfortunately, those treatments were not kind to him. He went into hospice on November 21st and passed away December 6th, 2020.

Shortly before his passing, Steve chose to donate his unfinished manuscript, research, and other items to my alma mater: the University of Texas at Arlington. His work has been added to the UTA library’s “Special Collections” department, which is also the custodian of my own archive. It was his wish to have his work added to mine and made available to students pursuing in UTA’s popular and pioneering “Disability Studies” degree program.

According to their description, UTA’s Disability Studies program is “taught by faculty from the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Nursing and Health Innovation, Business, and Education as well as the School of Social Work, this flexible and multidisciplinary minor prepares students for a variety of graduate programs and for careers in law, education, public health, nursing, engineering, communication, and social work, among other fields.”

Steve wanted to assist UTA in documenting the history of the tremendous role artistic self expression has played –and continues to play- in measurably improving the lives of millions of people with disabilities around the world… including my own. His final act of generosity was to establish what he christened as the “Randy Souders Legacy Project” at UTA and requested any memorials to him be sent there. If I am indeed to have any sort of “legacy” I hope it’s to continue the documenting and telling of not just my story but to those of others who, like me, lived during those challenging times before people with disabilities won the hard fought right to fully participate in all aspects of society. In that regard, it’s a story that never ends.

Anyone wishing to contribute to this effort in Steve’s memory may send checks payable to:

University of Texas at Arlington
c/o Jacob Singletary, UTA Director of Development
Box 19198
Arlington, Texas 76019
(Please note “Randy Souders Legacy Project” on your check).

Gifts can also be made online. Select “view all giving opportunities,” then check “other and input “Randy Souders Legacy Project”

—Randy Souders

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