GUSHEE--Stephen Hale, priest, columnist, television moderator and devoted husband and father, died Saturday after a months-long battle with bladder cancer. He was 76. Steve lived a life with the throttle wide open, touching countless people through his engaging sermons and his thought-provoking columns. A fiercely independent thinker, he never shied away from controversial opinions and as a man of deep spirituality, he never feared sharing it. His family and many friends also knew a compassionate, loving man with a marvelous sense of humor. Steve was an ordained Episcopal priest for more than four decades, serving as senior associate rector at Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach from 1991-1994 and also assisting at Grace Episcopal Church in West Palm Beach. For 13 years before that, he was dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut. He was rector of Trinity Church in Newtown, Connecticut, and served at St. Peter's Church in Cheshire, with his mentor and friend, Bishop Morgan Porteus. For five years, beginning in 1994, he was the religion writer for the Palm Beach Post and contributed a weekly opinion column, "On Religion," until 2008. His column was distributed to hundreds of newspapers across the country by the Cox News Service. He and the papers that carried his work received thousands of laudatory letters, emails and telephone calls over the years. His columns attracted so much attention because of his passion and the simple clarity of his voice. He detested intolerance and hubris, and said so often and loudly. He was skeptical of fundamentalists. He strongly defended the right of women to become priests ("Oppressed women have men to thank.") He was an early advocate for gay rights, once condemning the expulsion of a student from a private school because he came out of the closet his senior year. And often, he was gentle, funny and enlightening ("A banquet is a better symbol of Christianity than a fish stick.'') For 13 years, until 2012, Steve was the moderator of "Viewpoint" on WPTV, the Miami PBS affiliate. The show, which has been airing for more than three decades, brings together religious leaders and scholars who delve into religious, moral and ethical topics. Stephen Hale Gushee was born in Detroit in 1936. At age 13, he boarded a train eastward, where he would spend the rest of his life. He attended Kent School, in Kent, CT., where he was on the rowing team and was captain of the football team. In 1953, he rowed in the Henley Royal Regatta in England, by far the best known race of its kind in the world. The trip helped fuel his interest in seeing more of the world and he became especially interested in the Mideast, where he would make many trips. He attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, on a U.S. Navy scholarship. Following graduation in 1958, he served for three years as a line officer aboard the USS Shelldrake, a minesweeper assigned to the Navy's Atlantic Fleet. Shortly after leaving the service, he enrolled in the Episcopal Theological School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he received his master's of divinity degree. He was ordained in 1967. Over the years he also studied at St. George's College in Jerusalem, the Virginia Seminary in Alexandria, and the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. Steve was one of the original members of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. He was a canon of St. Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen, Scotland, for 10 years and served as a member and, at times, director of a number of social service organizations and inner city agencies. He married Mary Coakley in 1996 and in his later years assisted her in the day-to-day operations of her women's fashion store in Palm Beach, Mildred Hoit. He is survived by his beloved wife, Mary. He was predeceased by his first wife, his college sweetheart, Anne Elizabeth Taylor. They had three children: Allison Gushee Molkenthin, Andrea Bordley Mayfield, and Gregory Hale Gushee. The extended Gushee family includes the spouses of his children, Steve Molkenthin, Jeff Mayfield and Sophia Gushee, and eight wonderful granddaughters, Allegra, Christina and Octavia Molkenthin; Anne Elizabeth and Katie Mayfield; and Taylor, Bordley and Sconset Gushee. He was predeceased by his oldest brother, Richard, and is survived by two brothers, Edward and John, sisters-in-law Marilyn, Kitty, and Sally, and numerous nieces and nephews. A funeral will be held at noon, April 13 at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, Palm Beach, Florida. The Gushee family will receive friends during a reception immediately following the service. The interment will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, 25 Old King's Highway No., Suite 13, Darien, Conn., 06820 or the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) 4915 St. Elmo Avenue, Suite 202, Bethesda, Maryland 20814. Services by Quattlebaum Funeral Home (561)-832-5171.
Quattlebaum Funeral Cremation & Event Center
5411 Okeechobee Blvd
West Palm Beach, FL 33417
Published in The New York Times on Apr. 10, 2013