RED LODGE — Stephen "Steve" Merle Woodden, 55, of Red Lodge, Mont., passed away Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012, at University of Utah Health Care, Salt Lake City, Utah, as a result of viral cardiomyopathy.
Steve was born on June 6, 1956, to Rev. Merle Woodden and Lena (Williams) Woodden in Sioux Falls, S.D. He attended elementary schools in Burke and Sioux Falls, S.D. In 1974, he graduated from Gregory High School in Gregory, South Dakota. Steve attended Sterling College, Sterling, Kan., earning a Bachelor of Art's degree in physical education. He later obtained his Master's degree in physical education from South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D.
Steve married his high school sweetheart, Sally Keiser, of Dallas, S.D., on May 27, 1977. They were blessed with a son, Eric Stephen, born April 26, 1980. Spending time with his son and wife was one of his greatest joys in life.
Steve, a passionate and dedicated educator, was a health enhancement teacher and driver's education instructor at Red Lodge High School. He was a member of the Columbus Volleyball Officials' Pool and officiated volleyball for 22 years, including several state tournaments. His career in education spanned 33 years and several communities including Edgemont, S.D., Brookings, S.D., Ekalaka, Mont., and Red Lodge. His commitment to excellence as an educator, coach and volleyball official enriched and touched the lives of many students throughout his years in education. He received great pride in the accomplishments of his students and athletes.
In addition to his enthusiasm for education, Steve was a deeply committed Christian man. He began each day with a Biblical devotion and tried to live out the words he studied from God's Holy Word. Because of his strong faith, he was meticulous in his work, stood up for what he believed, was an encourager of others, and served as leader of his extended family. A special part of Steve's week was sharing with Sally the worship, teachings and fellowship at Harvest Church in Billings.
Steve was passionate about sports as he spent over 25 years coaching either football, basketball, track or volleyball. He enjoyed flying, golfing, hiking, working out with his health enhancement students, completing home projects, and loving his granddaughter, Ellie. In 2003, Steve accomplished a lifelong goal, obtaining his private pilot's license. He became a member of the Red Lodge Flying Club and enjoyed many hours flying the Big Sky of Montana with friends and family.
As family members, friends, peers or students, we will remember Steve's ability to make us smile. Whether it was his quick wit, practical jokes, or his snappy sense of humor, he found a way to light up the room. Steve was the comedian, the jokester, the one who made us laugh. The fun, silly memories will be carried with us, our reminder of him.
Steve was preceded in death by his infant son, Jonathan; father, Merle Woodden; grandparents, Roy and Clara Woodden and Lewis and Louise Williams.
Steve is survived by his wife, Sally; son Eric (Jessie) Woodden and granddaughter, Ellie, of Belgrade, Mont.,; parents, Lena and Wesley Nelson, of Kingsville, Mo.; sisters, Linda (Neil) Johnston of Grand Prairie, Texas, and Amy Searcy of Lee's Summit, Mo.; brother, Kenn (Sheila) Woodden of St. George, Utah; nieces and nephews, Nathan, Lauren, Misty, Adam, Noah, Trista, Lucas, Crystal, Kyndra, Audra, Nelson and Emma; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
The family would like to thank the University of Utah Health Care medical staff for their dedicated care and compassion during Steve's final days. They would also like to thank the many friends and family members who supported them during this difficult time with their outpouring of prayers, love and compassion. The family encourages everyone to consider becoming an organ donor for those in need.
A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Red Lodge High School gymnasium. Visitation will be Friday, March 2, from 2 to 8 p.m. with family present from 6 to 8 p.m. at Smith-Olcott Funeral Chapel in Red Lodge. Interment will be at Red Lodge Cemetery. Arrangements are in the care of Smith-Olcott Funeral Chapel.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to: Red Lodge High School Physical Education Department, Box 1090, Red Lodge, MT 59068.