Glenn Van Stephenson, 90, former Addison County resident
FAIRHOPE, Ala. — Glenn Van Stephenson died on Nov. 1, 2021, in Fairhope, Ala. He was born on Jan. 18, 1931, and grew up in upstate New York, much of it on a family truck farm in East Avon. This was the beginning of his deep love for the land and our planet, something that shaped much of his professional and personal life.
Although he graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in geography in less than four years, he loved his time there and its introduction to academic life. From there, he attended a masters’ program at The Ohio State University, often hitchhiking back and forth almost as fast as one could drive. He then entered the army and was assigned to the Signal Corps as a typist to a general. Aboard the troop transport ship to Korea, he got a job in the boat’s library and once in Seoul worked for the office that provided continuing education to servicemen. In this way, he was able to conduct his military service concentrating on education, a focus that he would always have.
After his time in the army, he was a middle school English and Social Studies teacher on Long Island. He spent his free time traveling, including a memorable trip to Europe that included meeting his future wife Sally Strasburger at Café de la Paix in Paris. They quickly fell in love and married in Philadelphia in June of 1958.
They moved to New York City, where Glenn pursued a doctorate in geography at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. After the birth of their first child, they moved to Trinidad, where Glenn enrolled in the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture. The plan was for Glenn and his family to become farmers but they changed their minds and moved back to NYC, where Glenn finished his doctorate.
He became a faculty member at Millersville State College which later became Millersville University of Pennsylvania. He loved teaching geography and was also instrumental in internationalizing the curriculum. His sense of adventure brought him and his growing family on sabbaticals to Brussels, Belgium and Oxford, England. During his 30 years at Millersville, he published a number of articles in leading geography journals and was an early proponent and thought leader in environmental geography. He became an expert on geopolitics of Europe and world food issues. A favorite assignment was one in which he challenged his students to prepare a nutritious meal using foods from around the world that cost no more than the average cost of a meal globally.
He was an avid gardener, spending countless hours improving and tending to the lush landscapes he created around his homes. He always kept a large vegetable garden and proudly announced at meals that all of the food being served was grown on the property. Understanding the health benefits of a mostly plant-based diet and the toll that the production of meat takes on the planet, Glenn liked to spend time weekly planning out seasonal meals with little or no meat. He prided himself on not cooking the same meal twice in a season.
He retired to Weybridge, Vt., in 1990 and returned to working the land. He sold organic garlic, salad greens and other vegetables at local restaurants and at the local farmer’s market and was on the board of the Middlebury Coop.
His love of travel and exploring the various landscapes and cultures of the world led to many trips. While his children were growing up, they spent many summers on Lake Wentworth, N.H. These idyllic summers included hikes along the Appalachian Trail, trips to the Maine coast for lobster, and excursions to much of Eastern Canada. In retirement, Glenn and Sally took long winter trips to Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Madeira Island, and Fairhope, Ala. After nearly 20 years, they sold their home in Vermont in 2007 and split their time between Fairhope, and Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada.
Throughout it all, Glenn continued to garden, cook, and read extensively. He loved spending time with his children and grandchildren and was unwavering in his support of them. This warmth and kindness extended far beyond the family. Glenn enjoyed meeting people and learning about their lives. He had a great sense of humor and a memorable laugh that could often be heard at movies and live performances.
Glenn is predeceased by his brother Doug Stephenson and his son Carl. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Sally; his sister, Marie; his children Trina, Kira, Ethan, Greta and Aaron; as well as nine grandchildren and his beloved dog, Mingus.◊
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